India’s History in Minette’s Story

Today we are celebrating India’s Independence Day. Appa‘s country was freed from British rule on August 15, 1947 at midnight. I always find it striking when I think that Minette‘s both grandfathers were born before the new era started, during the very last years of colonial India.

As I told in a previous post, Appa’s own maternal grandfather was involved in his country’s fight for freedom as a young man, so it is one of the bridges that connect our family to Indian history in a relatable way for Minette and her Indian cousins.

Both Appa and I see history as an essential part of our understanding of the world, so it is no wonder it frequently comes up in our conversations with Minette, who has grown quite inquisitive herself. Explaining history to a seven-year-old can be challenging at times. Well, it is not exactly an easy task to make sense of it even for an adult and Appa and I have found that our views are not always aligned in historical matters — something stimulating in my opinion.

When it comes to feeding Minette’s curiosity, I am grateful there are so many good children’s books available. One of them, which she has recently read and enjoyed, is The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani (a Newbery Honor book). The book tells the story of India’s partition in 1947 from the point of view of a Hindu little girl, whose late mother was Muslim, escaping newly founded Pakistan with her family. I have read The Night Diary too and found it remarkable. How the author succeeds in giving an account at once informative, textured, and age-appropriate of arguably the most terrible event in India’s history is truly amazing.

Minette has also started reading A Children’s History of India by Subhadra Sen Gupta. I think this one is a bit beyond her years but it is well made and illustrated and so will probably become one of her reference books when she grows a little older. I like the fact that she already browses it to find information about specific topics.

Last but certainly not least, Minette has taken to the Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) huge collection of comic books. ACK books, an Indian children’s staple for over 50 years, cover mythology, folktales, literature, and history. They were en essential feature in Appa’s childhood and are now in Minette’s, which is undoubtedly nurturing their conversations and their bond.

Minette is particularly absorbed in the ACK books on Hindu mythology, which I often find her reading. By now she can navigate the plentiful world of Hindu gods and epics much more fluidly than I will ever be able to. When Thatha and Aachi refer to Hindu mythical figures and stories she can relate, whether she already knows them or they can help her make the connection with some others she knows.

As I hope is evidenced by this blog, multicultural children’s heritages exist in their lives on many different, interwoven levels; through family connections, language, food, travels… Stories and history are also at the heart of the matter.

Happy Independence Day, 73-year-old (and thousands-year-old) India!

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