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The Goan Scene For Children

Maria Aurora Couto

By Premola Ghose
Amber Books India, 2014, pp. 54, Rs. 295.00


Books for children cater to a range of interests, with stories of worlds distant and familiar, often with a mixture of fable, myth and the modern world. Some of the best seek to educate in subtle ways such as Suniti Namjoshi’s adventures of Aditi. These speak to readers of all ages drawing them into deeper, subtle meanings. Then there is the role of the illustrator, so crucial to drawing the child into a magical world. Acclaimed artist Nilima Sheik charms the child in Blue and Other Stories. In much the same way difficult concepts in Leila Seth’s Preamble to the Constitution of India are enlivened by captivating photographs, and inspiring illustrations by Bindia Thapar. Among the very first to combine story telling with history and education was Sheila Dhar’s History of India for Children, which set a benchmark decades ago with illustrations by Biren De.  Premola Ghosh is among the few who both write and illustrate. Her vivid story telling and vibrant images capture the imagination with a gang of animals with whom she travels. The first of her books Gang Tales from Ranthambhore and The Bodhisattva and the Gang were followed by Tales from Historic Delhi. In this as in Zero Goes to Goa, Premola offers young and old a colourful guidebook for families on holiday leading them skillfully through a region she clearly loves. Goan history is a blank page in mainstream India. After liberation in December 1961 the region is perceived as a paradise for permissive frolic on and off the beach, good food, excellent music, a laidback life, conversion, Catholicism, Portuguese colonial architecture. ‘So unlike India, really’ is a comment met with frosty silence from most Goans. After 450 years of Portuguese colonialism in a tiny territory (60 miles long, 35 miles wide) during which the focus on religion and culture was intense, it is no surprise that the visual and cultural landscape is imprinted in ways that the British could not accomplish in the vastness of India. Yet, it is only the coastal region in the north and south that bears this imprint. This is now marketed excessively by the tourist industry and in ways unrelated to the lives of Goans. Semi-urbanized villages with rich traditions of their own escape the marketing radar unless these can be hyped for tourists in which case they cease to be traditional and natural. Most Goans shun these false representations ...

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