The year was 1936. Nazi Germany hosted the Olympic Games. On August 15, about 40,000 people, including the Fuhrer, gathered in Berlin to cheer the German hockey team, which was playing against India. Hockey whiz Dhyan Chand and his team taught their opponents “a lesson in ball control”. India stunned Germany, 8-1, and went on to bag its third consecutive Olympic gold in field hockey. The 30th edition of the Olympics has just begun. Have you heard anecdotes such as these yet? Don’t you think this is the perfect time to get to know more about this spectacular sporting event, and read interesting stories about renowned and little-known Indians who participated in it? That’s what Tulika Publishers’ India at the Olympic Games and India’s Olympic Story , for children, seek to do. The books, meant for children above eight and eleven, respectively, teem with engrossing anecdotes, activities and trivia about the Olympics, Paralympics and Indian sports persons. They provide answers to questions such as: “When did the Olympics and Paralympics begin?”; “When did India make a debut in these events?”; and “Who was the first Indian woman to win a medal at the games?”
The Abhinav Bindra Foundation approached Tulika Publishers with the idea of publishing a book about India and the Olympics in January. “The bombshell was that the books had to be done in three months,” says Radhika Menon, project editor. “We put aside everything else. Here was something so topical. We had to work on this.” Support also came in from the British Council. A team was put together and the research work began.
“We weren’t happy about the pace at which we had to do it. We were worried about not being able to give it enough time,” she adds. Fortunately, by the end of March, the team got a time extension. It was decided that the books would be launched closer to the Olympics.
The books are prefaced with a letter from Abhinav Bindra, India’s first individual gold medallist at the Olympics. “I believe every child should have the chance to play,” he writes. “I truly believe that the Olympic Games, and sport in general, are not just about medals and glory. It is about the person you become and the sporting values you bring into your daily life. That is the true meaning of sport and that is why (these books were) created.”
Through rich and colourful visuals, timelines and information boxes, India at the Olympic Games takes young readers through a journey that traces the evolution of the Games and highlights India’s achievements at the Olympics and Paralympics. Aimed at older kids, India’s Olympic Story is more descriptive and also features newspaper clippings of important moments in the Games.
There are chapters about India’s traditional games, Olympic mascots and symbols, and the Olympic and Paralympic values and spirit, too. “Carol Lukins (of Global PE and School Sport, Suffolk, UK) gave us a broad outline about how the content should be,” says Radhika, also managing editor of Tulika Publishers. “She suggested we include activities in the book and add chapters about Olympic and Paralympic values and the sports people who would stand for that.” While P.T. Usha and Dhyan Chand’s success stories signify ‘Respect’ and ‘Excellence’, Karnam’s Malleshwari’s story speaks about ‘Determination’. There are also tales about unsung heroes such as wrestler K.D. Jadhav, who was Independent India’s first individual Olympic Games medallist. Paralympics athlete Malathi K. Holla, who won her first international gold medal on a racing wheelchair lent to her by a competitor, also features in India at the Olympic Games .
Apart from crosswords, word searches and quizzes, there are activities that encourage children to write stories about how people followed sport in the olden days, think about the spirit of sport and discuss issues such as fear and disability. The books are priced at Rs. 100 and Rs. 110 and are available on www.tulikabooks.com. Special discounts are available on bulk orders for schools and libraries.