Sunday, November 15, 2009

Monsoon Afternoon

Title: Monsoon Afternoon
Author: Kashmira Sheth
Illustrator: Yoshiko Jaeggi
Publisher: Peachtree
Age Group: 4-8 years

Soft watercolors all over, stroked elegantly to reveal pleasing sights of peacocks, street dogs, cows, and paper boats. A city drenched in monsoon. And that is not the only picture that this book paints, but the images also bear the warmth of a special relationship.

This book goes back to the motivational roots of Saffron Tree, in that it is perfectly tailored for children who need to get acquainted with the current Indian setting. It is also flawlessly apt for children who can, only through books, partake in the experiences that stem from the smell of moist terrain, almost unique to monsoons in India. Having said this, and going beyond the backdrop, the story itself unravels a treasured bond between an old man and his grandson, and this surpasses any kind of regional or climatic boundaries.

The boy, endowed with an autobiographical voice by the author, is looking around for familial playmates, just as the first drops of rain hit the earth. His efforts in vain, and even as he is resorting to the lull, we see grandpa appear from behind, with a tempting offer to sail paper boats! A monsoon afternoon well savored - swinging from the aerial shoots, witnessing a peacock's glorious spread, and hopping on to dadaji.

Our little friend who is now comfortably settled on his old man's shoulders, turns inquisitive. Did monsoon come when you were little? he asks. Will monsoon come when I become a dadaji? Our eyes drift to the corner in sepia showing dadaji as a little boy swinging from a banyan tree. And then fast forward to another portrayal of the boy, aged and still enjoying the shower juxtaposing our lad riding on his dadaji. I want to milk the moments in these pages. Yes, even if people pass on, monsoons will come and help break the summer heat, wash away the dust and soak their grandchildren and their grandchildren. Because that's what seasons do, and that is the nature of it.

I closed the book with a good read of Kashmira's notes on her monsoons in India, what the rains meant to her and what they brought with them - the mango season, time for indoor games, and the season for sicknesses too. A great way to talk to children about the ways of life when seasons change, in a land different from their own. Rains always excite children. Even while some carry brightly colored umbrellas and wear synthetic raincoats and boots, they can also find joy through fascinating stories of how some others spend their rainy afternoons in another part of the world.

And you think yesterday's telephonic complaints about leaking roofs, autorickshaws stuck on flooded streets and damp clothes pulled the trigger on this review? Nostalgia,I call it.


Praba Ram said...

What an apt one for the North-east, M! Just the mention of the word monsoon has my senses all wide awake. :-)

A very stimulating and nostalgic one, indeed! Will check it out! Thanks!

Choxbox said...

Awesome Meera! Just perfect given that its been raining here of late!

Its interesting how rain evokes different emotions in different parts of the world. In London we almost hated it while in India we look forward to it.

Incidentally, recently picked up two books - The Monsoon Concert by Pratham Books and Waiting for the Rain by NBT. One describes how a bunch of animals chorus together overjoyed by the rain and the other is about a farmer waiting for the rains and also gives a subtle message of letting Mother Earth rest for a while.

Anusha said...

I thoroughly enjoyed how you chose the right words and guided us through this book, Meera. you're right, there's something about a good rainfall - so cleansing, so refreshing.
i love the way rain is depicted in the cover illustration...have placed a hold on the book :)

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to get back to India! You have written so well! Can't wait to get hold of it as well.Thanks again.

Sheela said...

Meera, beautiful as always! Loved the way you presented this book and the emotions surrounding not just the bond but the season...

yea, I remember cyclones in Madras during monsoons when i was little: i remember wading in knee-deep muddy (sewer) water, remember the damp mucky smell of clothes that never dry completely... but, from your words, my mind brought forth other more pleasant memories as well!! so, Thank You!!

utbtkids said...

Rain is such a precious thing in India. For all the flooding in the metros and the havoc it causes in people's every day life, it sustains lives in villages!

This book reminds me of Uma Krishnaswami's MONSOON. Do check it out.

SoulSpace said...

Closing lines were lovely...
Yr review, does trigger off nostalgia:
I like the feel of yr review...good job

Meera Sriram said...

All, your comments are as beautiful as rain, a downpour of kindness:))
@Praba & Chox: The timing of the review was not entirely unintended:)
@Kodi's mom: Thanks, hope you enjoy the book!
@etcparenting: Thank you very much.
@Sheela: Thanks. Yes, I distinctly remember those days, the smell and all the sogginess that came with those days! Hope being nostalgic felt good:)
@UTBT: Yes, I've been wanting to check out that book as well.
@ssstoryteller: Thanks!!! There is a lot of things that we tend to associate with rains...beautiful memories indeed.

sathish said...

Nice one Meera.

For me, monsoon in childhood always reminds me of leaking roofs, clinging clothes, damp uniforms, cold, cough and inability to go and meet friends and play with them.

sadly, nothing nostalgic!

Poppins said...

Much like satish I didn't (and still don't actually) like the rains but this is a nice book and review!

Meera Sriram said...

Sathish & Poppins: Thanks! I never used to not look forward to rains either, while in India (except when we had a test / an exam and the school had to be closed that day:). But now, away from home, I miss the events and feelings that engulfed those days:(
But I guess, for the uncomplicated lives of our little ones, they just love to kick their feet in a dirty puddle!

the mad momma said...

I've never heard of this publisher, and the book sounds lovely.

Tharini said...

Fabulous! I am a complete and utter rain lover and your review....well it just made me smell the mann vaasanai as you call it. Gorgeously painted. Loved the idea of little sepia insets for the past. So cute!

Speaking of rain, I hope you'll want to read Yellow Umbrella sometime!

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