I must admit that as a reader of adult Marathi books and as a translator I was really looking forward to reading children’s stories from Marathi literature. I was also wondering how the distinctive flavour of Marathi humour, turn of phrase, and cultural references would be communicated to a young Hindi reader. I thought this was going to be an enjoyable read.
I was sorely disappointed. Let us first look at the selection of stories. According to the authors, the entire section is culled from Bal Bharati text-books or Kishore magazine published by Maharashtra State’s board for text-book development and syllabus research. The stories can broadly be divided into two main types. One type is anecdotal stories through the eyes and point of view of adults. These include fiction and autobiographical snippets. Whether by contemporary, ‘anonymous’ or older authors, these stories talk about poor children or impoverished adults showing stellar moral character (‘Chhota Recharge’, ‘Sawal Bees Rupaye ka’, ‘Aabaki Kahani’, ‘Main Ameer Hoon’, ‘Salam Namaste’, ‘Deenu ka Bill’, ‘Mehnat ka Mantra’, to name a few). I am afraid the sentimental style with over-stated moral lesson may be perhaps too old-fashioned and textbook-like to appeal to most young readers. I remember that as a child, such moral tales set my teeth on edge. However, one had to deal with one or two in the entire text-book as it was part of the syllabus and therefore unavoidable. Why would any tween (as that seems to be the age group) read this onslaught voluntarily?