Monday, November 12, 2012

Talaabs and Rituchakra books from Pratham

The Talaabs of Darbhanga
Original story in Hindi narrated by Anupam Mishra
English Translation by Manisha Chaudhry
Illustrated by Prashant Soni
A Level 3 Pratham Book
Ages 4-8

This has got to be my favourite among all the Pratham books I have read, and I’ve read loads!

A good king, a wise advisor Ayachi Pandit (Ayachi = one who does not ask for anything), a prosperous kingdom and happy subjects... all is fine, but for the scarcity of water.

True to his name, Ayachi Pandit does not accept wages in return for his services. So, he has no money to pay the fees of the Dai (midwife) after the birth of his son. He whispers something in her ear and she takes leave happily.

The child grows into a knowledgeable five-year old. By a strange turn of events, he provides a solution to the king himself and is rewarded handsomely. Ayachi sends for the Dai and hands over his son’s first earnings - an angavastra full of gold - to her. That is when she remembers the words whispered to her years ago.

What do you think she does on coming upon such great wealth? Let me just say the original story in Hindi is called ‘Dai ke Talaab’(that is, The Dai’s Ponds).

A lovely story about simple meaningful living, beautifully told.

There are more ‘drops of wisdom’ in the form of notes on traditional rainwater harvesting techniques in India - the stepwells and kunds of Gujarat and Rajasthan, the zings of Ladakh, anicuts, and the bamboo pipe system used for drip irrigation in Meghalaya. And yes, the Dai’s Ponds exist even today in the northern part of present-day Bihar, what was then Mithilanchal.

story that is probably more relevant today than ever before – both for the values of the principal characters and the message on water conservation. Isn’t life all about leaving the world a slightly better place than when we got here?

Rituchakra series

Seasons can mean different things to different people... and in different places. Each culture has its own traditions and every season brings with it variety in terms of food, festivals and fun. In the cold dark nights of winter, comes a festival of lights - call it Diwali, Christmas or Hanukkah. Christmas pudding or mithai with a liberal dose of dried fruit; food too, is determined by the weather.

During the years in the U.K., we had come to associate barbecues and beaches with summer. Winter in the U.S. had meant poinsettia, lights and tree decorations. In Australia, it was a warm Christmas! The first thought that struck me when I heard of the Rituchakra books - how apt to have a series on the seasons and what they mean to us in India.

That set off a discussion with my son – what were the memories we associated with summer? Mangoes! The king of fruit… in all its avtars, ice cream, swimming and no school! Rains meant umbrellas, raincoats and boots; paper boat sailing and the smell of the earth (mannvasanai). Then there is a nip in the air, it gets dark earlier, and it is time to get the full-sleeves and blankets out. To the five-year old, winter meant Santa, warm clothes, warm food and drink.

The package arrived in the post, with review copies from Pratham Books. The Rituchakra series consists of five books (three of which are featured here), priced at twenty-five rupees each.

We learn the Sanskrit name for each season, and spend a year with Meenu, a little girl from a Tamil speaking family, through summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring… when everything is new.

Lassi, Ice-cream or Falooda?
(Rituchakra- Summer)
Written by Mala Kumar and Manisha Chaudhry
Illustrated by Priya Kuriyan
A Level 2 Pratham Book
Ages 3-6

It is Tamil New Year day and Meenu wonders why we celebrate so many new year’s days, just like I used to! Mango panna, lassi and falooda – Meenu’s friends from different parts of the country all have cool desserts that make summer special. The book triggered a wave of nostalgia… trips to hill stations, parents forbidding children from playing in the heat, Appa’s trip to Delhi and the Dussehri mangoes, the little sapling that had to be watered twice in summer… the little girl’s summer wasn’t very different from another little girl’s (now very big!)

Peacocks and Pakodas!
(Rituchakra- Monsoon)
Written by Mala Kumar and Manisha Chaudhry
Illustrated by Priya Kuriyan
A Level 2 Pratham Book
Ages 3-6

After the heat and dust, it is time for the rains… and that intoxicating smell of wet earth that comes along with it. The monsoon brings with it a feast for all the senses. Peacocks dancing, the smell of pakodas and mouthwatering puris. There is a lesson on environment consciousness for little readers too – guess what Meenu calls the streams of water from the terrace that are collected in drums? We are reminded of what the rains mean to farmers whose lives and sustenance depend on it – they worship the rain as gods. The mango sapling that had to be watered twice in summer has now grown tall and doesn’t need to be watered at all.

Kheer on a Full Moon Night
(Rituchakra- Autumn)
Written by Mala Kumar and Manisha Chaudhry
Illustrated by Priya Kuriyan
A Level 2 Pratham Book
Ages 3-6

Wedged between monsoon and winter is autumn, the time of the year when the weather changes and there are niggling colds and coughs. It is also festival time! Meenu’s family celebrates Sharat Poornima and they stay up all night. Her friend celebrates Onam with a Pookalam - it is harvest time in Kerala and the time the boat races are held. Then it is Dasara and time for Golu. It is also a time for new beginnings and learning – mrudangam, flute or scooter!

Soon it will be Deepavali…

Why not gift these books to a school or library in need, for Children’s Day or Diwali?

[Images courtesy Pratham Books]


Choxbox said...

Stopped at the first line - have to go find the book ASAP :)

We have enjoyed the Rituchakra series too, nice picks!

Choxbox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arundhati said...

Chox - thanks. I picked up 'Talaabs of Darbhanga' with absolutely no expectations, had no idea what the book was about, and I was floored. I think I liked it better than the historical fiction or the Sister sister series from Pratham, and maybe even more than 'Cauvery'!

sandhya said...

This is an intriguing review, Arundhati. Am surely going to check out these books.

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