It is just so heartwarming for me to see my students in Nilogal, India, enthusiastically show up to class on time, give me their full attention despite the technical difficulties we sometimes face due to poor connections and dutifully send me their homework on WhatsApp from phones they receive access to only when their parents come home from work late in the evening (many students don’t have a household phone and show me their homework via Skype during class).
I constantly try to think of ways to help support their learning better..that one hour I get with them on a daily basis is just not sufficient. To this end, I sent them dictionaries, I created a bilingual Youtube channel, English for Kannada speakers, for bilingual explanations of English grammar concepts, and I created basic grammar books via a wonderful resource called StoryWeaver.
A dear friend, Kavitha Amarnath (Zuggri Branding House), who I met through a previous volunteering stint of mine at a microlending non profit, had moved to Bengaluru and works as a digital artist and illustrator. She has successfully published a book entitled ‘Why can’t I see God?’. She wanted to collaborate to work on books to help my students. We created a bilingual workbook with illustrations using the story of the thirsty crow, one that has been told to children over generations in India. But we wanted to do more..there are stories that amuse..there are stories that show that good wins over evil..but what about books that make you think..books that make you question..books that make you want to change things?
When one thinks of problems in India, they may think of poverty, malnutrition, corruption, overpopulation..the list goes on. But the one problem we are so oblivious of..to the extent that we don’t even consider it a problem..is colorism! It’s an open secret that Indian society, by and large, glorifies fair skin. This is evidenced by the multitude of fairness skin cream ads on TV, the plethora of ‘Wanted fair bride’ ads in the matrimonial sections of newspapers, and the constant jibbers that dark people are subject to day in and day out! People who don’t think this is a problem..are probably blind..or fair! I passionately detest colorism..and want to erase it..from every society that glorifies fair skin..thus my book ‘Unfair & Lovely’!:)
Kavitha and I got together and created an illustrated story that resonates very easily with the millions of folks that have been taunted by this evil and enlightens people who choose to ignore it. The characters in the book are pre-teens, an age when kids are just beginning to realize how they look. Our intention behind this age for the book is to nip this issue in the bud, right where it needs to be dispelled! Regardless of your views on colorism, we promise that our book will engage, entertain and motivate!:)