Of the prayed and preyed pachyderms

Parvati the Elephant’s Very Important Day by Shobha Tharoor Srinivasan introduces young readers to a day in the life of the lovable giants in a temple festival

Published: 28th June 2022 06:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th June 2022 06:27 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Earlier this year, I came across a video of 42-year-old Andal — the Srirangam temple elephant — conversing with her mahout. While it went viral within a few hours and warmed many hearts, one was also reminded of the pregnant elephant that ate a pineapple filled with explosives and died, a few years ago. Why is it that a temple elephant is so revered and other pachyderms aren’t? Making children think on these lines is Shobha Tharoor Srinivasan’s latest book, Parvati the Elephant’s Very Important Day.

Parvati is excited for her first Thrissur Pooram. She is eager to get ready, wear the tinkling bells, the bright nettipattam, walk under the silk umbrella, and be the centre of attraction for one day. But when chaos ensues — as it does in large temple gatherings — will Parvati rise up to the challenge? 

Love for the giants
In simple, poetic words, Shobha presents one day in the life of Parvati, while Tanaya Vyas’s colourful, engaging illustrations help you conjure an image of the Pooram, even if you have not been to one. The story introduces children to the costumes and the orchestra used for festivals, and draws attention to the importance of the responsible caretaking of these endearing elephants.

Despite being large and intimidating, their floppy ears, long trunk and large girth make elephants lovable, especially for children. “I want to return the elephant to our collective consciousness in a joyful way with a story that has the simple premise of a day’s “adventure”. Adventures are appealing to young readers, and Parvati has all the impulses of a child; she is eager, excited, nervous, responsible. Her various emotions will resonate with readers. I’ve anthropomorphised the elephant and given Parvati human impulses. This builds a bond between the reader and the animal. These connections then create empathy, understanding and compassion toward the other,” says Shobha.

She hopes that the engaging and informative narrative in the book will encourage conversation and sharing. “I hope that the story will also encourage readers to want to learn more about these pachyderms and remind them that elephants have been preyed on for years and are in danger of extinction. By looking further, readers will learn that elephants, despite their size, are gentle and highly intelligent animals who balance the ecosystem. With their heavy footsteps, they trample forests and dense grasslands and make room for smaller species to co-exist. When rainfall is low, wild elephants create water holes by digging dry river beds. These water holes are then used by other wildlife. Elephant herds also travel over vast land dispersing seeds in their dung which creates an opportunity for more green growth,” she explains.

Pictures that speak
Words may take time to create an impact on young readers and think beyond the obvious. But, Tanaya’s illustrations are an instant hit. A wildlife enthusiast, Tanaya adores elephants and her ideas resonated with the author’s vision. “In a traditional picture book, the illustrations on each page advance the story so that non-readers can follow along and pick-up the threads of the narrative by looking at the images on the page. Tanaya’s appreciation of the story and her personal interest in wildlife are evident in the artistic renderings. The illustrations allow the reader to see various emotions that Parvati feels as she jumps out of bed, as she eagerly prepares for the day, and more,” says Shobha.

Tanaya took reference from photographs to capture the vibrant colours and intricate traditional artefacts, and prepared several drafts for the colour palettes, textures and compositions. “The objective was to have the environmental elements converse with the moods and thoughts of Parvati,” notes Tanaya.
After living the day through her eyes, the lessons you perceive are plenty. “The story is only a starting point and young children do not merely read alone.

The story lives on in family and school conversations and will hopefully spark further dialogue and discovery,” says Shobha, while Tanaya adds, “I feel grateful for these creative journeys that allow me to forge deeper connections with nature. I think this story is about courage and perseverance. We have a lot to learn from the magnificent and gentle friends we share this beautiful planet with.” 

Pages: 35
Price: Rs 499
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books


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