Coming Home by Priti David (Karadi Tales, Minmini Reads) is a story of bridging distances. “Just as a small seed can grow into a gigantic tree and be home to birds and animals so can a young shoot like Thulir grow into a school and become the Centre of life at Sittilingi”.
All it took was a query by eleven- year- old Selva to Lakshmi and Raman the founders of Thulir that the Sittilingi tribal children build their own school. This is a story of creative, ingenious and imaginative children dreaming together to make a school their reality. They end up creating working opportunities for their Adivasi youth on their home ground.
Sittilingi Valley in Dharmapuri district in Tamil Nadu is made up of small hamlets with beautiful hills, farmland, forests and birds. The inhabitants are Malayvasi, Lambadi and Dalit adivasis. They are into subsistence farming and the Lambadi ladies are skilled in a detailed Makhi and Ghater detailed embroidery selling their work at the Porgai.
A fun- loving student Selva is an eleven- year- old boy attending the village school that has only one teacher for the whole lot like him. Most times the teacher remains absent hence the older students would teach the younger kids subjects they did not understand at school.
Every day after school Selva and other boys and girls visit Thulir, an after-school 2 room activity centre in Sittilingi village. Thulir ‘young shoot’ in Tamil is an apt place for all the Sittilingi tribal children. The two founders Raman and Lakshmi are young architects who have moved to Sittilingi from Gujarat. There they used to build low-cost houses for people whose houses were destroyed in the 2001 earthquake. Right from tiny tots to tenth grade graduates all could be found at Thulir. They would play in the sand pit, solve puzzles, read books from the vast library, practice gardening and learn hands-on experiments from Lakshmi and Raman.
Pongal, the harvest festival is Selva’s favourite time of the year. He waits for it excitedly for it is celebration time with all and sundry. He and many other children like him would participate in different activities like races, kolam decoration. Also, because Subbu his eighteen -year-old brother would be back home from his work place. He does not like the idea of Subbu and other older youngsters like Divya, Perumal, Jaybal leaving home to find work in the nearby cities. Where they would have to do exhaustive, gruelling work at brick kilns, construction sites living in cramped places with less pay. One afternoon, Lakshmi, Raman and the children are caught up in a discussion with ideas flying back and forth about building a new room at Thulir. Selva till now a silent audience takes all by surprise by suggesting “Why not build our own school “?
Thus, a movement of a new school was initiated at Sittilingi. Using local environment friendly raw material and holding workshops for older youth and school drop outs to learn the basics of becoming skilled workers, a transformation starts.
Read ‘Coming Home’ to enjoy the journey of change in the lives of Selva, Subbu and many other children of the Sittlingi Valley.
A few salient snippets and takeaways from Coming Home
- Create sustainable infrastructure to mobilize the local youth into staying back in villages
- Open-ended conversations can give rise to discovering opportunities and new beginnings
- Any parent is happy when their children get an opportunity to attend a full functioning local school
Coming Home would appeal to tweens and middle graders, urban and rural. School libraries can benefit with book reading circles and discussions of life within the rural diaspora. After reading, keen children can research on the subject and get a better idea as to what is happening.
Kudos to the initiative taken by Karadi Tales and PARI to bring to the readers eye, life in diverse rural India. To open a window by creating awareness and exposure. Each of their 5 narratives are unique pocket friendly books that pack a punch.
More in the series here