These times, they are uncertain. Maybe it was just time to stop in our tracks because we were running hither and thither with nary a thought for the other.
And so, in these dark times, I search for children’s books. Babar and Tintin bring back memories of my childhood. Awash in sentimentalism, I want to ignore the justifiable criticism of Herge, whose work with the Nazis is no secret, and the argument that Babar is an allegory of colonisation, French or otherwise.
However, the vantage point of adulthood allows us to hold conflicting truths and take multiple perspectives so that hopefully, we come to new understandings. Children’s book set us on this path of thinking critically and creatively early on.
They remain relevant throughout our lifespan because we learn about the world and ourselves. Reading the news these days, I am reminded of Gijubhai Badheka’s Dalo Talwadi, which delightfully points out the folly of making up selfish rules that will literally drown us in a dark well of illusions.
From the iconic alphabet book that teaches us how to read, to books that help us navigate our childhood and beyond, children’s books bind us across and time and space both personal and universal.
“Being kind to yourself is one of the greatest kindness,” the mole said. Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse sells in the thousands because of its universal message of courage, love and friendship. In these uncertain times, by returning to children’s books, I drift away in a cocoon of comfort while the susurrus of adult voices echoing in the darkness promise the dawn of a bright morning.
Tomorrow, when we awake to a new world, we all will have to learn a different language, a new way of being. Surely an alphabet book will be handy.
Krina Patel is an artist and educator. Her Twitter handle is @stiramemory and her Instagram account is @stirarts.
Read the other articles in The Art of Solitude series here.
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