Saturday, May 16, 2009

Crow Boy

In one of the recent movies that I watched, Delhi-6, there is a simpleton called Gobar that every one likes to make fun of. He is always presented with a Rs.10/- note on one hand and a 2 one rupee coins on the other hand. They ask him to pick up one of them. He always picks up the 2 one Rupee coins. Every one has a great laugh and say that is why he is called Gobar. At the end of the movie, when the same scene repeats again; this time Gobar takes the 2 one rupee coins as always and says - "If I had picked up the Rs.10/- note long back, you guys would have never had any fun". He had continued the drama to keep the other folks happy. Makes one wonder who was the simpleton?

It is a wonder how easy and funny it is to make fun of people who are different. Children usually can be merciless with a child who is different; but, we adults are also not too far away. We do not make fun at the face of folks who are different; but snigger away in the recesses of our minds and souls. Irrespective of umpteen examples where we have seen that the people who are different are the ones who make startling discoveries, give us great works of art and beauty and make us see the world differently - we continue to be indifferent or hostile to them.

Crow Boy is one such story where the kids of school in a Japanese village make fun of a short-boy and names him Chibi(short one). No one knows him well and he is not one of the folks who live near by. He walks alone from far away mountains every day to school. He attends the school diligently, but no one makes friends with him. He is always left alone to his own machinations during the intervals and lunch breaks. No one plays with him and continues to be taunted every day of his school life for 6 years. The author's single line in a page says it all - "He is always at the end of the line, always at the foot of the class, a forlorn little tag-along".

A tag-along whom every one, including the teachers, at the best ignore or taunt with names like slowpoke and stupid. But, unknown to every one, Chibi is busy finding his own way to understand the world around him. He hears many different sounds, he finds a lot of interest in watching insects that most of the kids would run away from. He finds variety of different things interesting - the class which teaches a given list of subjects is just not for him.

In the last grade of the school, in walks in a new teacher called Mr. Isobe. He is himself a bit different and regularly takes his class to a hill top behind the school. Here is where the rest of the kids are clueless and Chibi rises to the occasion; he knows about all the places where wild fruits grow, knows more about farming than anyone put together and he seems to talk with the crows. At the end of last year, Mr. Isobe makes Chibi appear on the stage for a talent show and every one hoots and jeers - "What can this stupid do?". Chibi starts imitating the various sounds of the crows. He imitates a newly hatched crow, a mother crow, father crow, cries of the crows when they are happy, sad and their cries in the morning and evenings. Every one is amazed that there could so many varieties in a simple crow call. Mr. Isobe then explains how Chibi learned all about the crow calls and various other information that he has at his disposal.

It is a fine ending for a rather sad story in the beginning. Taro Yashima, the author, thanks a real person called Takeo Isonaga, who appears in this story as a teacher called Isobe.

The story's emphasis is on the fact that the teacher can play a great role in moulding a kid; or making others kids aware of the talents present in each and every one of them. The other teachers were just like the majority of the kids and considered that Chibi was worthless and he had to be put up with for a period of 6 years. But, one teacher's belief could bring about a change in the school and make a kid happy.

A great story. The book was published in 1965 and won the Caldecott Honor that year. Taro Yashima's illustrations in water colours are touching and brings out the emotions in the page.

A great book to illustrate the fact to the kids that it is alright to be different.


ranjani.sathish said...

Beautiful review Sathish. As I have read this wonderful book too so many times with Sooraj, I know that you have done justice to the book in your review :-).

This book never fails to arouse some strong emotions each time it is picked up.

Praba Ram said...

Added to my list. Reminds me of your very first review for ST - Kali and the Ratsnake!!! You and Ranjani always pick such valuable books to review for ST...
Sounds wonderful - everyone has special talents ... no matter how we look or where we're from - a theme often reminded in our household. Sujatha Padmanabhan's Chuskit Goes to School comes to mind as well. Need to review that one for ST, sometime! :-)

Sheela said...

You do have a great eye for books, Satish, and offer a wonderfully balanced perspective... either that, or our wavelengths are resonant :)

sathish said...

Praba, Thank you. Would love to read the review of Sujatha Padmanabhan's book.

Sheela, Thank you. I will take it as both!!

Praba Ram said...

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