India became independent in 1947 and a republic in 1950. Our constitution, the backbone of our country and the document that defines and governs all aspects of our lives as the Citizens of India came into force at that time. All of us, as citizens of independent India, have been introduced to its Preamble. But how many of us actually know what it really means? It has been usually seen at the beginning of textbooks, learnt by rote, and then put into the slot of dreary civics and all but forgotten. Here is book which hopes to change all that, which brings out the essence of it in a fun way.
WE, THE CHILDREN OF INDIA
THE PREAMBLE TO OUR CONSTITUTION
Written by Leila Seth.
Illustrations by Bindia Thapar.
Published by Puffin books.
Image: Courtesy Penguin books India
Leila Seth was the first woman judge of the Delhi High Court and the first woman Chief Justice of a state in India. Her credentials listed on the introductory page amply testify to her being the best person to have taken up this project. By her own admission, this book has been written with the help of her grandchildren, ages 5 and 8. She is also mother to another writer of note, Vikram Seth.
Leila Seth has beautifully deconstructed the heavy vocabulary of the preamble to make it comprehensible to all. She has gone word by word, giving succint examples and explanations with the help of speech bubbles--with a lot of help from the vivid illustrations by Bindia Thapar.
For example while discussing the word "Socialist" she explains:"socialism meant bettering the life of the people of India". Bettering the life is such an abstract concept. Seth makes it very simple and specific for us. Here the children in the illustrations explain to us:
everyone should have enough food
everyone should be able to go to school
everyone should have a safe home
everyone should be able to lead a healthy life and be able to go to a doctor when they need to"
Clearly explained, with happy illustrations.
My favourite are the words used while explaining "Secular". To the names of all the religions prevalent in India, she has added other belief groups: "Agnosticism, Atheism, Rationalism, Humanism, Animism". There are so many people who belong to these categories, too, other than those belonging to known, documented religions. They are part of "We, the people", and are included in the whole. Secular!
On each page, there are boxes where we are given the facts pertaining to those words. There is also a short account of the events leading up to and culminating in our constitution as well as an account of the people involved in writing it, with wonderful photographs.
The book ends with a simplified version of the Preamble with the word "people" replaced by "children", a short account of what needs to be done, and a short poem to help us remember the spirit of the preamble.
"Let's be equal, just and free-
Strong in our diversity:
Free in thought and free in prayer,
Free to dream and free to dare,
Free to love and free to care.
Let's be equal, just and free-
Strong in our diversity."
"Let's be equal, free and just,
Unified in love and trust:
Strong to lend the weak a hand,
Strong to help and understand,
Strong to build a happier land.
Let's be equal, free and just,
Unified in love and trust."
A wonderful and timely book, making the preamble easy to understand for all, and more important, easy to remember and follow. A true gem.