ABOUT THE BOOKMati pesters her grandmother and father for her own plot of land in the big field. When she does get it, she works hard. And then she hears that a company wants to make a coal mine in their village – the enormous black pit that will eat up all their lands, like it has in the next village.
The little girl’s anxiety about losing her land to “a monster machine” cuts close to the heart as it takes head-on an issue that is ravaging tribal Chhattisgarh, where this story is set, and every other place where there is ‘development’ at a cost. The earthy tones of the illustrations take us straight into the fields, while strong lines etch out the determination of two feisty females – Mati and her Ajji – who will not give in.
- I Will Save My Land is the story of young Mati, who wants to work her own plot of land, the way her father and grandmother work theirs. When her grandmother finally gives her a little piece of soil to farm in, she begins to discover what ownership really means. Her village’s farmland is under threat from a large mining corporation, and Mati knows that she will do anything to keep her land safe from the bulldozers. This picture book is a sensitive examination of the relationship between people and their livelihoods.
- The book looks at what it means to have ownership over one’s source of livelihood. Mati associates a sense of independence and dignity with the idea of keeping and taking care of her plot of land. When she sees the villagers getting ready to spend a night guarding their land from the bulldozers, she too feels responsible for her little patch, and goes out to try and guard it.
- Author-activist Rinchin does not fight shy of portraying issues like caste and gender, and how they play a part in determining ownership. Mati’s father tries to tell her that she is a girl and therefore doesn’t need to own land. Similarly, Mati’s grandmother has to go through some legal travails to wrangle her land out of the clutches of an upper-caste family.
- The book also gives children the context necessary to understand the struggles of peasants and farmers against large companies – a pattern of social movement that has repeated itself in many parts of the country in the recent past. It opens up many questions that can lead to fruitful discussions: why do villagers resist when large companies offer to buy their land? What happens to the villagers after they lose their land? What is the impact of the activities of such large companies on society and the environment? The book is perhaps best read alongside stories of real people’s movements that have taken place in India.
- The brown-toned illustrations by Sagar Kolwankar give readers a powerful sense of the soil and the land, and the strong lines used to outline Mati, Ajji and other characters highlight their determination and courage.
- The book does not have a simple, happy ending. We are given to understand that the struggles of the villagers have not ended. There is a good chance that the company’s demands will be met at some point, and that the people will have to abandon their lands. I Will Save My Land challenges young readers to understand and empathise with lives lived under such difficult circumstances.
- This book is the winner of the Neev Book Award 2018.