AMMACHI KI GAJAB MACHINE (AMMACHI’S AMAZING MACHINE)
By Rajiv Eipe. Translated by Rishi Mathur. Illustrations /design by Rajiv Eipe
Pratham Books, 2019, pp.15, R40.00
This book takes me back to my children’s literature classroom; 15 enthusiastic and excited faces, happily reading out the story from story weaver’s website on the big screen, trying to notice the literary nuances, simultaneously getting formally introduced to the components of children’s books. It has been over a year since the day, and the memory is fading day by day. But what is still fresh in mind is the utter pleasure we all had while reading it.
Sooraj is hungry. He requests his Ammachi (grandmother) to cook something for him and Ammachi agreed, on condition that Sooraj should help her.
The entire story is based on the event of how both of them together prepare coconut-barfi from scratch. And… what an action-packed, eventful process it is! Each step that she follows in the process is an interesting insight into our daily encounters with simple machines. Ammachi’s…. is an interesting example of how an author can transform an ordinary event into an adventure!
Ammachi! A Malayalam word for grandma. Such an affectionate word! For someone like me who spent the entire childhood in grandparents’ company, stories like this are sweet reminders of all the fun we had together.
Apart from the emotional connection, the story has a few more strengths. A grandma who lets and makes her grand-‘SON’ help her in the kitchen! Isn’t it a breakaway from stereotypical portrayals of grandmothers, adamant on keeping the ‘boys’ and ‘men’ of the house away from the kitchen?
Another thing that appealed to me was how Sooraj is portrayed; a dark-complexioned, curly-haired young boy. Against the conventional preference to fair-skinned main characters? Otherwise too, illustrations throughout the book are lively and expressive. ♠
Let’s talk about the Hindi translation by Rishi Mathur that we have for the review. Honestly, when compared to the original story, the translation seems to lack a naturalness and flow in the language. The kind of words and verbs used in the story don’t seem to be a part of day-to-day vocabulary; same is the case with the way sentences are structured. This may have happened in the attempt to ensure an exact translation.
In spite of the joy I had while reading this book, there is a slight concern about the possibility of mismatch between the targeted reader group and the kind of discussion the book initiates i.e., the concept of simple machines. It is allotted to the level 2 readers—those who can identify simple words, and with the adult’s help can learn new words. Will a child from this group be able to understand the scientific concept that the story is based on? Or would they be willing to know the scientific explanation given at the end?
The explanation does not really discuss the processes used in the story in detail, connecting them to the scientific principle followed by each of them, but merely identifies them as simple machinery, informing about the types and terminologies used for the same.
But should this be a concern in deciding whether to pick this book to read or not? My answer is No.
Ruchi Shevade is part of a reading programme initiated by Eklavya in Bhopal and Raisen districts. The programme, Padho, Likho, Maja Karo aims to nurture and encourage the habit of reading in the community.