National Book Trust, Children’s Book Trust, Tulika Books, Amar Chithra Katha and a number of other publishers offer a decent variety of books for children. Picture books, early chapter books, stories from mythology, contemporary culture, historical fiction and more wonderful books are available for early and elementary readers. However as children demand books of more advanced reading level, the selection dries up considerably. Those fluent in English turn to books published abroad which are imaginative, entertaining and also huge in number. This is fine as far as it goes, but what about books set in Indian landscapes, with Indian characters? Have we no room for adventure?
This is not as rhetorical a question as it may seem. As the grade levels advance many young people find little time to read for pleasure. It’s a wonder Indian publishers see fit to publish anything at all for those in between early childhood and adulthood.
Fortunately one author who has broken through the impasse is Deepak Dalal who has written a series of adventure stories set in various places in India. With child as well as animal protagonists, the stories reflect the ecological diversity of India and raise cultural and ethical questions. Most of all they are gripping stories that take us to amazing places along with young protagonists Chithra, Vikram and Aditya. Sometimes the protagonist may be an animal.
Wild and adventurous places abound in India but how many people are aware of them – those most aware, those living close to the forests, islands, mountains and other ecologically rich and diverse habitats face an uncertain future as the onward march of industry, urbanization and globalization exacts its tolls. Those who have lived in the cities for generations are even more disconnected from life in the wild, and yet the spirit yearns for the ecological harmony, natural beauty and connection to the animal and natural world that is part of that life. People travel to such places, sometimes in person, sometimes in the imagination, and sometimes through literature.