Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Lama Mani Books

One of the most memorable moments when we visited Bylakuppe, a large Tibetan Settlement in Karnataka, was watching a group of young Tibetans kids playing cricket. The visit to Bylakuppe helped me realise about these wonderful group of people living far away from their home, trying to strike a delicate balance of preserving their own culture amidst an alien environment.

Aravinda Anantharaman, a member of the group called ThinkTibet (a platform that helps in contributing to the Tibetan community in exile) and a few other volunteers chose the avenue of publishing children's books to enlighten and give us a glimpse of the life of these people living in various settlements spread across India. As part of this initiative, two very interesting books have been published. They include - 'Dolma visits the City' and 'Dorje's Holiday at the Gyenso Khang'. These books are written by Aravinda and illustrated by Chime Tashi. These books are published under the imprint called 'Lama Mani Books'. Lama Mani is a traditional Tibetan story-teller who goes from place to place with a small shrine and a set of large thangkas (traditional Tibetan painted scrolls). A sample thangka is shown in this image (taken in Bylakuppe).

These two books give a very interesting glimpse of life of people these settlements. The book 'Dolma visits the city' is about a small girl whose father is a sweater seller living in a settlement in Orissa. The father along with other settlers travels every summer to Bangalore to sell sweaters. The girl, Dolma, and her mother join him in Bangalore during one of her winter holidays. As part of the story, Aravinda introduces us to the culture, food and traditions of Tibetans. By the end of the story, Dolma learns to sing a few traditional songs about Gesar of Ling and makes her parents proud when she sings them during Losar (the Tibetan New Year). Gesar of Ling is a ballad that is considered as one of the longest literary works in the world (supposedly 25 times longer than Illiad).

The second book - 'Dorje's Holiday at the Gyenso Khang' - is about a boy who travels with his grandfather from Dharamsala to an old age home (Gyenso Khang) in Mundgod, near Hubli in Karnataka. While the earlier book is a bit more cheerful, this books dwells a bit about the people who had originally escaped the chinese invasion and walked all the way from Tibet to India and have settled down in various settlements. These people are now old, whilst the newer generation growing up these settlements has never set eyes at their own place of origin. One can feel the angst and worry that might be playing through these old people as they remember their good old times and harrowing times escaping from Tibet. Aravinda does not let us linger too long on these dreadful thoughts, as she switches quickly to the playful Dorje and his attempts to move a rather strange old man called Tsering to newer and a better accomodation.

Although, these books are about kids born and brought up in the settlements and their enthusiastic discovery of lives of other Tibetans; there are a few statements that hits your emotional cord. When Tsering, the rather strange old man, says - 'I am tired of moving' or when some of the buyers of sweaters say in anger - 'Apne desh chale jao' are a few examples that remain in mind and moved me.

A great set of books that I would suggest every one to buy and share with your friends. Aravinda Anantharaman has done a guest post in Pratham books regarding these books. Do check them out.

Src: The image of the two books is from Pratham books Blog. The other images were taken by Sathish.


Choxbox said...

Great review Sathish and lovely pix.

Meera Sriram said...

Sathish, wonderful! I also read the post on Pratham. I think the stories transmit yet another emotion or experience. And how do the authors embed some of these darker feelings in stories that children can read - the context, the language, the characters, all child-friendly yet burdened with the message, it never ceases to amaze me! Thank you Sathish for finding these books for us!

Poppins said...

Lovely review, and the books certainly sound very interesting. I'm learning about so many new books now to keep myself from buying all of them !

Praba Ram said...

What a story!

yes, in many ways... the "delicate balance of preserving their own culture in an alien environment" -strikes a chord with many, I am sure.

And to think of life for children in refugee settlements...every story helps!

Thanks to Aravinda for bringing these stories out. Would love to meet her someday! And thank to you, Sathish for quickly following up on this and a great write-up! :-)

sathish said...

For all those interested in stories related to immigrants, I would suggest you to check out the lyrical non-word graphic novel called 'The Arrival' by Shaun Tan.

Its review was written in ST long back - http://www.saffrontree.org/2008/01/arrival.html

Choxbox said...

Read that review Sathish. Sounds like a powerful narrative albeit without words. Any ideas where I can get it in Bangalore?

Michael Morpurgo's 'A Twist of Gold' deals with an immigrant story as well - Irish in this case. This author is awesome, will do a review of some of his works some time.

sathish said...

Choxbox, I bought it in amazon and posted it to some one who was travelling back to Blr. I have not seen it in any book store in blr. I might have missed it here too.

But, I notice that it is available now in flipkart. it is a bit costly one though. Thanks for the reco regarding 'A Twist of Gold'. I will check it out.

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