Composed by Amrita Dutta |

Released: March 21, 2020 6: 15: 27 pm

Cycle (Source: Ektara)

Children reside in the very same world as us. In the middle of plants, rivers and humans around us. Why is their literature so different from ours? Why is the language we check out so loaded with pleasure and significance, however for kids, we are still composing that same poem: baarish aayi, baarish aayi? Why can’t a kids’s poem state: Jiske paas chali gayi meri zameen, uske paas mere barishey bhi chali gayi (The one who has taken my land, he took away my rains, too)?”

For Sushil Shukla, these are old questions, with which he has been battling for a minimum of a years– as a poet and editor. The responses are to be found in the work of Ektara, a centre for children’s literature and art in Bhopal that he keeps up Shashi Sablok, the Hindi books they publish, the posters they develop and the 2 bi-monthly Hindi publications for kids that they draw out– Pluto (for kids as much as 9 years) and Cycle (9-16 years). “We believe that we can speak with kids about practically anything. Bachche nahi samjhenge– that concept we leave outside,” states Sablok, 52.


What is likewise shown the door is the itch to advise children on life; what is invited inside is poetry, art and open-endedness. From atheism to nature, science and sexuality, Cycle talks to the reader about an outstanding series of themes. A random surfing of Cycle’s back problems from 2019 tosses up gems: a serialised comic on Prashant bhaiyya, a kid who enjoys to wear saris and dance in school plays. A spread of haikus on aks– reflections of animals and birds in rivers and streams– by poet Teju Grover is set out with elegant, glittering watercolours. A centrespread illustrates the riotous north Indian baraat, illuminated by males bring big chandeliers, with the caption: Shaadi mein ujaale uthane wale apne hi ujaale tale dabe rehte hai (Male carrying the lights, burdened by the light). The publication art work stands out, as Ektara swimming pools together the skill of a few of India’s finest illustrators, from Proiti Roy, Priya Kurian, Tapashi Ghoshal to Atanu Roy and Allen Shaw. Its unique, contemplative visual language shuns the temptation of candy colours; it reminds one that image books, as British illustrator Martin Salisbury’s remarked, are “a kid’s first personal, private art gallery, held in the hand, to be reviewed over and over once again.”

In some cases, the absence of an image likewise narrates. Apna Kaam, a story by Chandan Yadav included in the February 2019 Cycle problem, is written in the voice of a young boy whose daddy is a competent pig-rearer. It states a day when the family goes out to capture pigs, the kid’s shame as villagers observe the tamasha from a range, and the pig reversing and assaulting the daddy. An editorial note at the end asks: “We asked two-three illustrators to draw something for this story. But they refused. Why do you believe so?” The illustrators declined, states Shukla, 45, due to the fact that they thought there was “excessive violence in the story”. “Many of us think about kids as too soft, as blank slates. There was likewise the concern: where is the story for the child in the classroom whose dad raises pigs? Isn’t there anything to gain from, or take pride in in, his life? More than that this story was for kids to learn to sympathise with, and comprehend, him.” Bhopal-residents Shukla and Sablok started collaborating in Eklavya Books in 2007 to revive the popular children’s science publication Chakmak. “Its readership had dropped. We brought in an emphasis on initial writing and art work,” says Sablok. “We also understood that whenever big writers have actually composed for kids– the example of Bengali was prior to us– they have done amazing work. We approached hundreds of writers in Hindi, from Vinod Kumar Shukla and Asghar Wajahat to Gulzar and Priyamvad to write for us. They agreed. Vinodji at first was uncertain and now writes just for kids,” says Shukla.

Around 2015, both felt the need to break away. “One magazine for kids of all ages was insufficient. For little readers, especially, there required to be a separate space– at that age you can either get thinking about literature or be pressed away. We thought of Pluto,” says Sablok.

With monetary help from Takshashila Foundation, Ektara was started in Bhopal in 2016 and has actually discovered a small, dedicated circle of admirers. “In championing language, and developing multiple reading chances in Hindi, from picture books, magazines to poetry posters, Ektara does a fantastic task,” says Bijal Vachharajani, senior editor, Pratham Books, and an author of kids’s books herself.

Writer-lyricist Varun Grover singles out Ektara for “dealing with children as equates to, as believing beings”. He remembers Shukla ruing that there were insufficient stories on Partition for children. That led Grover to tap into his family’s memories and write a tale about a radio left behind during the crossover from Gujranwala (in Pakistan). “Sushil brings in dark themes in a language and context which children comprehend. It entirely breaks away from how Hindi children’s writing has actually been so far,” states Grover, who has actually guest-edited Cycle’s latest, an unique problem on cinema.

Ektara avoids didacticism however is driven by a belief that kids require to discover a space free of the surveilling eye of society, the noise of conventions that takes them away from their real north. “As a child growing up in a small town in Hoshangabad, I would rarely go to school. Nowadays, I don’t see this open life for kids, only lots of restrictions.

That freedom to wander and wheel away is what Cycle checks out. A striking variety of women grace the covers of Cycle, riding bikes, relaxing on the grass, or stopping to look at a semal tree in bloom. In some cases, the images, too, need an incubation at Riyaz, an academy for illustrators that Ektara runs. “A great deal of our artwork is done at Riyaz, however we have to speak to the illustrators, sometimes even battle with them to encourage them to surpass stereotypes. Most of the time, their very first instinct is to depict a middle-class Hindu household. A female who wears a sari and sindoor. A Muslim household where the background is green. We discuss this a lot, we inform them that your art requires to think of a much better world. Else, jo ho raha hai, wohi hota jayega (things won’t alter),” states Sablok.

For Sushil Shukla, a dedication to a broad variety of stories and characters comes from life itself. If a kid falls in love with a kachnar, who understands, he might stop it from being axed some day,” he states.

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