Sunday, December 31, 2006

My Friend, the Sea

Dec 26, 2004 is one of the worst days in history of mankind. The earthquake triggered a series of devastating tsunamis that spread throughout the Indian Ocean, killing large numbers of people and inundating coastal communities across South and Southeast Asia, including parts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand. This is considered one of the worst natural disasters in known history.

Fishermen live near the sea and for them, on this day, it appears that their dear friend had suddenly turned extremely violent. The book My Friend, the Sea is a story of a fisher-boy who escapes the tsunami and it follows the feelings of this child as he tries to understand how his best friend, the sea, could turn so violent.

The book is presented from the point of view of this boy. It starts in an optimistic note as the boy talks about his friend - the Kadalamma, the Ocean Mother. The culture and life of the fisherfolk is tightly integrated with ocean and the initial pages explains their boat - Kattumaran (their boat that has not changed its design for almost 3000 years) , their food - kanji, that his father and grandfather prefer to eat in the middle of the sea and his life with family and friends.

Grandfather is the boy's hero as he claims in the beginning of the book - "his grandfather knows everything" (like every kid of his age would think of their grandfathers and grandmothers). So, he surprised and completely taken aback that even his grandfather was not able to hear the tsunami coming that day. He loses his father and many of his friends on the fateful day, but remains hopeful that they could probably still find their way back.

The book ends in an optimistic note too - he says that his school is going to reopen again and talks about his plans to go wave riding with his friends again. Inspite of the great devastation and personal lose, the boy does not lose hope and looks forward for his own kattumaram that his brother has promised him.

On a personal note(not related to the book), I realised how much of an effect the tsunami's tragedy had on Sooraj based on the following episode. Many months after the devastation, when we visited the beach, the moment he saw the waves from far, his first question was -- 'Amma, Appa, Is that tsunami?'. He had somehow intrinsically associated the waves with tsunami. Being born and brought in a city, books like these would probably help city children and parents understand nature and how it is intrinsic to the life of many non-city children (something that we as city dwellers have forgotten long back).

The book is written by Sandhya Rao and the photographs are by Karuna Sesh and Pervez Bhagat. The book is published by Tulika Books in association with Consulate General of Germany, Chennai. As the book excerpts claim - it tries to avoid the pictures of the devastation and tries to concentrate on optimism and longing of the fisherfolks for their dearest friend - the Sea. The publishers mention that the book is for 6+ years old, but, I feel it is a good book that we, as parents, could share with our 4 year olds too. This book is a followup of another book by Tulika Publishers called Suresh and the Sea.


Praba Ram said...

Sathish -

Welcome to ST! Amazing pick! A very happy new year to you and your wife and your son, Sooraj.

Will certainly try to get a hold of the book for Kirthana when we visit Chennai's bookstores during our next trip to India. I was able to order one of Sandhya Rao's books - My Mother's Saris on Amazong a few months ago, and I wonder if they have My Friend, the Sea as well.

Nicely written article.


Itchingtowrite said...

some links to kids books
will look forward to the updates

sathish said...

Praba, Thanks. I guess u can order it from tulika books online; but, probably it is cheaper to buy when ur in Chennai next time.
Ranjani found the book in Landmark, Nungambakkam.

Tharini said...

Thanks Sathish for a lovely review. And the nice thing is my Dadis going to Landmark to send some books to us, so this will be on the list!

Tharini said...

You bet I will Ranjani. I am glad you mentioned this title to me. Sounds awesome. Thanks!!! :)

Tharini said...

Also, Sathish and you guys have any specific recommendations for books for younger children (4-6 years age) about Indian various Indian festivals and also our Indian national leaders from the freedom movement?

My son's teacher here has requested those genre of books and I was looking for specific recommendations or publishers to go with, in terms of overall quality.


sathish said...


sorry to say, but,I could not find any book on festivals of india separately in Tulika or other publishers I know of. I checked their list and all I could find was related to a dairy in 1999 on festivals..

I will check elsewhere and if I find some thing - will blog about it.

Praba Ram said...

Hi Tharini -

I once checked out a book from the library titled Holi by Uma Krishnaswamy. And another one on Diwali. They are part of Rookie Read about Holidays series, and has most of the world festivals - Diwali and Holi from India.

There's another one - Here comes Holi by Meenal Pandya. Meera Publications is the publisher.

anyways - do check amazon for some good books on the two holidays. But, I couldn't find any on other Indian holidays - Dussera, Ganesh Puja, Gokulashtami, Pongal etc..


Palanivel Raja said...
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