A city for children
A new book series on multiple Indian cities created by INTACH and Speaking Tiger hopes to discuss heritage with young readers. Here's how the Mumbai version fared with a fourth-grader we invited for review
What’s so special about Mumbai?” Raju asks his elder brother Raghu Dada. “Everything! ... It is jhakaas,” he replies.
Raju was led to the question because on his first day in class 4, his teacher Miss Pinto asked if any student had visited the Elephanta Caves. None had. And when she asked if anyone had been to Horniman Gardens, she received the same answer. So, Miss Pinto’s next project for the class was to get them to visit as many places in the city as possible. Fortunately for Raju, Raghu Dada was a tour guide who not only knew Dharavi, where they lived, but the city as a whole. And thus begins the adventure in Off We Go! To Mumbai, To Mumbai, part of a series released this month, created by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) and Speaking Tiger. Versions for Delhi and Kolkata are available, too.
Authored by Arthy Muthanna Singh and Mamta Nainy, the title carries illustrations by Zainab Tambawalla. Eager to discover the city and an avid reader herself, we got nine-year-old Rishona Banerjea who studies in class 4 at Bombay Scottish School to review it. “I read books for at least two hours a day and can’t sleep without reading. My favourite authors are Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton,” she shares. After reading the nearly 50-pager over two nights after school, she says that the primary aim of the book is to educate children about the city of Mumbai in an interesting way. “I haven’t come across anything like this and have been wanting to read something that talks about Indian cities in a child-friendly manner,” she adds.
Through the young protagonist Raju, the book explores not just the history of Mumbai but also its idiosyncrasies like Bambaiyya Hindi, which Banerjea thoroughly enjoyed —jhakaas, ulta-pulta, dhinchak —and captures the essence of communities that this city harbours. While Raghu Dada takes his brother from Malabar Hill to Mahalaxmi’s Dhobi Ghat, Freny Aunty (Miss Pinto’s friend) invites the class to her home in Dadar Parsi Colony. As much as it was an adventure for Raju, it was also one for Banerjea.
“I only knew about limited places like Juhu Beach and Mount Mary’s (the basilica). After reading this, I feel like there is so much more to know and so many places to visit in Mumbai. I was shocked to learn about Ranwar village in the middle of Bandra and I have been staying in Bandra for over five years,” she says, adding that the colourful illustrations were a plus point. When asked if she wishes there was anything done differently, she sums up her whole experience with a thumbs-up, saying, “There’s nothing that I didn’t like. I have already told my friends in school about it and they expressed their keenness to read it sometime soon.”
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