Ritual #1 : If anyone goes out of town, they must come back with sweets or some goodies. Anything..but something!
Ritual #2: If anyone is going out of town on holiday, they should try carrying a few books to distribute to kids they may meet on their holiday.
These rituals are not written in a Pratham books rulebook, but they surely are rules/rituals that everyone follows rather happily :).
Last month was no different when I decided to take off on a holiday to Bali and then had to attend a workshop in Dharamshala.
The first recipient of our books was Mr.Gusti – our courteous and pleasant cab driver. Amidst teaching Gusti English in exchange for Bahasa language lessons, we realized that there are so many words in Bahasa that are quite similar to Hindi. While meandering through the streets of Ubud, one will almost always chance upon a big religious procession parading down the street. While driving us around to see quaint and beautiful temples, giving us a good deal on a volcanic trek and teaching us a lot about Balinese culture, we even got to meet Gusti’s family for a brief time. After spending the entire day in Gusti’s company, there was no doubt that his 5 year old son was going to get a few books from us. Just as Gusti dropped us off at our homestay, we ran in and fetched the books we wanted to gift his son. His son was going to meet Sringeri Srinivas (Yes, the same cute man from our books Annual Haircut Day and Too Many Bananas). What was more exciting was that Too Many Bananas mentions a puja too…and I was sure that the kid would be able to draw a parallel with the religious ceremonies that one sees so often in Bali. I happened to bump into Gusti the next day and he mentioned that when he reached home the previous night, there was no electricity, but his son really wanted to read the books. So, they both lit a candle and read the books by the candlelight..the son reading to his father. As much as his son loved the books, Gusti seemed to love them too! Yayyyy!
The second recipient of our books was a 7 year old girl called Putri. After watching a traditional shadow puppet performance, my friend and I set out to find a place that could serve us dinner. Surprisingly at 9.30pm, the town of Ubud was almost shut. As we walked down the lane, every restaurant seemed to be shut. Finally, we came to a restaurant which was almost shutting down and we stepped in to see if they would serve us some food. Thankfully, they decided to feed us with some delicious Mei Goreng. Being the last customers there, the manager and waitresses started chatting with us. Everyone gets so excited when you say you are from India and wants to utter the few hindi words they know (Nahi nahi..and Acha acha). And suddenly the 7 year old girl bursts into a song – Kuch kuch hota haiiiiiii. Her grandfather appears from somewhere and starts singing a Balinese song and Putri and her sister try to do a Balinese dance. It almost felt like we were part of their family and the kids were showing off some new dance moves they had learnt from their dance class. The next day, just as we were leaving Ubud, we stopped by the restaurant and gave Putri a few books (one of them being Yakity Yak..which truly reminds me of her :)). Putri’s expression was priceless when she held the books and jumped with joy and ran inside to show them to her mother.
When I was leaving for Dharamshala, I took a few copies of the book Chuskit Goes to School since the main protagonist is a Tibetan girl. (Mcleod Ganj, a village within Dharamshala municipality, is the home of the Dalai Lama and the exiled Tibetan government -via wikipedia). Initially I had thought that I would donate the books to the Tibetan Children’s Village, but when I heard about the Dharamshala Community Library, the books were then donated to the library. Apart from our books, I also spotted the wonderful books by Lama Mani books at the library. Read this article about the Dharamshala Community library to learn more about the project. The librarian(Pema Tso) told me that when Tenzin Tsundue (activist/poet) saw the Chuskit book in the library, he exclaimed, ‘Wow, these are such nice illustrations!’ and later when I bumped into Tsundue on the road, he mentioned seeing the books and that the quality of the books was great! So yayyyyy again!
If you have a story of how you have spread the joy of reading amongst children (with our books or other books), do send us a mail at web(at)prathambooks(dot)org.