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Children’s Books in India: Real Worlds and Ideal Worlds Deepa Agarwal
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Real worlds and Ideal worlds

Dec 15, 2014

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Education

Deepa Agarwal

In children's literature in India, we tend to focus on the ideal rather than the real.
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  • 1. Childrens Books in India:Real Worlds and Ideal Worlds
    • Deepa Agarwal

2. Childhood As an Age of Innocence

  • But trailing clouds of glory do we come
  • From god, who is our home:
  • Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
  • William Wordsworth
  • in Ode, Intimations of Immortality

3. Childrens Reality in India

  • Vast social and economic divides.
  • Tradition and religion are powerful forces.
  • A host of problems affect the young but books ignore them.

4. Most Childrens Books IgnoreReal Life Problems

  • The reasons are:
  • Conservative mindset means that taboos still linger.
  • Hidden censorship prevents authors from being realistic .

5. Whats Right, Whats Wrong

  • Focuses on real issues:
  • Lack of access to good education
  • Child labour
  • Gender discrimination
  • HIV/aids
  • Disaster
  • Hunger
  • Some writers and reviewers found it unsuitable for children

6. A Parent Found This Depiction of a Teacher Objectionable 7. Shantis Friend

  • Exploitation of a child domestic helper not an acceptable topic.
  • Changes were requested because it was felt it might upset readers.
  • The child had to be transformed into a poor relation.

8. ThePanchatantraThe Monkey and the Crocodile

  • The theme of friendship betrayed.
  • In the end the monkey parts company with his false friend, the crocodile.
  • In a contemporary story the traitor would repent of her/his actions and the relationship be restored.

9. King Vikram and the Vetal

  • Gruesome setting.
  • Gory ending.
  • Extremely popular with children, parents and publishers.

10. The Death of the Saintly Prahalads Wicked Father Hiranyakashipu

  • Writer and critic Nandini Nayar comments: I cringed at Prahaladscalmness in the face of the horrible death his father suffers.

11. Target Encouraging Realistic Stories

  • A number of stories that addressed the real problems real children faced were regularly published in this magazine.

12. Manisha Chaudhry, Editor with Pratham Books Says:

  • It really depends on the treatment of the issue.
  • The authenticity and empathy that the writer feels or exhibits a lack of.
  • Children sense out insincerity very fast.
  • I would not reject a manuscript because it deals with a painful aspect of reality. If it brings up something in a way organic to the book and talks to children naturally, I'd go for it.

13. Suresh Readingat Pratham Library

  • No adverse reactions from the children or theBal Sakhis (childrens friends), librarians or parents.
  • I can say this with some certainty as we get feedback through questionnaires and at meetings
  • Pratham runs 4000 libraries across 14 states of India Each library services 150-200 children.

14. Angry River by Ruskin Bond

  • An amazingly calm portrayal of a village girl, Sita coping stoically with calamitythe destruction caused by a flood.

15. A Village by the Sea byAnita Desai

  • A sometimes painfully realistic story about two poor children Hari and Lila trying to survive in adverse conditions and growing in strength and maturity.

16. Growing Up by Devika Rangachari

  • A realistic depiction of middle-class life.
  • Credible characters
  • Real life situations
  • Actual problems children face.

17. No Guns at my Sons Funeral By Paro Anand

  • The making of a boy terrorist in Kashmir
  • Compelling, even terrifying clarity.
  • Climax as brutal as any television image of a terrorist attack.
  • End strikes a positive note.

18. Paro Anands Comments

  • We don't live in an ideal world.
  • Today's young are more willing and able to confront reality and deal with it.
  • Found it too much to handle when the hero, Akram is made to kill a puppy and a kitten during his training.
  • Human deaths were somehow easier for them to handle than the animal deaths.

19. What Do Children Say?

  • Q. Should stories always have happy endings?
  • Purva,11not alwaysthey should show humans as they truly are.
  • Saloni, 9sometimesI wish books would be more real.

20. Children Say

  • Radhika, 10sometimesthey usually show the world as a better place than it is.
  • Tanya, 8alwaysthey should show the world as a better place but make us think.
  • Dhruva, 9sometimessometimes they do have children who seem real like us.

21. Nandini Nayar, Writer and Critic Comments

  • To write books that conclude with all strings tied off neatly, no loose ends visible, is unrealistic.
  • This does not happen because of the kind of 'safe' topics that writers in India stick to.
  • Children are protected from reality, so serious subjects are a taboo. And so is anything like a reality check in the form of open-ended books.

22. Alison Lurie inDont Tell the Grown-ups

  • Though there are some interesting exceptions, even the most subversive of contemporary childrens books usually follow these conventions.

23. Alison Lurie inDont Tell the Grown-ups

  • They portray an ideal world of perfectible beings, free of the necessity for survival and reproduction: not only a pastoral but a paradisal universefor without sex and death, humans may become as angels.
  • The romantic child, trailing clouds of glory, is not as far off as we might think.

24. THANK YOU!