I walk on a road lush with dreams,
a road of forgotten and veiled dreams,
sometimes slowly, sometimes gaily,
sometimes lost, sometimes profound,
I walk a road of unknown mysteries,
fervently finding my way through the endless path.....

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Right to imagination - A book in every child's hand!

"The stories of childhood leave an indelible impression, and their author always has a niche in the temple of memory from which the image is never cast out to be thrown on the rubbish of heap of things that are outgrown and outlived". - Howard Pyle

Books and stories carry in them a sense of ever lasting nostalgia. Reading and listening to the tales has been the most treasured and beautiful moment for most of us since childhood days. Isn't it? 

Cinderella, snow white and Rapunzel's dreamland, the adventures of tom sawyer, Panchatantra, Akbar-Birbal's tales of wit and wisdom, Nancy Drew's mystery missions- these and many more story books are my most prized possessions. They made me learn as I grew and gave power to my imagination and expression. Am sure your experiences are much the same. 

But don't you think that every child deserves the pleasure of experiencing the joy of reading a good book? Yet not all are fortunate. Stats shows that about 300 million children all over India have NEVER held a book in their hand. The happiness of sitting cuddled up in bed and enjoying the adventures of Arabian nights eludes them. Fairies don't accompany them in their dreams with any magic or miracles. 

This is not 'just' about right to education or literacy. The cause in question is simpler yet significant, that is a book in every child's hand. No matter which language or expression, how big or small, cheap or expensive - a story is all that matters. 


1) Good books today are basically available in Hindi or English. but with 22 official languages and about 1600 dialects. How can only two languages suffice?

2) Cost- Big publishing houses sell books at expensive prices which cannot be afforded by most of the population.

3) Literacy rate is still low specially in the states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh , Bihar and Jharkhand so spending time or money on reading is out of question until proactive steps are taken to build and sustain interest among children.

4) Lack of quality education - Research reveals that 1 in 3 school going children cannot read fluently. Children who are unable to read are unable to learn, as they can't understand what is being taught to them. And that contributes to high dropout rates in schools.

5) Awareness - There is extreme ignorance about all such issues so the movement fails to pick up momentum.

6)Apart from this, the ever increasing population only tends to create a huge gap in the demand supply ratio.

With these issues in mind a non-profit organisation called Pratham Book was set up in 2004 as a part of Read India movement. PB was established as a not-for-profit public charitable trust to reach children whom the market ordinarily would not and, therefore, to democratize the joy of reading.

There are still very few publishing houses willing to provide affordable content and that too in multiple English languages.

Pratham Books logo

Pratham books have come up with some extremely creative and innovative solutions to cater the problems in hand. Some of these are :

1) Selling books in sachet form that is, a four page book for just Rs.2. An amount which any young reader across the country can afford. Around 8 million such cards have been sold.

2) Bilingual books - books in two languages at a price of one. They also help children to learn a second language, and in the non-English medium world, bilinguals are being used to learn English.

3)Creative commons - they have put up many books in several languages under the Creative Commons license. This creates a multiplier effect where the books get converted into new forms and many derivative works get produced. So there is content available for iPads, iPhone, e-readers, audio-clips and digital content for the visually-challenged. 

 4) They have also started a new venture called 'Annual World Storytelling Day contest' where readers can remix their illustrations to make new stories. This exercise has given them over eighty new stories. It works beautifully on two levels: by using the same illustrations to make new stories they have reduced the cost of producing content and for a single publisher, coming up with 80 new books would have easily taken a few years, not to mention the costs.

All these and many other innovative approaches have been welcomed and have received an enthralling response. In the last 6 years, pratham books have published over 215 titles in up to 11 languages and have spread the joy of reading to over 15 million children.

Their mission is simple -'Indian content for Indian children'. Proving books which are both linguistically and regionally relevant. 

Now coming to the most important aspect. WHAT YOU AND I CAN DO? 

1) Know and share - Beginning from the basics, this is indeed the most important facet for tackling any issue. Get aware and let people know. Be it verbally, through print media, technology like E-mails, social networking sites, blogs etc. 

2) Read 'them' a story - Just to create interest and open a world full of imagination in front and fantasies for them. Your single story can change someones life! 
In the words of B.F. Skinner 'we shouldn't teach great books, we should teach a love of reading'.

3) Gift a book to someone today - Words and actions should go hand in hand for a practically productive outcome. We all have children around us, identity those who need it the most maybe your maid's daughter or the rag picker on the road and just present him with the pleasure of reading and learning.

4) Go to a nearby village or areas which await the joy of reading and distribute them books. photocopied or picture or pamphlet books. They need not be expensive or with long stories.

5) There is huge content available on the net which means you have access to stories on your laptops, ipads, mobile phones etc. Download and share it around.


1) Read about them @ Pratham books

2)If you would like to be a part of Read India Movement as a writer, illustrator, publisher or volunteer, email then at or click here or more details.

3) There are many other ways in which you can help like library in a village, fund a book, teach for India etc. Check it out here @ Engage

As I mentioned before its not just about the right to education but the right to imagination! 

Before ending I would like to leave you with a thought

children are like water
bottle them up and they stagnate
let them run wild and they make a mess
guide then and they
bring life to all they touch!

Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.

Hear Rohini Nilekani (founder chairperson of Pratham Books) talk on the same issue in the video clip below. Youtube link :

Sunday, July 21, 2013

They Showed me the right path....

When it comes to learning and growing not just in age but wisdom too, I think that my own suffering have been the greatest of all teachers.
As Charles Dickens said 'suffering has been stronger than all other teaching and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but I hope - into a better shape'.
No pain we suffer goes useless. It teaches us patience, humility, compassion, faith, confidence. Its only after shedding tears that the road ahead seems clearer.

It is also true that in these moments of trouble and trials does our real attitude stand out. Being a medical student I come across tens of patients and their despaired family members each day as they are scattered throughout the hospital. Each one of them waiting to get rid of his agony and distress.

Last month I had been posted to a government hospital in Delhi as a part of my 3rd year curriculum. I was supposed to collect the blood samples of 'bed no. 12' - female ward that day. So with all the necessary instruments like syringe and collecting vials etc. I made my way to the ward. On reaching the bed to my surprise the patient, a girl of about 17 years was surrounded by other inmates of the room.She was narrating them something and they all laughed. And the wards which are usually a gloomy place was filled with laughter and zest.

As I took her blood samples I tried to strike a conversation with her. (We are even taught to do the same with any patient in order to divert their attention while pricking a needle).
She told me that she was a student of class 12th and had secured a good 90%. She aspired to be a doctor and had toiled hard for the entrances the whole year but this unwelcoming illness made her miss all the entrances which meant she would have to wait for another year to be able to get admission in a college.

After taking the samples I ordered her to take rest and not talk much. She spoke again 'laughter is the best medicine, isn't it? I am helping myself and others get well soon' :)
I was amazed at her spirit and determination. How subtly did she made me learn that not only being happy is indeed the best medicine but its our outlook to things that makes all the difference.

Life in the capital city of India is so fast paced and busy. There is no time to stop and stare. A slit- throat competitive atmosphere prevails everywhere. I travel by DTC everyday and undoubtedly catching a bus is an extremely tedious task. You are pushed and crushed.The drivers halt the buses way ahead the directed mark. People literally want to grab and kick you out to 'edge' a place in the ever increasing number of commuters.

It was amidst such a scenario one day that I saw a lady in her 60's trying in vain to clutch the bus door handle.
But then suddenly a guy in his 20's who was standing beside me on the bus stop ran and not only shouted on the driver to stop the bus but also climbed and helped the woman get into the bus. The lady was moved to tears as she blessed the boy and thanked him.

As I and many others witnessed this incident, not just today but almost everyday I held my head in shame. And realized that its easy to crib and point out mistakes but to see a change we need to create it.
As we walk forward to shoulder bigger responsibilities we should never forget the lines learnt back in pre-school days: 
 "little deeds of kindness
little words of love
help to make our earth an Eden
like the heaven above".

And lastly an incident which was the first one to come in my mind when I read the topic.
It happened about 15 years back when I was around 7 years old but as they say that some incidents teach us lesson of a lifetime and no matter what they remain imprinted in our memories forever.

My uncle was about 65 years old then. He was a man of great principles and a thorough disciplinarian.
He would often come to our house and take us for shopping or to nearby places. We obviously liked him dearly.
On one such day, he decided to take us to the nearby book shop.The shop was a 20 minutes drive from our house.
While coming back in the autorickshaw we got stuck in a huge traffic jam. Uncle had an appointment at 5 PM and realizing he was already late, as he had to drop us and then go to his place he paid off the auto and decided to walk us to the house for it was only a 5 minutes walk from there. Since mobile phone were not common in those days so he had no way to inform anyone.

As we walked, suddenly a large stone on the road made uncle lose his balance and he fell down getting severely injured. later that week, he left for his heavenly abode.
I still remember his words that 'what better could it be to die for those morals and principles on which you have lived your entire life'.And uncle truly did that.
Now whenever I am running later I remember his punctuality and make it a point to at least inform the person waiting for me. I strive hard to live on and sustain my principles and beliefs just like him. And I am sure that when he sees me from up there he smiles and is so happy to know that I learnt what I saw and inculcated it in my life too!

I am sharing what 'I Saw and I Learnt' at in association with

Friday, July 12, 2013

Let them blossom!

Have you ever noticed
those delicate little hands
who polish your shoes
prodigious you stand

Have you ever noticed
in the mayhem of town
weavers of dreams 
you curse upon and frown

Have you eve noticed
bright twinkling eyes
while they mop the floor
in a hope to rise

Have you ever noticed
the zest in their hearts
when they serve you silently
and you leave them to starve

Have you ever noticed
those burnt fingers
in your noise and celebration
their pain lingers

Have you ever noticed
the teary eyes
when you abuse and stab
pleasing your mighty pride

Have you ever noticed
the innocent why's
you left them to be gobbled
in a handful of lies

Have you ever noticed
the trembling bud
when you harassed her
and threw in a mud

Have you ever noticed
the dolls you carry
when for materialistic whims
you forced her to marry

Have you ever noticed
the sweat they shed
not to read and learn
but to beg instead

Have you ever noticed
the severity of your crime
selling the priceless pearls
for less than a dime

Have you ever noticed
when a boy you sodomize
its not just him
but a generation you victimize

Have you ever noticed
that you noticed not
little blossoming flowers
our worlds garden has got

Notice them now!
running wild and free
they are our greatest gift
nurturing them is victory!