Blast from the past

If J K Rowling could dedicate a whole book to the evolution of quidditch, Pavithra Srinivasan’s attempt at short stories on Indian history for kids is the start of a new revolution on the subject. 

These are some elements kids get hooked to. First, no childish language; second, dates turn into stories and finally, a healthy dose of fiction. In the book aptly titled Back to the BCs, a rather bohemian looking Thiruvalluvar converses with Chanakya about their greatest works.

It may not be like Iron Man meeting The Hulk for the first time in the Avenger series as chief guest Madhan suggested, but it certainly catches your attention. The stories of the building of Mohenjo-daro and why the Saraswati river disappeared are others among the many tales in the first edition of the series by Helios Books, titled Little-known Tales of Well-Known Times by the same author. The book was recently at Landmark, Nungambakkam.

This was followed by a panel discussion on the relevance and importance of historical fiction for children. Cartoonist Madhan, historian Chithra Madhavan, Gitanjali J B, publisher of Helios Books, and the author participated in the discussion moderated by author and playwright Shree Kumar Varma.

Says Pavithra Srinivasan, “I remember how everybody would be afflicted with migraines during our history classes in school,” she adds, “and checking their watches, waiting for it to be over”. The author paints a picture of a teacher droning on with a painfully slow lecture on dates and historic events. But she states later, “I read Ponniyan Selvan when I was 12 and loved it.” Perhaps the missing piece to the teaching equation is a lack of relatability, the debut author reasons.   

“In a history book, children often can’t visualise the story or the characters,” she elaborates, and there on, as many of us have experience firsthand — boredom strikes.

In fact, it wasn’t Ponniyan Selvan that got this writer curious. Interestingly, it all start started with a trip to a temple. “This was in the Pudukottai district around 2003,” she recalls, “and the historian was telling us the tale of how the temple was built.” Long story cut short — the man who married had an affair and lost his eyesight. When he built the temple to repent, his vision was miraculously restored.  Pavithra wonders, “There must be hundreds of stories just like this one out there.” Perhaps if more people start sharing them, history teachers could turn story-tellers for a brief window. Well, just until the bell rings and you’re zapped back to the present.

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The New Indian Express
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