Friday, August 8, 2014

When the rains come!

With the near revival of monsoon…….everyone from the farming community to stock brokers are upbeat about the possibility of normal monsoon this year. At the same time, many areas that have received heavy rainfall recently are on a flood or disaster alert!  I just can’t get enough of the cloudy days and rainy evenings ….not to mention the crispness in the air and the near- nippy nights that seem like a teaser for this year’s winter!  Why…we even made a last minute change and extended our stay at our farm house in South Kanara,  a few weeks ago just to experience the monsoon magic of the coastal rain! Well….the trade off ... was lots of pending homework when we got back!:-(((  

As a part of the monsoon special…… we read "When the rains come" by Tom Pow and Malika Favre, a tale set in Malawi, in South East Africa. This book is as they say "A Story within a story" and the beauty lies in how the story within seamlessly  continues through various interludes....very similar to  how it sometimes happens at home…right?. The story starts off with an African lady, by name Beatrice dropping off  her children, twins Oscar and Jennifer and baby Grace off at Grandmother Rose's house as she is going away on work. The children slowly settle in with Grandmother Rose who regals them with her favorite story of the tortoise who brought forth water when the whole land was parched owing to a great drought.

Once upon a time, grandma begins ... There was a great drought and all animals are weak and thirsty ... when the least important of all animals, the tortoise suggests that if they animals stamp on the earth, water will flow! Though most animals are skeptical, for lack of better ideas,  decide to try out his idea. The lion steps in first and stamped and stamped hard on earth, but not a spot of dampness appears! Branding it a silly idea, the lion gives up.

Just as grandma was about to go on, she notices that Oscar and Jennifer appear to even more tired than the lion as they had fallen fast asleep! :-))) During the day, the children go about their routine that includes queuing up with other children of the village for their share of the porridge and helping grandma to sell her vegetables in the market and having fun along the way. At night...once again it’s time for grandma to continue the episode of "The Tortoise and the Drought"…....picking up from where she had left before.

 Grandma thus resumes ……The lion is followed by the elephant  and then the giraffe both of whom kick up dust and nothing else! Finally the tortoise  who is the closest to the ground notices the dampness rising from the a spring of water deep within the earth and steps forward to try out his own idea, as other animals ridicule further.

But just as the plot thickens, the twins are seen dozing off in an "anti-climax" of sorts!:-) Soon the days pass by, the twins and baby Grace are getting stronger and seem to be learning new things, thanks to informal training by one of the dancers of the village by name Promise! The hot dry months finally yield to the rains.....and when the rains come....grandma Rose believes its time for the Tortoise and the Drought story to end!

So at night...grandma continues.....

"Tortoise lifts his scaly little foot and stamps on earth. Though not a sound was made and not a speck of dust raised but from dry earth, there comes a tongue of water licking its way through the dust...."

So everyone agrees that the least and lowest can turn out to be cleverest.....!!! So grandma goes on to conclude that because of what tortoise had done, he was made the king! As Jennifer wonders aloud if the tortoise made a good king.........grandma sensing  another story in the offing...........says "that is another story ' !!:-) 

 The story of the tortoise and the drought becomes their favourite rain story too. Soon their mother Beatrice is home and all of them join in getting the leaking roof repaired so that it rains only outside! Safe and warm inside.....Oscar and Jennifer can’t wait to tell their mother their favourite story......and baby Grace too gurgles in delight! At the end...the story switches to the story within ...and in a way provides an answer to Jennifer question about Tortoise's tenure as the king!  An African folk-tale beautifully inter-wined with the story of survival, community spirit and hope…in all  making this a must read for young readers. The rains have indeed come……!!! J

No comments:

Post a Comment