The Story of Buddha: The Enlightened One, published by Goodearth, seeks to tell the story of the monk but for children. As kids go through the pages, they will be introduced to a character with a questioning mind similar to their own, while his vision for life serves to move them. Express Parenting spoke to the author of the book Tripti Nainwal, who recently won the Comic Con Award for ‘Best Writer of the Year’ 2019, to know more about how the Buddha is relevant to kids today.
1. What made you choose to tell the story of the Buddha to children?
The credit for that goes entirely to my editor, Swati Mitra. It was her idea to tell the story of Buddha to children. I jumped at the chance because I could see immediately how Siddhartha’s story could be made relevant to the children of today. I think this is one of the few books that tells the Buddha’s story from the point of view of the child.
2. “You too can become a Buddha” is the message at the end of the book. How do you think parents can teach kids compassion?
Always only by example. But I honestly don’t think children need to be ‘taught’ anything. Children are naturally compassionate and loving. It is we adults who make them judgmental and intolerant towards ‘differences’ by our words and actions.
“You too can become a Buddha” is, to me, an important message to give kids. There is so much emphasis today on the outwardly parameters of “success” that goodness takes a backseat. Siddhartha was a human being just like us and yet he became the Buddha. And if he could do it, so can they. All they have to do is stay as intrinsically good as they start out.
3. What other lessons can children learn from the Buddha?
This is something that I have tried to pepper throughout the book but in an unobtrusive way. Siddhartha was naturally curious about the world around him, just like all children are. He had questions about hierarchy and the injustice he saw around him. The most important realisation he had was that ‘we are all connected’. That all living beings are the same and depend on each other. The moment we realise this, we become more accepting.
The “middle path” is a lesson that we should all remember. The book talks about the middle path in terms of what children can connect to — how they eat, study, or play.
4. What role do illustrations play in children’s books? Take us through how the illustrations for this book were conceptualised and designed.
Illustrations are the hook by which children are first drawn towards any book. So they are naturally extremely important. Ishaan Dasgupta and Ayeshe Sadr have made this book a visual treat. Their striking illustrations have been created by a combination of watercolours, collages made with different textures and digital art. They chose moments in the text that children could most relate to and brought their illustrations alive using the most fabulous colour schemes. Buddhist motifs and elements have been added throughout the book but not in an overbearing way. What I liked best is that their illustrations matched the gentle tone of the text.
5. Can you recommend similar books that kids would enjoy reading?
Goodearth has a host of such beautifully produced and well-written books. In this genre of historical fiction, there are Babur, Tansen, Shivaji, and Karna to name a few.
6. How does fictionalising history help in teaching kids?
There have been so many people through the ages who have stood for values that they believed in, who fought for what was right, and rose above the most daunting circumstances. When you tell a story from history, you have the advantage of hindsight. It is possible to identify the turning points or watershed moments in the person’s life, and tell a complete, unbiased story.
I think it is important to tell these stories. As I said earlier, children learn best through example. The very fact that these are true stories, that these people actually existed, serves to inspire them beyond words.
7. What kind of books inspired you as a child?
We didn’t have the kind of choices that children do nowadays. I read everything I could get my hands on…Enid Blyton and the classics but I think it was the Amar Chitra Katha comics that I enjoyed the most, mainly because they spoke of things that were closer to home.
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