The landscape of Mumbai changes during the Ganesh festival. In “Be Careful Bappa” the child-narrator cautions his beloved lord Ganesha, against the myriad ‘dangers’ that the city would pose. This is a touching tale that looks at the city though the eyes of a child participating in festivities.
The picture book has a narrative and is also packed with information. The presentation is very unique. There are many layers to this book. At one level, it’s the story of a child who is saying goodbye to Lord Ganesha on the day of the Ganesh Visarjan, that is, the last day of the 10day long festival. On this day, the idol of Lord Ganesha is immersed in the sea.
At another level, the book has information about the Ganesha festival. This information is presented in the bottom half in smaller font. Older children can read it for themselves and for the younger one’s parents can curate the information. This section is packed with information about the historical context of the festival as well as some other details pertaining to it.
Yet at another level the book looks at the theme through the prism of a city, in this case, Mumbai. The celebration of the elephant-headed God is an integral part of the culture of Mumbai. It is an immensely popular festival here. Here there is a juxtaposing of the narrative of the child as he undertakes the journey from his home to the sea, where the idol of Ganesha is to be immersed, with the hustle, bustle and the noise of Mumbai itself. One can say that the book brings out the character of Mumbai.
When you read the book, be sure to pause and look at how you can peel the different layers of the story. The child, in his love for ‘Bappa’, warns him about the various ‘negatives’ that are there around them. The traffic, the crowd, the pinching (yes, bad touch and good touch!), the pollution…. they are all part of this journey. The innocent child goes through this journey as he travels with his parents to the sea where the visarjan or the final immersion will take place.
But also heed the beautiful artwork that also speaks volumes. You will see the marks of the festivities, superimposed on the scenes from the everyday life and the beating heart, that is, the streets of Mumbai. You will also notice subtle messages brought in through faded texts….newspaper headlines or captions…all pointing out to what goes on in the city.
This is a book not only to be read, but also experienced and understood in depth. The book, published by The People Place Project is a part of the ‘City Mosaics’ series that celebrates a city by examining a particular aspect. Be Careful Bappa by Vinitha and Kripa can be used as a simple picture book for the 3-6 age group. However, for slightly older children it is also a wonderful way to get them read between the lines!