Feeling hot hot hot…The sun was burning down upon us as we once trudged along the road to India Habitat Centre for…Yes you guessed it right, another book discussion. For the new comers, the Habitat Book Forum is a platform for children to read books of various genres and be able to express their views about issues arising from the book and otherwise. This forum is the brainchild of the famous children’s fiction writers Ms. Paro Anand and Ms.Deepa Agarwal.
Besides discussion it was also meant to be the official book launch in the meet. The book being discussed and launched was ‘HARSHA VARDHANA’ by Ms.Devika Rangachari. It is a historical fiction depicting the rise of King Harsha to the throne of Kanauj. Some of you are already aware of her or know about her. But for those who are disoriented here’s something about her.
Devika Rangachari has been writing for children for the past 12 years and has won 19 national awards in competitions for writers of children’s books and stories. Her book, ‘Growing Up’ (Children’s Book Trust, 2000), was nominated to the Honour List of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) in 2002 as the most outstanding Indian entry. Devika likes to write about relationships centered around the family and/ school life. Her books ‘Company for Manisha’ (CBT, 1999) and ‘When Amma Went Away’ (CBT, 2002) explore different facets of these worlds. Devika’s Stories from ‘Rajatarangini—Tales of Kashmir ’ (CBT, 2001) and Stories from ‘Kathasaritsagara’ (CBT, 2003) are collections of folktales and legends, taken, in part, from her research for her doctoral thesis on ancient Indian history. She has published several short stories as well. Devika loves reading and chocolates—and not necessarily in that order! And this fact is something which was reiterated in the event as we were all served delicious and mouth watering chocolate cake after the launch. Since Ms.Devika just looooves chocolates and cakes. Well let’s not divert our attention now.
The event was attended by 18 students of class VI. From the heat to the icy chill of the AC was a welcome. The program started by a formal introduction by Ms.Deepa Agarwal, followed with another introduction by Ms.Sayoni Bose, Director of Scholastic India. To tell you all a little about the book. It speaks about how did King Harsha Vardhana ascend to the throne of Kanauj and Thanesar at the young age of 16. Rajya Vardhan’s and Harsha’s sister Rajyasri had been married to the Maukhari king, Grahavarman. This king, some years later, had been defeated and killed by king Deva Gupta of Malwa and after his death Rajyasri had been cast into prison by the victor. Harsha’s brother, Rajya Vardhan, then the king at Thanesar, could not stand this affront on his family, marched against Deva Gupta and defeated him. But it so happened at this moment that Sasanka, king of Gauda in Eastern Bengal, entered Magadha as a friend of Rajya Vardhana, but in secret alliance with the Malwa king. Accordingly, Sasanka treacherously murdered Rajya Vardhan. On hearing about the murder of his brother, Harsha resolved at once to march against the treacherous king of Gauda and killed Deva Gupta in a battle. Harsha ascended the throne at the age of 16.
Next there was a reading from the book by Ms.Rangachari. And then there was the question answer session where the students asked questions about the book, the king as well as the process of writing. Many interesting questions came up during the session. Like why is it that we have books limited only to independence and the freedom struggle? Why don’t we have books written about ancient or medieval India ? Why do foreign writers focus more upon the kingdoms under the Mughal rule?
After the session the students took part in a writing activity wherein they were to write about a day in their life while imagining themselves to an historic era or a historical figure. The session ended with the cutting of the oh so yummy cake…And with sweet thoughts we retraced our steps back to school. It was a highly enjoyable event. With a change induced by the introduction of the historical fiction in the genres of children’s fiction discussed in the Book Forum.
Till then Au Revoir Friends….