When Amma Went Away:Devika Rangachari

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OCTOBER 4,2008

The Habitat Children’s Book Forum organised a book reading session on the 4th of October in Party Zone,Eatopia,India Habitat Centre.The Function was organised by the eminent children’s fiction writers Deepa Agarwal and Devika Rangachari.The book chosen for the session was Devika Rangchari’s “WHEN AMMA WENT AWAY”.It is semi-autobiographical book since the incidents mentioned in the story are taken from the author’s personal life.Only the names given tothe characters are fictitious.

To speak about the author Ms.Devika Rangachari has won 19 national awards in competitions for writers of children’s books.Her book Growing Up(Children’s Book Trust,2000) was on the Honour List of the International Board on Books for Young People(IBBY) in 2002.Her other books include THe Merry Mischief of Gopal Bhand(Scholastic,2007),The wit of Tenali Raman (Scholastic, 2007),Comapny for Manisha(CBT,2003),When Amma Went Away(CBT,2002),Stories from Rajatarangini-Tales of Kashmir(CBT,2001) and Stories from Kathasaritasagara(CBT,2003).Devika conducts book-related sessions at British Council Library and helps to run the Children’s Book Forum at the India Habitat Centre,New Delhi.She conducts creative writing workshops for children, and is a resource person for Scholastic India.She recently participated in the International Children’s Book Week organized by the International Library at Stockholm,Sweden,as a guest author.Devika has also done her Doctorate in Indian History from the University of Delhi.

The session kicked off by reading of some interesting and amusing passages from the book by MS. Devika Rangachari. They were at times rib tickling and at times thought provoking.The book speaks about the confusion of cultural identity and disposition.The story is about a south indian girl ,born and brought up in Delhi.Her grandmother comes to live with her when her mother has to go away for some work.How she comes to terms with her cultural identity and appreciates her background?

After the reading session, there was a discussion about how children from other states find to be in Delhi.What problems do they face?Are there adjustment problems and whether there were embarassing situations due to their differet language?Children came up with lots of situations from their lives wherein they too faced the same problems as did the protagonist of the book.

Children were then asked to write a paragraph about the problems they face when one of their parents is away for some work.The result was astounding.The articles written by the children were not only bright but also racy.Some children read out their compositions and were applauded for their work.The function was attended by several schools from all over Delhi.Eleven children from our school participated in this discussion. This gave them an opportunity to speak things which are otherwise not discussed like peer pressure,adjustment problems,identity confusion and so on.It was an excellent opportunity for me as well as I too had experienced such problems during my school days.And it was nostalgic to go through it again with others.

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