Sisters Adithi and Chatura Rao have written between them the thirteen well-etched stories that make Growing Up In Pandupur. The two writers with their distinctive writing voices have penned stories with children as their protagonists and supportive adults in most cases. Much like the Dhun river, the quiet but important character in Growing Up In Pandupur, the stories gently navigate the bends and curves of the narrative. The collection will satisfy eager young readers and is a good stepping stone to longer chapter books.
The stories all have a lesson in them without being priggish about it. As children, our school library too had similar collections of short stories with Annabelle, Jim and Shirley in the middle. They were sometimes ‘quite naughty’ and ‘vexed’ their parents and often learned their lesson. All of it between tuna sandwiches and ginger beer. That ended when the book closed. There was Amrita, Ramya and Geeta to talk with; channa-chawal, rasagulla, and rasam to choose from. At home when our parents were very vexed with us, they let their hands do the talking!
Growing Up In Pandupur has Tejas, Shivi, Minchoo, Preet, Avi, Ajja and ammama in it; mangoes, rice, and bananas pop up regularly.
The Dhun song at the beginning of the book gives us an inkling what we can expect.
Look to the Dhun for secrets, the river has many to tell
Some swirly and shallow, some big and deep…
But listen, and listen well.
She murmurs the story of Pandupur, at first just trees on her bank,
Of humans who came and cleaned and framed,
Rice, mango, maize on the rich land.
One of my favourite stories in the collection is Changing Chintamani, with wet hair parted in the middle making him look ‘like a talking monkey from The Panchatantra Tales’. Chintamani has an oppressive grandmother who rules the house, a father who never hides his disappointment and a quiet mother.
Chintamani wants to learn football, but he sucks at it. He wants to join special coaching but his father thinks otherwise. However, all is not lost and Chintamani’s mother steps in. Does this constant loser get a shot at realising his potential? Does he use the opportunity? Do things change for Chintamani?
The story has a moment when:
Why do you want football coaching, Chintu? asked his mother that night, as she smoothed down the cover of his warm Jaipuri quilt.
Lines like these will transport you to the times you may have had a similar tête-à-tête with your mother, while she smoothed down your hair, or patted your shoulder and looked into your soul with her eyes.
Illustrator Krishna Bala Shenoi adds tone and depth to the stories with her work.
An elephant called Mallipoo, Colonel Shambu, Amina and Sameera, Gopal who hides a deep sadness in his heart, Stone Valley School, Saraswati Vidyashala all await you.