Radhika Menon and Sandhya Rao on how Oluguti Toluguti, the book of Indian rhymes, happened.
“Rain, rain go away come again another day…” A nursery rhyme we have all learnt in kindergarten. But how many know that we have our own rhymes about the rain; rhymes that suit the Indian context better. We spend the better part of the year tracking the monsoon's arrival yet we cheerfully teach our children to sing “rain, rain, go away”.
This is where Tulika Books' latest release Oluguti Toluguti comes in. A collection of rhymes in various Indian languages, the book strikes an immediate chord with an adult reader and more so with a child.
Radhika Menon and Sandhya Rao of Tulika Books say that Oliguti… has been in the making for 10 long years. “We've always wanted to do something like this but there were a lot of constraints. We didn't push it till we were sure we could do it.”
They're referring not just to content but also to the design, marketing and distribution. The single biggest challenge, they say, is visibility in bookshops.
The content was garnered through contacts, through a blogathon… “We wrote to everyone we knew; asked around; the blogathon helped.” They were flooded with material. Then came the hard part: “translating or rather adapting.” Radhika is very clear that these rhymes are not literal translations nor always the most popular ones; “we had to find something that worked in English,” she says.
There was also the issue of gender sensitivity, dealing with cultural contexts … “one poem had a child who compared his mother to a beautiful buffalo. Before you get offended, you have to understand that this poem comes from a community of dairy farmers.”
The visually stunning book itself is the result of team work, say the duo, though they are named as editors. They talk about how getting hold of illustrator Kshitiz Sharma was serendipity. He happened to be interning at Tulika.
Meant to be used
These are poems meant to be used, to be recited, says Sandhya firmly, whether by teachers in schools or parents at home. But Radhika has a rider: do not try to teach the children these rhymes the way English rhymes are taught. Have fun with them, she says, the rest will come naturally.
What about an audio CD? Both ladies are clear that this is not their area of expertise but are willing to consider it later. Sandhya raises the issue of dialects and getting the language right. However those who want an audio version can check out www.storytruck.com/indianrhymes/tulika
Considering they say they have loads of material, is volume 2 in the offing? Both laugh and agree it might.
And Sandhya points out, “We keep telling kids about the different languages in India; this is one way of teaching them that. Most Indians have a working knowledge of at least three languages even if they can't read and write and them. That's something we should not lose.”
For more information, contact Tulika Books at 044-24331639 or look up www.tulikabooks.com
Oluguti, Toluguti: Indian Rhymes to Read and Recite; edited by Radhika Menon and Sandhya Rao, Tulika Publishers, Rs. 395.