Through my eyes: On Mini Shrinivasan's 'I Didn’t Understand!'

Mini Shrinivasan’s book takes readers through a story of bullying and friendship, in the life of a child with Down Syndrome

December 06, 2018 05:21 pm | Updated December 08, 2018 12:11 pm IST

It was the question of identity that drove Mini Shrinivasan to write her new book I Didn’t Understand! , published by Tulika Books. Having worked with children with mental disabilities before, she wondered, what concept do they have of their challenges. “Children who develop physical disabilities like vision or hearing loss, are very aware of it. But what about children with mental challenges? How do they view the world?”

Mini takes readers on to see the world through her character, Manna, a child with Down Syndrome. “Manna doesn’t realise when other kids are being mean or sarcastic to her,” she says, “because she is straightforward. She just responds with generosity and affection; that’s who she is.”

The story comes from her experience working in special schools in Mumbai, Kolkata, and Pune, where she is based. The character in the book, however, studies in an integrated school.

Interestingly Manna shares her name with a woman Mini personally knew: her former neighbour’s daughter. “Though she is in her 40s now, I knew Manna when I was in college, and she was just seven years old. She was the one who got me interested in the field to begin with,” she explains, “She was a fun-loving child, always full of joy.”

The author initially wrote the story for her friend’s fundraiser for children with mental disabilities. Her friend, who runs the EKansh Trust, Pune, put together an anthology with multiple short stories in which children with disabilities were the lead characters — Mini’s was one of them. When Tulika learnt about Mini’s story, they decided to publish it last month, along with illustrations by Shubham Lakhera.

I Didn’t Understand! is a day in Manna’s life: she talks about the things that happened in her school, how she is bullied without her realising it. “She ends up befriending her bully because of her open and kind nature,” says Mini. The book is available in nine languages including English, Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati and Bengali.

I Didn’t Understand! is available to buy on for ₹165 (English) and ₹135 (other languages)

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