Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sameer's House

Sameer's House
by Deepa Balsavar & Deepa Hari
Illustrated by Nina Sabnani

Ages : 4-8

Winkie's been learning about the planets and the solar system in school off late. And he is quite taken up with the subject. In conjunction to this, his teacher has also been trying to introduce the concepts of land, air, water and of continents, and how they are made up of countries, which is where each one of us lives in. A bit of a complicated concept to introduce to a child, no doubt, but her Montessori style of guidance has paved the way very smoothly, and he can now tell you that to take a trip to Mars, he would have to don a space suit and get into a spaceship, and it will fly high, high and high beyond the sky and after many years, land on Mars. But if he wanted to go to India, all he'd have to do is buy a ticket and get on an airplane.

And this seemed like the best juncture to introduce to him this Tulika publication called Sameer's House. Its not a story, in fictional terms. Rather it addresses directly the fascinating concept of how we are all interwoven into this universe, and how there is so much more beyond the extent of our direct vision in this world. And it feels like a great starting point to whet a child's curiosity about how this world came into being, what makes it tick every single minute and day, and are there any other worlds like ours, out there? Pretty heavy ammunition to offload into a tiny mind, no doubt...but a start is made very simply in this book.

Turn to the first page, and you are introduced to Sameer. A regular little boy, who was probably playing some football, and turned to the camera for our benefit and posed with his foot resting on the ball. No, its not a real photograph or anything, but just the way he is shown standing and smiling directly at the reader, that gives you that impression. And on the adjacent page is a picture of his house. A regular little house with green railings, a basket of flowers hanging from overhead and a pink roof.

Let's turn to the next page. What you see is a busy street. Saraswati Street. A very busy street. Taxis, cars, a flower shop with fresh garlands hanging (I can almost smell the fragrance...), street vendors by the dozen, a roadside cafe with people sipping some juice (mmm...sugarcane, please!), another house with clothes hanging on a line, an STD booth, and at the very corner...a little house with green railings and a pink roof. Sameer's house.

Turn over to the next page and you are greeted by a skyline view of Mumbai city. A sketch of the Arabian sea with a ferry full of people, a sketch of the Taj Hotel, the Gateway of India in the right corner, a row of tall buildings in the backdrop, and in a tiny corner in the right...just behind a grove of palm trees, is the house with the green railings and the pink roof. Sameer's house. On Saraswati street. In Mumbai city.

Thumb the leaf over to the next page, and you have panned out into the outline of the state of Maharashtra, in the western coast of India. Home to luscious mangoes, grapes, pomegranates and sugarcanes. All of them are depicted on the map of the state. In the exact place which marks Mumbai city, is the sketch of a house with green railings and a pink roof. Sameer's house. On Saraswati street. In Mumbai city. In the state of Maharashtra.

Over to the next page, and we see the full map of our beloved subcontinent. All the states shaded in different colours. And the rest of the continent in yellow. Different kinds of vegetation to show the climatic divides in the country. And even from this macro range, Sameer's house is still very prominent, with its green railings and pink roof. And here, we learn that Maharashtra is a state in the country of India.

Now you know what comes on the next page. 3/4th span of the Asian continent, showing the wide expanse of the ocean and Chinese mainland and the South East Asian countries. There are huge ships sailing between the countries. We now get a view point of the continent of Asia. Sameer's house is still visible to the eye.

Zoom out zoom out...and there we have it. A beautiful view of the earth, with a bit of the universe twinkling in the backdrop. The unique V of India can be seen, merging into the rest of the landmass. And we still know where Sameer lives. His house makes it to this page too.

Turn over, and you can see a graphical representation of the solar system. A huge orange ball of fire that is the sun is at the left corner of the page, spanned by orbit after orbit filled with the planets as we know them. Our beautiful blue earth in third place. But we are too far out now. We can no longer see Sameer's house.

One more page to go. What do you think you will see there? The gorgeous, mysterious blue Milky Way. A first look at the Universe as we have heard of it. A silent, star filled universe. It all just seems like a haze of colour on canvas. No sign of the earth, leave alone Sameer's house.

And that is where things stand at the end of this book. For added effect, I stopped reading, hushed him and we just looked at this picture in complete silence, watching the hazy swirls of planetary objects with quiet reverence. T.h.i.s is our place in the universe and the bigger scheme of life. A speck. A minuscule dot. Its nothing if not awe-some. And its a journey that you make from simplicity to complete depth, hand in hand with your young one.


1 comment:

sathish said...

very nice concept.

Very similar to another book called Zoom by Istvan Banyai - that I have in my wishlist..
He wrote another recently called Re-zoom which dwells on a similar subject again..

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