Put on your sneakers, strap on a backpack and let’s go on a walkabout with Mamta Nainy and Jayanto. In this generously large and brightly-coloured book, Nainy and Jayanto take us on an adventure around one of the most interesting cities of India – Delhi, Dilli, Dehli… whatever you want to call it. And they make a great pair of child-friendly tourist guides.
There is so much to see in Delhi that one could easily overload a young reader with information. Fortunately, Nainy does not fall into that temptation and has selected a rather eclectic mix of monuments like the Qutub Minar and Jama Masjid; modern classics like the Lotus Temple and the Akshardham Temple, and also intriguingly the Delhi Metro. Some famous sites like the Red Fort and the Humayun’s Tomb have been dropped, but then there’s always the possibility of doing another book.
The two travellers in this book are a girl named Ruchi who prefers to be called Fidgety Feet or Fifee for short and her adoring, bug-eyed dog Lattoo. Both are drawn by Jayanto in his inimitable whacky style. I liked the fact that Fifee, alias Ruchi, has a dusky skin, a snub nose and wears large glasses.
Whenever I open a children’s book that gives information on history, I always worry about how much research has been done and how it has been presented. Does it have a superior ‘let’s talk down to children’ tone or does it speak in a light and humorous manner? Also, I look out to see if the author has been tempted into stuffing the pages with facts and turned the book into a yawn-inducing textbook.
Thankfully Nainy keeps it light and chooses her facts carefully, keeping the pages bright and busy with boxes full of the sort of freaky facts that kids like to bite into. The box titled ‘Get There’ with relevant details like the time when a place is open and the closest Metro station is excellent and practical advice for a walker, much like taking a rickshaw to travel through Chandni Chowk is an excellent tip for a visitor to the capital city.
Jayanto’s cartoons have added both illustration and humour to the factual text. This is a book that you enjoy flipping through because every page has some idiosyncratic cartoon that you stop to smile at. My favourite was of Lattoo carrying a puja thali into Birla Mandir and wondering what he’ll get for prasad. This book, primarily an informative one, needed the soap-bubble lightness of a cartoonist’s eye and Jayanto gets it just right.
I also liked the way a photograph of a place has been superimposed with illustrations. For instance, the photograph of Jama Masjid with its familiar dome and minarets is a typical tourist guidebook shot, but when Jayanto adds a bunch of kids flying kites from a nearby terrace, suddenly it turns into a portrait of life in a Chandni Chowk gali.
What I enjoyed the most were the black and white sketches of Fifee in clothes matching the place she is visiting – a sedate salwar kurta at Bangla Sahib Gurudwara or trendy safari gear at Connaught Place. In her, Nainy and Jayanto have created a character that should go on many adventures across the country.
There is just one factual error that needs to be corrected. The minar and darwaza at Qutub Minar are Alai Minar and Alai Darwaza, not Alia. They were named after the bad-tempered sultan Allauddin Khalji and not Alia the filmstar.
This book has the potential of being a series and I hope Fifee and Lattoo will go on more adventures in the future. I can see Jayanto sharpening his pencils – Lattoo hogging phuchkas at Victoria Memorial in Kolkata? Fifee trying out Bharatanatyam on a beach in Chennai? Both of them serenading a boatman on the Dal Lake in Srinagar? The possibilities are endless.
By Subhadra Sen Gupta
WHEN IN DELHI
Author: Mamta Nainy
ISBN No: 978-93-82454-28-1
Subject Category: Contemporary/Non-Fiction