Friday, June 29, 2012

Book Review Children Who Made It Big

I recently read this lovely and inspiring book and here is the review. I enjoyed it and strongly recommend it to people of all age groups. This book has already been translated into various Indian languages including Hindi, Punjabi, Assamese, Marathi, Oriya, and Tamil. In fact, some schools are using in their curriculum. The second part is also in the making, I certainly do look forward to reading and reviewing that.


Author: Mrs. Thangamani
Publisher: National Book Trust, India
Pages: 164
Language: English
Price: Indian Rupees 45.00
Illustrator: Mr. Partha Sengupta

Whether you want to learn an academic concept, a new language, an art form, or anything, even if it is something trivial, you need to make an effort. This effort requires interest in your work and a true desire to do that, being sure that you will do it. This quality is determination. You also need to have the passion to continue with something and do it well till its completion. This other quality is perseverance. To be successful at anything, these two qualities go hand in hand, I am sure you'll agree.

What is this book about?

This book tells us in a friendly and exemplary manner how sublime this truth is. There are true life incidents of twelve Indian post-independence era maestros of different fields - most of whom are world famous, many of them being completely different from each other. We realise how these great personalities were once just ordinary people who, with determination and perseverance have achieved great heights, in their respective fields, be it science, industry, arts, social work, judiciary or films. The author has very vividly captured the lives of these greats by actually interviewing them and providing beautiful glimpses of their lives.

Nani Palkhivala, an eminent lawyer and human rights champion, overcame his major stammering problem, which deterred him from reaching his goals, and learnt the importance of sharing and kindness at crucial moments.

Medha Patkar, a voluntary organisation worker, who learnt ideal moral values from her parents but realises that it was up to her to take the initiative and act when a poor old man is ignored by all.

Satish Gujral, the famous artist and painter, who is jeered at and made fun of because of an accident and some other differences but finally manages to make ends meet and achieve great heights.

Justice Leila Seth, who realised the importance of priority and education at a very early age and also the happiness and enjoyment involved in it.

Rahul Bajaj, the heir to the famous Bajaj transport company, who is a good student and excels in all subjects. He learns English as a challenge, and successfully unites Indian tradition with modern technology.

World chess champion Vishwanathan Anand is an excellent example of determination and perseverance, who as a child is unable to win anyone at chess, and goes on to become World No. 1.

Physicist and developer Yash Pal who was very curious from the age of two. This helped him learn many things.  He was very successful at school even if he missed a year because of a disaster. He further facilitated education for all with his inventions.

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, a stalwart at Hindustani classical music and the heir to the clan who introduced the instrument Sarod, who had to work very hard to reach basic heights and through sheer perseverance, perfection.

Mrinalini Sarabhai, a member of a family and region which hardly encouraged dance, struggling to learn dance from someone and finally succeeding because of her relentlessness and making a mark in not only Indian dance forms but also Greek dances.

The great writer and poet Ruskin Bond, who had a very harsh and tough childhood, losing his father at a young age.His early works were totally scorned, destroyed and dumped by his mates and teachers, but he finally emerged as a great writer.  

Dr. M. S. Swaminathan, the great agricultural scientist behind the Green Revolution of India, who was very intelligent and dedicated his life to bringing up agricultural genetics and improving irrigation facilities and technology.

Sai Paranjpye, a creative genius and film maker and a very important contributor to various film genres, who learned to respect books since she was very small. She also published a fairy tale book when she was barely eight!

What I liked about the book:

These true - life incidents illustrate the lives of the greats very well. They animate the effect and importance of determination and perseverance. This is the simple truth. We know it most of the time, yet ignore it. This book is a great read for anyone looking for inspiration be it a child dreaming of becoming great things, or an aspiring youngster, an adult looking for a success solution, or even an elderly person, unhappy with the present status looking for new hope.

I personally found the book very inspiring. The book is very well-written and the portraits and biographical illustrations for each achiever has been very well done by the illustrator.

"Children who made it big" is recommended for audiences of all ages. 

I would like to express my gratitude to the author, Mrs. Thangamani for her generosity in sending me a copy of this book.

You can buy this book: at Amazon, or Abebooks, or Flipkart. You can also find it at Google Books here.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Nigerian folktale - the Baboon and the Tortoise

Dear friends, today Iam sharing a lovely folktale from the West African country of Nigeria. Thanks to and the Punchontheweb archive for providing the folktale idea, image courtesy of the above 2 websites and several more with animal pictures. It is a trickster moral story.

Once a baboon and a tortoise were friends. They spent time happily stealing figs from the farmer's tree and daring his gun and fierce dogs. Doesn't this seem like an odd pair? Do you think both of them were happy with this kind of life? No....not so much for the tortoise, well. He didn't like this very exciting kind of life. So he told the baboon that one day they should plant their own fig trees, without worrying about the farmer, his gun and dogs. The baboon agreed happily seeing that the plan was much safer, but he was a lazy fellow and didn't care much about growing his plant. Though, the tortoise earnestly grew his plant, watering it regularly. Naturally, it was he tortoise's tree which grew well with tall branches and green leaves, but the baboon's ignored tree was withering and falling dead.
Finally figs sprouted on the tortoise's tree and the tortoise was attracted to the delicious figs. Being a small animal, he couldn't climb the tree, and asked the tall and tree - inhabited baboon for help, to which he replied, "Oh, sure, why not." But would the baboon be so kind to selflessly help the tortoise. Of course not, he was a trickster. He ate the figs and relished them till finally the tortoise saw its juice dripping out of his mouth. He shouted from below,", Hey, you are finishing off my figs, give me some!" The wily baboon said,"Of course, I'm looking for fully ripe figs for you, wait for a tad more", and so he went on munching. At last, he said,"Oh, sorry, there were no nicely ripe figs to give you", and with a jump, hop and somersault, he went away merrily with a hearty laugh.
Just as the tortoise was looking woefully, a cheerful robin redbreast came that way, and inquired,"Why do you look so glum? What has happened?", and the tortoise told him all that had happened,"Please be kind and give me some figs". Even the robin was not so kind; he offered the tortoise ripe figs, and when he agreed, the robin said there were only unripe ones left. Then, when the tortoise asked for the unripe ones, the robin said there were no figs at all, and flew away with a chirp. Ever since, tortoises are believed to look sad and never have smiled. 
The next day, the baboon gulped down more figs and mocked the tortoise, making him furious. The day after this, the shepherd came, and offered to help the tortoise avenge the mean baboon. He was a kind lad, and after giving some figs to the tortoise, and loading his gun, placed it high in the tree. Tied to its trigger was a long string that hung to the ground. Soon, the baboon came back, and asked the tortoise about the string. He replied,"If I pull the string one way, it will bring down ripe figs, but if I pull it the other way, it brings thunder and lightning in the clouds". The baboon was astounded and pulled it in disbelief. The gun shot with thunderously loud bangs, and appeared like lightning, thunder and clouds. The frightened baboon ran off, and ever since, baboon are said to have been frightened by guns and even looking at one. The tortoise, who was always sad, laughed inside himself. But he wasn't just as innocent and naive, in fact he was so angry with the baboon that he wanted to further punish him.
So, when they met the next time, the tortoise stood listening to a beehive. When the baboon asked him what he was doing, he replied,"I'm listening to the music that is coming out from this hole". But the baboon thought it was too soft and inaudible and was very disapproving. The tortoise said that it was a church and if the baboon wanted a louder hum, he needed to bang the hive with his fist and shake its hole with a nearby stick. When the foolish baboon did the same, the bees hummed louder and angrier, stinging him with rage. The baboon ran away painfully and jumped into a river to escape the bees. But each time he put his head out of the water, the bees stung him, and eventually their anger eased off and they returned to their hive.
The baboon scratched out the stings and baboons are believed to scratch themselves ever since. He was furious and wanted to bite the tortoise, who was now staring at a mango tree. The baboon screamed angrily, but the tortoise replied, though nervous,"I didn't tell you to hit and punch the hive so hard and almost pierce a hole on it. He was staring for so long that the baboon became curious rather than angry. When asked about it, he said,"Iam looking at the delicious mangoes which I wish I would eat". The baboon had swellings on his eyes and didn't realise that the tortoise was actually pointing out to a wasp-hive. The fat-headed baboon tried to pick the 'mangoes' and got badly attacked by the wasps. This made him extremely furious and he wanted to eat the tortoise now. The tortoise defended himself saying that he was pointing out to a mango tree and the baboon had handled a wasp nest, so it wasn't his fault. A cricket came chirping by and, because baboons love to eat crickets, the baboon chased it till it went into a tree-hole.
The baboon boasted that he could catch the cricket and in the attempt, caught a snake by mistake, which bit him. The snake was so angry on being disturbed that he bit the baboon hard. The tortoise was content with his revenge. From that day, tortoises, snakes, wasps and bees are said to have been good friends. And because the bees enjoyed the sweet figs, they have been crazy about any sweet thing and fruit. The snake decided to live on the branches of the fig tree instead of his old tree hole, since he could watch out for any approaching enemy. The baboon is also believed to have changed to a much less active creature. 

This folktale shows us how people may have made folktales, they would have wanted to explain why many things are the way they are (take a look at the 'ever since' - es...) and not knowing a scientific explanation, would imagined up the 'why' as stories which were later verbally passed and cherished by the folks. 

However such explanations may often be evil beliefs superstitions and should never be accepted to be true.