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INDIRA by Devapriya Roy and Priya Kurian promises to be a treat for kids with its fresh approach to a holistic view of History that can keep them engaged.
In today’s millennial times; as technology disrupts every part of human life, here is Devapriya Roy and Priya Kuriyan’s book INDIRA which disrupts the art of telling history! Simply put, the book brings forth a really innovative and fresh approach to attempting a biography.
Envisioned and conceptualized in the centennial year of India’s first and only woman Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the book INDIRA is class apart, thanks to its simple yet powerful narrative which captures her life using both text and graphics as a tool. Her story unfolds along with the journey of a girl named Indira Thapa who is trying to figure out how to finish a creative writing assignment given by her favorite teacher around her name (not about, but around).
INDIRA narrates the history, but differently. The focus is not just on the life and the struggles of Mrs. Gandhi, but also on presenting a bird’s eye view of everything happening around at a particular time in various parts of the world and their impact on her life. Accomplished deftly using illustrations, this gives the reader a sense of history as a whole.
So for example — January 1966, while London was experiencing an age of Rock and Roll; in Chicago — there was an uprise of the new revolution led by Rev Martin Luther King clamouring for equality of all races; and in India, people mourned the death of Mr. Lal Bahadur Shashtri and speculations were on as to who the next PM would be. And how amidst all this, Mrs. Gandhi emerged to be the winner. The illustrations take the reader back and forth in times effortlessly and seamlessly.
INDIRA is a simple and easy read. And the impact due to this simplicity is immense – so much so that it strikes a chord with children very well. My eight-year-old daughter was entranced by the book just because of the beautiful illustrations. (The illustrations are detailed but the text is kept simple to read, with a focus on not making them too elaborate or short, just perfect.) And once she picked it up, she couldn’t leave it easily.
The fact that the story is told using the protagonist who is a school child would add more resonance with the young readers. The events in young Indu’s life — her struggles around the Satyagraha, burning her foreign doll, launching Vanar Sena and how she does her bit to contribute to the freedom struggle are captured very well. The narrative just flows and the graphics hook the reader — an extremely innovative way of sharing history with students in such a way that it isn’t just about rote learning — but also a journey which they experience and question.
Most of my Gen Y friends would agree that history wasn’t a favorite subject for many of us. And that certainly has to do with the way the subject was taught and has been handled in the schools. History classes were more like English prose being read about times and people of past; underlining major text to be used in answering questions; mugging them and getting a good score adding to the overall aggregate! As a result, a gap has always been felt for a smarter approach for teaching the subject.
In the book, “Oral history” is what the protagonist Indira Thapa is exploring as the various events and incidents reveal around her iconic namesake. INDIRA brings some lessons on how to present facts and history in an interesting way — certainly some food for thought for people involved in designing material and curriculum for children in schools today.
The book is divided into nine chapters titled thoughtfully as “In which we meet Indira Thapa”, “In Which we meet a very important person”, “In which we hear a war story ” which again contribute to making the reader an essential part of Mrs. Gandhi’s journey as if one is being hand held through a panorama of events in her life. Real and imaginary worlds, the past and the present are woven seamlessly as the protagonist walks the reader through one of the most crucial times in the history of India.
The characters in the protagonist’s world — Mrs. Das and Piya di bear a semblance to the authors Devapriya and Priya and there is also Ms. M, the publisher! Ms. M makes a mention about the growing disinterest of millennials into reading books and hence the need to include a list ”Seven things that will happen to you if you belong to the family of freedom fighters” is a very thoughtful curation!
Everything about INDIRA gives one a feeling of being connected. Unlike most biographies, you would like to go back to it again and again. I felt happy that I could read the book with my child for whom this happens to be the first window towards learning the history of India. It is a beautiful piece of art which necessarily needs a place in your library and translated across languages for current and future generations to savor!
And something one shouldn’t miss — Both Priya and Devapriya make appearances in the illustrations in this graphic biography. It is fun spotting them in the crowds.
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Top image via Alchetron and book cover via Amazon
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An engineer and a telecom business professional, Anjali Gurmukhani Sharma is a Delhi University rank
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