Kamala S. Dongerkerey
Kamala Dongerkery, originally from Dharwar, a writer, activist and social worker, was wife of a well known educationist, Sundar Dongerkery, who was successively Registrar and Rector at the University of Bombay before Independence, and post Independence, the Vice Chancellor of Marathwada University set up in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. The couple was active in the pre and post Independence era in both the educational and social fields.
Inspired by Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya, Kamala began writing on, and working for, promotion of the saree as a garment, as also other textiles, handicrafts, toys and jewellery. Her several books on these subjects are still around, and in many areas she pioneered activity, to promote these crafts. Appointed to the All India Handicrafts Board, she was equally active in the area of women's welfare, juvenile courts and at the All India Women's Conference, and SNDT Women's University, Bombay.
Her autobiography "On the Wings of Time" minutely records her observations on the diverse cultures of the people and personalities she met on her travels. The couple lived a fruitful life, supporting the idea that our vast democracy is not progressed only by movers and shakers (and leaders very often portrayed as messiahs), but also by good, diligent and honest citizens working in harmony with their surroundings.
Her book 'A Journey Through Toyland' (1954, Mumbai) is a unique creation in as much it is perhaps the first book on Toys, in English, written in India. And the Toys she talks about are not just of Indian provenance, but belonging to different times, and different countries - so there is a sort of world view on Toys, their educational value, and their role in creating international understanding. We must remember that at that time WWII had ended less than a decade before, and India and Indians had a certain pride that our country had achieved its goal of National Independence in a peaceful and nonviolent manner. We bore our mantle of guiding the world on the path of international understanding quite seriously. And this seeped down into the world of Toys as well. Smt Kamala Dongerkery has gone to extraordinary lengths to research this book, consulted a wide range of scholars which included personalities like Mahamahopadhyay P.V.Kane, a renowned Sanskrit scholar, H.D. Sankalia from Deccan College Pune, equally known for his historical and archaeological research, and Prof. (Ms) P.V. Kaikini of Sophia College, Mumbai. She also dipped into a wide range of institutions who provided reference material for the illustrations, such as the Archaeological Deptt, New Delhi; Trustees of the Prince of Wales (now CSMVS) Museum, Mumbai; the British and the V and A Museums, London; the Ethnological Museum, Cambridge and the Deptt of Antiquities, Cyprus.
The book has a preface by none other than Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, our first Vice President, who handled this unusual subject very gamely. Another interesting feature about this book is the abundance of drawings and paintings/reproductions of toys through the ages, credited to a certain Mrs A.B. Schwartz. Beyond her name, we know very little, except that she had a collection of paintings of toys that she shared generously. Mrs.Schwartz`s works lend a quaint charm to the whole book.
Shri Sadanand Bhatkal of Popular Book Depot (Read more about him read here) had a big hand in designing this work. The book itself was brought out by Popular Book Depot, Mumbai, and it justifiably got recognition from the Govt.of India for being the best in Design and Production the very year the Award was instituted. A unique achievement for the writer and publisher indeed!