Friday, February 19, 2010

Dinaben and the Lions of Gir

Meera Sriram and Praba Ram
Photographs: credited to many
Illustration: Preeta Suresh
Publisher : Tulika Publishers
Age : 4+

Dinaben and the Lions of Gir captures how man and animal coexist in the forests of Gir in Gujarat. It fits beautifully into the series of bilingual- photo- animal books from Tulika - the earlier ones having featured tigers, bears and elephants.

The attractive cover page, in bright saffron, has a lion cub with a bewildered-beseeching expression, rather like a baby wanting to be picked up.

Dinaben and her husband represent the Maldhari tribe whose main occupation is the dairy business - milking cattle, making butter and ghee and selling it to make a living. They do this the "primitive" way- churning it by hand and so on.

A lot of children today are unfamiliar with this, having hardly ever seen ghee or butter being made at home. If you quiz them on who gives milk, they will probably reply the milk carton. The photos and text will offer them a glimpse into the age old methods of dairy farming.

As for the lions, I did not even know there were only 350 Asiatic Lions left. Is it not really alarming? Just imagine, our grand children may not get to see what Simba looks like in person.

The book subtly brings out that both the animal and the tribe with their already marginalized lifestyle are under threat. It is important for us to respect nature. Otherwise neither the centurires old Maldhari tribe nor the lions will survive.

Corporate sponsorship of such causes has become a necessity and HSBC has taken up this one -as reflected in a letter from their communication person, which forms a part of the book.

The photos are evocative and rich- Dinaben, the lions and the forest ' come alive'. The sketches of an expressive lion cub generally having fun are truly cute. Paw marks are also used to good effect.

Like the rest of the Tulika series, a map sets the geographical context - it helped my four year old understand where Gir is.

While there is so much publicity about protecting another endangered cat - the tiger- we hardly hear about lions in media. The set of facts about the Asiatic Lions at the end of the story provoked our curiosity and together with the story it will surely sensitize readers, even young ones, towards nature in general and in specific to the majestic King of the Jungle.


Tharini said...

Awesome review. Your words flow just as succintly! Its amazing to see a review of this. I think this is the well and truly goosebumpy moment for me...not just to see M & P's book published, but to come full circle to be reviewed here on ST! Hooray!

ranjani.sathish said...

Hooray to Praba and Meera for writing this book and Art for reviewing here !!!

I am sure it is going to be a very interesting read for us, as the subject matter is kind of new to the kids and me!

Choxbox said...

Couldn't help smiling when I saw the authors' names :) Great review Art!

utbtkids said...

Wow. I can't wait to read this. March 3rd, March 3rd, March 3rd.....

That is when my copy arrives.

Sheela said...

Thanks, Artnavy! And, Praba & Meera, truly glad to know you and see your book reviewed here! And, the theme/subject sounds very interesting. Smiling away...

Vibha said...

Wonderful review and a very inspiring topic for a book. Meera and Praba - great job :)

Choxbox said...

Incidentally, here's what happening -

Gujarat offered lions in exchange of its 'pride'.

Artnavy said...

am waiting for your take on the book once you get your copies.

thanks for that bit of input
maybe we can also link those books u were referring to

P and M
Fantabulous and inspiring work!!

Choxbox said...

Will review them soon Art.

B o o said...

Meera and Praba wrote this book?! Wow! Congrats women! Im so proud! :) Cant wait to buy this book now. Thanks Art for the wonderful review.

Artnavy said...

chox and boo - tnx and welcome

Archana Srinivas Pottery said...

How cool! Congratulations~


Anusha said...

awesome review, Art.
and a big applause to our resident authors :) we are *so* proud of you!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
meera & praba said...

Frankly, it feels surreal to be reading a review of our book here! And needless to say, made possible by the ST family for which we are grateful, thanks Art!

Art - Kudos for neatly presenting the book with crystal clear details.

T - Yes, rightly put - nice to come full circle indeed!

R - You are too sweet! We feel validated that you think it is a new idea!

Chox - :)

UTBT - Looking forward to hearing your thoughts as well!

Sheela - Ditto. And hope you find the book interesting.

Vibha - Thank you Vibha!

Boo & Art - Thank you!

Kodi's mom - Humbled. *Taking a bow*:)

Archana - Delighted to see you here! Thanks

Artnavy said...

Yipee!author comment on my post!!

praba and meera said...


You have raised a very interesting perspective saying "While there is so much publicity about protecting another endangered cat - the tiger- we hardly hear about lions in media". We would like to add our thoughts on this perspective. We believe that perhaps there are two main reasons that could have potentially pushed lions to the back burner:

1. There are many passionate wildlife conservationists working in India, to re-establish lions in M.P's Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary. But, there has been resistance to the efforts by the state government (probably for the reason that lions will then not continue to remain Gujarat's pride alone, if moved). In the case of tigers, many protected areas and sanctuaries were created all over India quite early on. Also, thanks to a network of NGOs that kept the interest in tigers alive and conservation a political priority. Due to these, there was national involvement all across the board. Similarly with the lions, more NGO participation and political will among the states involved can possibly help put the issue in the forefront nationally.The current confinement of the lions to a single state probably hampers national participation, which in turn is keeping the issue in darkness.

2. Secondly, we think that lack of global attention on the Asiatic lions, could be a probable culprit. For most people outside India, lions are simply African lions. Just as Bengal tigers have always been associated with India, lions lead us to Africa. The stereotyping , we personally think, could be a reason Asiatic lions don't get a share of the limelight. Also, tigers being endangered, grab all the attention, while African lions thankfully are not threatened as yet. Therefore, funding may not be flowing as adequately as it might be for tigers because of its endangered status.

The two reasons put together might be overshadowing the endangered Asiatic lions, not giving them enough media spotlight. We hope that measures to increase awareness by the Indian Govt. will lead to more wildlife conservation efforts for the Asiatic lions too and that it becomes a shared national or international priority.

Artnavy said...

Pand M
I never thought of the political- global angle.

Now I think your book is even more commendable for furthering this cause a bit more.

I think Tulika should look at tying up with a few wildlife activists/bodies and promote these books at zoos/ schools/ events... internationally.

Maybe they already are....

Choxbox said...

That was fascinating P & M. Thanks!

Art, I think Tulika do have some books - The Riddle of the Ridley by Sekhar Dattatri is one of them. Had met Dattatri one time and was floored by his passion for his work.

praba and meera said...

Thank you, Art. Great idea about reaching out to children. Tulika's reach and diverse range of books, wonderful indeed!

Chox, thanks for sharing the info.

utbtkids said...

We welcomed Dinaben in to our family today! We give it 4.75/5 stars.

1 star - Creating awareness about Asiatic lions(I didn't know that they are different from African lions. I was aware of the differences in elephants, but this was new to me)

1 star - Concept. Animals and humans co-existing. In teh ear of synthetic butter, the Maldhari's still make ghee in the traditional way and make their living by selling their goods?

1 star - Pictures. Do I even have to elaborate on this?

1/2 star - Clear and crisp script

1/2 star - Flow of the narration

1/2 star - Facts about Asiatic lions

1/4 - for the cute lion pencil drawings

-1/4 star - I would have really loved it if the translation was "Yivar than Dinaben" in the place of "YivaL than Dinaben" But that is just me.

I am just awed by you guys. So both are such an inspiration.

praba and meera said...


We are thoroughly pleased you think so highly about the book.
Thanks for taking the time to do a detailed star rating. Very neatly done. And we sure hear you on the "evar dhaan". Had the signature UTBT language passion punch to it!:)

We really hope kids take away some fresh ideas about the ecosystem, and think about the connection and the significance of it for all living things on the planet. It was truly enjoyable to work on Dinaben, and even more to see the feedback! :)

Thanks, UTBT once again.

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