Rakhi Peswani’s illustrations elevate the story. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Childhood. Simple times, simpler relationships. Yet, having to live around grown-ups and their complexities can surely not be easy for a child. Ask Anitha, or Anu, the precocious protagonist in Jayasree Kalathil*s heart-tugging tale about a young girl growing up in rural Kerala.
Originally written in Malayalam, the moving story follows the life of 10-year-old Anu who must find ways to plough through the first ever summer holidays without the companionship of Sajichechi, her older sister, who passed on four months ago. Unable to bear the loss, her Amma spends all day in bed while her Achchan (Malayalam: father) prefers to drink his sorrows away at the local bar after work. All she can hope is for her friend Rasheeda to be around to partially fill the void but she too has travel plans for the holidays. Left to her own designs, Anu, who loves to write stories, and is sometimes egged on by her father, tries to find solace in this make-believe world. But Daisy, the heroine in her story, has no new adventures to embark upon and the budding writer cannot find a way to give her a fresh lease of life.
Enter Chaakupranthan, the village madman dressed in sackcloth, who is avoided by most of the villagers. Through a series of encounters, they develop a special bond, filled with innocence that can emerge only from a space where children see the goodness in people, and are untouched by public perceptions. Without using preachy language, this title is a must-read for middle schoolers where life lessons are gently explained, minus the frills.
Title: The Sackclothman
Author: Jayasree Kalathil
Genre: Children*s fiction
Cost: Rs 150