Aditi De reviews our book Freedom Run (written by Subhadra Sen Gupta and illustrated by Tapas Guha) on Goodbooks
Against this backdrop, I was deeply moved when the Nobel Prize for Peace 2014 went to Indian Kailash Satyarthi and Pakistani Malala Yousafzai “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”
Right on cue, this book appeared from two creative individuals I admire. They bring to life aspects of invisible India. Indian publishers often consider their stories unmarketable or unfit for urban child readers.
In Freedom Run, Subhadra Sen Gupta and Tapas Guha create an irresistible narrative for Pratham Books through vivid, colourful comic-book frames. The central figures are three pre-teen boys who knot carpets for a living for a brutal, mercenary loom owner in a village in the Mirzapur or Bhadohi districts of Uttar Pradesh.
As with her popular history and adventure books, Freedom Run sees Subhadra at the top of her writerly game. As an editor, I admire her impeccable plotlines, her humour, her deeply-researched evocation of place and time. As a writer, I am in awe of her fluidity across genres, her zest for life on the page, and her unforgettable characters, including those in Let’s Go Time Travelling, Bishnu the Dhobi Singer andAshoka: The Great and Compassionate King among her twenty-five plus books. As a reader, I admire her total sync with young minds.
This book is as much Tapas’s masterwork as it is hers (as with their collaboration on Satyajit Ray’s popular Feluda series). Besides a perfect choice of typeface, his brilliance surfaces repeatedly, through alternate visual perspectives, through action that spills over frames. Such as two boys in anguished conversation through the warp of the loom. Or the fear on a young face as the furious owner raises his cane to strike. Or the wraparound joy framing a boy who sights his big brother and a glimpse of freedom. Or the threatening adult silhouettes against a wall as the three children sneak out at dawn. Or the drama-packed frames of the chase through Varanasi that tease both the eye and the mind – and charm the reader.
Perhaps this book will lead to a generation less ignorant of child labour or a little-known India.