It felt wonderful to return to Suresh and the Sea, with children aged 5 to 9 years at The School, KFI, Chennai on Wednesday, 18 November. It’s a story close to my heart, for the memories it brings back both of hours spent in Injambakkam with Raghavendra Rao (whose story it really is, with all the lovely black and white photographs and his first friendship with ten-year-old Suresh), and the days spent putting the book together when Tulika was still very young. I remember the night, that dark and rainy night before Radhika left for her first Frankfurt bookfair, and all of us up until late, putting together the dummy with printouts, scissors and gum. She carried a damp dummy early next morning on the flight!Times have changed since, and dummies these days are glossy digital affairs – at a cost, of course!
But the curiosity and imagination of children never changes. I suppose that’s what keeps us on our toes, as eager as the little ones to create exciting, challenging, new books while yet holding on to the old.It was a delightful hour at the school. Many of the children were familiar with both Suresh and the Sea, and its sequel, written in light of the December 2004 tsunami, My Friend, the Sea, thanks to an accessible and well stocked library in the school. Yet, the children were eager to have the story read aloud. It’s not a made-up story - it’s a real story - nonfiction, not fiction. That didn’t faze the children one bit, even the little ones. They were all ears, and all questions, too.
The group was studying/researching the seashore. Therefore the older ones had specific questions like how tsunamis happen (and they answered these questions themselves, thankfully!) and some anxious ones worried about Suresh’s home - was it still standing…?
Only goes to show how books have a life far beyond their pages, if only teachers/parents/others take a little trouble. Even by making the books available in the library in multiple copies.
People are constantly complaining about that monstrous thing, the READING HABIT, and how it is dying… I’d like to know how many adults read, and I’m not talking about magazines. The READING HABIT is safe with children, provided - and this is important - we make books available and easily accessible, giving children a chance to discuss the world emanating from and connected to them.
-Sandhya Rao, Author