On Republic day, as we revel in and reflect upon our feelings of pride in our country, I think it is a great time to pay homage to the fabulous work children’s book publishers in the country are doing. Growing up on a steady diet of Enid Blytons, I struggled hard to picture what scones and gingerbread squares looked like. While such exercises were good for my fantasy and imagination, there was a dearth of books set in an Indian context where for instance, the Grandmum actually looked like my Ajji in her soft cotton printed saris or the garden resembled our backyard with its mango and chikoo trees instead of having unfamiliar flowers with difficult names such as rhododendrons.
But luckily, with publishers like Tulika, Pratham, Duckbill and Tara and their teams of talented illustrators and storytellers, our children are spoiled for choice when it comes to books that tell tales set in India, with Indian characters and settings and places.
A for Ajrakh by Nina Sabnani is the first book I bought for Rumi, although it says ages 10 + on the back. It was mainly because I was desperate to have that gorgeous book in my hands. And, it really lived up to my expectations! In a journey from A to Z, the book takes us through different aspects of block printing, from different places associated with this age-old craft to short quirky stories and anecdotes about its origins.
I always believe that children’s books are the best place to start if you want to start learning about any new topic because of their simplicity. And this book has taught me more about Ajrakh than all my research on the Internet, and in a way that has kindled my curiosity about fabrics and the art of block printing. And it totally inspired us to start a little block printing project of our own!
WHAT RUMI LOVES: Her favorite parts of the book are the pages with borders. “Just like our quilts Mumma” she says excitedly and immediately wants to know more about the motif. What more can you want from a book, than a child who is hungry and excited to learn more?
WHAT I LOVE: The last few pages that include the names of some of the most skilled artisans in this trade.
You can buy this book here, directly from the Tulika website.