‘Open up ..to the many different kinds of people in the world,’ says Priti David, editor PARI Education
Hey everyone, your best friend Sara here!
This chat is a little extra special because it opens up our eyes to a whole new India- rural India. It is one that some of us may never see. But one, that we SHOULD know about. It is big and beautiful in so many ways.
No one better suited than Priti David, Editor at People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) and her author friends who recently published the PARI-Karadi Tales series for children , to tell us more about it.
Starting off our conversation, with this beautiful message for each Bookosmian, by Priti –
Sara: So many kids in India grow up in curated housing societies, attend private schools and take up jobs in metros or outside India. Why do you think they need to know about rural India?
Priti: Rural India is a place where most of our country lives and works. Our food is grown in rural India, our water and electricity, people who work for us and much of what we use comes from rural India, so it’s definitely a place which we should know about.
Those of us who live in housing societies and go to school in private transport belong to a small minority; most of India does not have these advantages and it’s important that we learn about the wider world around us – the different kinds of knowledge that we don’t read about in books.
Aparna adds: Maybe all of you: the younger generation, will set this world right. But for that, you need to know what is wrong with it. Nandhini’s story tells you a little bit about one occupation, an important one, that puts food on your table and mine.
Vishaka says: Learning about life in rural India is important because many stories from there show us how much beauty there is if only we look.
Subuhi adds: This India is as much a part of our country as Bollywood, IPL and cities. But we probably don’t learn much about this at school. Learning about this India will help us understand our country, our cities and ourselves.
Sara: How has the lockdown affected children in rural India? Are there some key takeaways for urban kids to understand and compare their lives?
Priti: Rural India does not have the same speed of internet or even the same smartphones and laptops. So it’s difficult if not impossible to study online, browse the net or even play games. In some rural homes, or even in slums, there is only one phone in the house, and the working parent needs it for their work, so they take it with them when they leave in the morning for work.
In your home, when you need help with home or classwork, you can ask your parents. But for many children in rural India, especially those in the higher classes, their parents may not know the language in the textbook or may not have attended school. So rural children often get stuck while studying on their own.
During the lockdown, many parents lost their jobs. So children’s school fees could not be paid and they had to drop out of school. Many of them started selling vegetables and so on to earn some money and help their families buy food.
Sara: PARI Education has been consistently working with kids across the country to help them voice by publishing their writing. How does it help your mission and is there a way you can measure the benefits?
Priti: The People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) is like a big library of stories and photographs of the many different people and places in rural India. Our country is so big and people do many different kinds of jobs climbing coconut trees, weaving, farming, herding animals, making musical instruments, honey hunting and ship building among others.
In PARI Education, students are also contributing to this collection. Some are making posters and comics based on these stories and you can check them out at this link: Inspired by PARI.
When kids work with us to build this library, they learn something about people who are otherwise invisible to them. They get to walk in their shoes, to feel their joys and hear their dreams. You can learn a lot from the everyday lives of everyday people.
Sara: PARI Education recently released a set of 5 books for 10-15 year olds, published by Karadi Tales. How did you shortlist these from the innumerable themes possible?
Priti: My book Coming Home is the story of a young boy Selva, who comes up with an idea which sounds impossible – and I really shouldn’t tell you any more! It is based on a few stories I wrote about a community of farmers who live and work in a small valley in Tamil Nadu. As a reporter I travel to some of the most remote and beautiful parts of the country. I thought the idea of ‘home’ was something all of us can relate to. Writing this story showed me how whether you live in a village or a big city, our day to day lives are really no different. As young children, we go to school, enjoy art and craft classes, help at home, look forward to outings with friends but in the end we always want to come back home.
Aparna says, “My book No Nonsense Nandhini is about a woman farmer and her children. Farmers are in the news and I’m sure children are puzzled. Why, you might wonder, is farming a problem? Aren’t there farmers everywhere? And if it is so hard, why can’t they just do something else? Nandhini’s story – actually tells you that it is not so easy to drop everything and do something else. But that doesn’t mean people sit around and wait for others to come to their rescue; they are heroes, they do it themselves. Plus, Nandhini inspires children – and not just her own – to take up farming.”
Vishaka says, “In my book, The House of Uncommons, I write about a young orphaned boy, Krishnan, and his friends who live in a boarding school in rural Tamil Nadu. While they learn and play just like all other young kids do, there’s one aspect of their lives that’s different. They have a virus called HIV.
Many people in this world aren’t very kind to those with HIV. They’re afraid of them and treat them poorly. This is unfortunate because they know so little about how it’s contracted and how it can be treated. In my book, I write about how big problems sometimes land on small shoulders. But kindness, strong friendships and love can help them get through the toughest of days.”
Subhuhi says, “I wrote No Ticket will Travel – a story about migrants, mostly farmers and labourers who are forced to leave their homes in the villages and move to the cities to look for work. Why do people leave their homes and villages? We see many people from different parts of India in our cities, but we often don’t know why they have come here. This book tries to answer these questions by narrating the stories of six people, including a young girl and a teenager.”
Don’t miss sending me your thoughts on rural India at Sara@bookosmia.com. And now-
Know Priti David better: Priti reports for the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) and is Editor of PARI Education where she works with schools and colleges to bring rural issues into the classroom and curriculum, to document rural lives and to bring diverse student voices on these issues.
An Economics Honours graduate from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi, she began her career with The Economic Times in 1989, reported for India Business Report on BBC World and has worked in publishing and as a high school teacher.
Priti, Aparna, Vishakha and Subuhi are the four authors of the PARI-Karadi Tales series for children. They write on rural issues and have published in the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) an online journal on rural India.
At PARI Education you can read what students your age are reporting and writing about the wide variety of people around us. Meeting them, learning about their lives and opening our eyes, mind and hearts to the many many different kinds of people in the world. It’s a treasure of stories, films and photos on parts of India that we all should know more about. And you can contribute. What are you waiting for?!