Sunday, May 23, 2004

Too heavy for kids
Gitanjali Sharma

Where Doves Fly
by Kamlesh Rajesham.
Frog Books. Pages 65. Rs 60.

THE blurb mentions that this is Kamlesh Rajesham’s first book in the children’s category. Undeniably, the story is about children, and the main protagonist, too, is a child, but the "ten truths" highlighted in the book seem more appropriate for the consumption and comprehension of adults rather than grade-four students. The presentation, devoid of illustrations, is also not attractive enough to appeal to children or stir their imagination. The font size is so small that it is a strain to scan the letters.

The narrative centres round Jack, the curious and creative 10-year-old son of a pleasant and wealthy couple settled in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Set in the backdrop of the Iraq War, the story lends an insight into apprehensions experienced by shielded-from-adult-affairs children, when they discover the dreaded word war. The essence of the story, however, lies in the ten truths, interspersed in seven chapters and which come up as wise phrases that Jack scribbles in his diary on and off.

Jack, wise for his young years, hits upon these guidelines as he traverses a world made complicated by adults. Even though he bonds well with his friends—called Little Doves—he strives to delve into the adult world "where things are not to be questioned"to draw conclusions like "not all that is sweet is the truth and not all that is bitter are lies" and "every truth is based on a person’s own experience with things in life." These truths you find are not only profound and hard-hitting but too weighty and philosophical for kids.

You may get an Enid Blyton-ish feel in the escapades of Jack and fellow Doves’ tree-house meetings followed by hot chocolate and scones, but that is where the similarity ends. Where Doves Fly doesn’t speak of pure unadulterated fun and adventures for children, but dwells on intense concerns such as "one does not really have to war with words or anything just because they do not agree with another".

Even the parent-child relationship depicted in the book would be grasped more by an adult than a vulnerable child. For instance, talk of hurt felt by a child when he is ignored—"Jack who was really happy with his new toy and was looking for some appreciation from his mother looked suddenly crestfallen" when his mother sharply asked him to "put away" his new creation—demands understanding of an adult. A child may be able to empathise with such behaviour, but he may not find answers to explain or tackle it. This book can make adults understand themselves and others, including children, better.