I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND
Mini Shrinivasan. Illustrations / design by Shubham Lakhera
Tulika Chennai, 2019, pp. 24, R165.00
I too didn’t understand this way…
What attracted me first was the title of the book. It made me curious to know what it was that was not understood. There are probably very few books for children that have titles with a negative word in them.
This book is about a mentally challenged child Manna. It is about three things that happen to Manna in school. School, which is a place of friendship, playing, sharing and loving, is also where there is bullying. Manna doesn’t understand when some children are being mean and sarcastic to her. She doesn’t understand that she is bullied, nor why.
I liked three things about this book. The first is the way in which Mini Shrinivasan take us on a journey of one day into Manna’s life. Very beautifully and subtly, she has posed the important and sensitive question of the self-identity of mentally challenged children. People with vision impairment or hearing impairment or other physical challenges know they are challenged. But what about children like Manna who are mentally challenged? How do they perceive the world and themselves in it? Maybe the fact that Manna doesn’t see herself as challenged is why she doesn’t understand what is wrong if she takes a long time to understand things. Perhaps that is why she so easily accepts that she doesn’t understand something. I think the writer is trying to say that we too should SEE that there is nothing wrong in taking time to understand things.
Secondly, Manna has been shown as a strong and joyful character. Nowhere does Manna seem helpless and weak. And last, but not the least, are the beautiful cover page and other illustrations by Shubham Lakhera. The illustration of an upside down cheerful girl forces us to think differently about the mentally challenged.