CHENNAI: Naresh has the world’s coolest mother — Nandhini. She wakes up at midnight, dons a miner’s lamp and goes to her field to harvest flowers. Will he be able to show everyone at school that she’s a hero? In her book No Nonsense Nandhini, journalist-cum-author Aparna Karthikeyan narrates the story of a remarkable woman who juggles her roles of a single parent and farmer in Sivagangai, Tamil Nadu.
Based on real events, this is a story about a woman who cultivates a cheery disposition and stubbornly pursues her daring, unusual dreams. This is just one among the five stories in the PARI series, published by Karadi Tales in collaboration with People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI).
The stories are based on articles that appeared on the PARI portal that featured ordinary people with extraordinary lives. “This is the first-of-itskind book series for urban kids about rural India that we are launching as part of Karadi Tales’ latest project Minmini Reads.
Kids are often exposed to only stories set in the milieu they are familiar with and lives they aspired to live. This will be a new experience. These are stories of triumph — of children who participate cheerfully in civic issues, athletes who power through their disabilities, and citizens who demand their right to be heard. The series is an attempt to give these voices a platform,” elaborates Shobha Viswanath, cofounder and publishing director of Karadi Tales.
The idea popped a year ago when Shobha was browsing the PARI website, founded in 2014 and led by veteran journalist P Sainath. She was awestruck by the moving, powerful stories that were featured. She shortlisted a few of them that could be converted into books. “With great encouragement from P Sainath, we commissioned the journalists who originally reported the stories to author the book. But these were small reports and we did not have enough material to flesh them out into full-fledged series.
The authors have put in tremendous effort and the books were printed and stocked up in early October 2020,” shares Shobha. The series was launched virtually on Saturday by actor Nandita Das and Sainath in a Zoom event. No Ticket, Will Travel authored by Subuhi Jiwani narrates the struggles of migrant workers who journey from Andhra Pradesh to Kochi in search of a livelihood.
It captures their lives rife with uncertainty. House of Uncommons by Vishaka George is about socially and economically disadvantaged Krishnan, a HIV patient who is sent to a boarding school, and fellow kids who come with an emotional baggage on their tiny shoulders. Coming Home authored by Priti David depicts the hardships of young Adivasi men in Sittilingi Valley of Tamil Nadu, who are determined to help their community. Lastly, A Big Splash by Nivedha Ganesh takes you into the world of ace swimmers Ambikapathi and Dhivya. The covers of all the books are illustrated by artist Tanvi Parulkar. “Except A Big Splash, all the books are written by journalists who originally reported the stories, ” adds Shobha.
A long road ahead
Addressing the dearth of stories that represent the diversity of India and set in non-urban locations, Nandita suggests, “There are so many ideas within India that are yet to be explored. Rural stories are also vanishing from newspapers, films, and our collective consciousness. They pop up on channels only when something sensational happens.
But there’s more to the diversity our rural India offers — what’s their life, joys, how do they navigate through life, how is globalisation impacting them? Children are also curious, empathetic and aware. We need to engage them with more relevant issues in the immediate neighbourhood. It’s also up to adults to expose children to these kind of books.
This is a wonderful step and I hope there are more books in the series soon.” Speaking about what prompted him to collaborate with a publishing house to bring out these stories as physical books, Sainath succinctly summarises, “It’s an appropriate collaboration. Karadi Tales has brought the multi-regional context to Indian storytelling. What PARI does is to lend content to that. What makes these books important is they are stories from non-metro India.
There are more things to imagine. The themes give diverse learning. These books have authenticity as these are stories of everyday people and can be verified with. There is no one Indian reality but multiple. The books have such gentle introduction to complex issues.” Shobha assures us that more such stories will be brought to limelight in the series. To more such voices that deserve to be heard! Each book is priced at Rs 200 and are available on Karaditales. com