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Book Talk


Nita Berry

WHISPERS IN THE CLASSROOM, VOICES ON THE FIELD: STORIES OF SCHOOL, FRIENDS AND LIFE
Richa Jha
Wisdom Tree, Delhi, Year 2017, pp.360, Rs.345

VOLUME XLI NUMBER 5 May 2017

Here’s a real bonanza of stories! That’s                 what strikes one at first glance. Thirty-one short stories by well-known children’s authors … stories about school life-urban and rural, stories about dating and falling in love, futuristic stories that take one back to the crude past—that is, the present, strange stories about ghosts in boarding schools and school reunions, stories about stories that help make friends … it’s a lavish spread! Our earlier vacuum in literature for the sensitive adolescent years that oscillate between childhood and adulthood—and are often beset with physical, mental and social worries, is now being fast filled up with specific teenage stories like these. Needless to say, books dealing with this stage of life can be both guide and friend. Bindi wants to go to school, but ‘what would people say?’ Subhadra Sen Gupta’s eye opening story, ‘A Disobedient Girl’ is set in nineteenth century Bengal when girls began schooling despite great family opposition. Look at these vintage gems: ‘She’ll be ten soon, she is getting too old for marriage.’ Or ‘Educated girls gain bad karma when they leave their homes to go to school. And then that mysterious karma makes them widows because it takes the lives of their husbands.’ But times do change and Bindi gets her way! Fats, a ‘less-than-lovely’ orphan, is the butt of cruel jokes in school—till she finds her real talent and a family. Paro Anand’s gripping story is woven around the real-life story of a javelin Olympic champion. Life is stifling in Musaddik’s madrasa, in Adithi Rao’s ‘Alif’, alleviated only by a game of cricket played with rudimentary bats … till a rude shock softens Bade Ustadji and makes him more humane. Sarla, the village girl is homesick in her new school where she is treated with disdain: ‘Hey, do you have lice in your hair? She does smell like a villager…’ But when she rescues a little boy from a mountain cliff and wins the volleyball match for her school too, she wins the day. Bulbul Sharma’s story, ‘No Mountain Too High’ shows that there is no real rural-urban divide. Here is a beautiful story.‘To Touch the Stars’ by Rohini Chowdhury tells us of the rebel child bride who goes back to school and learning. Heart-warming and humorous, ‘A Blurry Truth’ by Anjali Raghbeer is all about learning disability. ...


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