Jaya Krishnamachari
SUNDARBAGH STREET ME CHAMATKAR by By Nandita da Cunha. Translated from English by Yashodhara Kaneriya. Illustrations by Priya Kuriyan Ekalavya Foundation, 2023, 22 pp., INR 100.00
November 2023, volume 47, No 11

Sundarbagh Street Me Chamatkar is the story of a little girl Zara who helps transform a dump yard into a beautiful garden, restoring it to its past glory. The story revolves around Zara and her old school crafts teacher Gappi who helps her to make this magical transformation possible. Zara is a motherless girl with a father who has no time for her, gets into the habit of going to the dumpyard near her house to ward off her loneliness and sitting on the bench there watching the birds and all the junk lying around. A group of young boys also comes there daily as darkness creeps in. They practice their Rap songs ignoring Zara’s presence; so she is able to sit there by herself. But this doesn’t last since, one evening she finds her old school crafts teacher opening the gate and coming in to sit on the bench. Zara is not pleased at this because she is a talkative lady who keeps up a steady chatter. Miss Gappi takes to bringing bird feed for the sparrows, makes something out of the available junk, and slowly Zara finds herself looking forward to her coming. On the pretext of having dropped her knitting needle she gets Zara to search for it by pulling out all the grass around the bench, like she herself does. Zara is amazed at the heaps of mud around the bench. The next day Miss Gappi brings and scatters some seeds around and keeps watering them every day. This kindles Zara’s interest especially when the seeds start sprouting.
From then on Zara’s desire to grow flowers in that place takes wings. She is fascinated with Miss Gappi’s stories of how a beautiful garden had existed in what was now a dump yard. She dreams about the garden every night. The story goes on to tell the reader how she ropes in the Thod Phod gang boys who visit the dump yard to dig up the whole place, how a gentleman whose trucks carry the junk from the yard helps to get fresh soil for the garden and how, gradually, the people of that colony get interested in her project of making the dump yard into a park once again. The craft teacher’s ingenuity in unobtrusively firing the imagination of a young lonely child to do something constructive is also an interesting part of the story that touched me very much. As the story progresses we find Zara’s garden growing beautifully, slowly and steadily, with the help of all the people living around that place who contribute with their time and labour to make her dream come true. They call their group ‘Build our Bagh’. They also organize a function to celebrate the re-opening of the park where the chief guest is no other than Zara’s father and when Miss Gappi introduces him to the youngest member of the team who made this transformation possible he is surprised to see Zara as the architect of this project.
Nandita da Cunha with an MBA degree from XLRI worked in companies like Arthur Anderson and KPMG before taking up her favourite job of writing books for children. She loves plants and has more than 80 plants in her home.
Priya Kuriyan’s illustrations are very attractive. She writes and illustrates books for children. She has directed some educational films for children and has also makes Animation Comics and Doubles for them. She is an accomplished artist who is doing a lot of work in the field of children’s books.