For most children, Kashmir – now a Union territory of India — is a distant place, famous for its green valleys, snow-capped mountains, war and terrorists. But this exhilaratingly beautiful land also boasts a rich heritage and culture. Here are three books that introduce children to Kashmir, its people, traditions and culture, says Mini P.
Okus Bokus — A to Z for Kashmiri Children
by Onaiza Drabu (Author), Ghazal Qadri (Illustrator)
Publisher: Sonth Kashmir
This attractive picture book, published in 2019, is a great introduction to the cultural heritage of Kashmir. It follows the lives of two Kashmiri children, Billa and Munni, as they learn about their traditional food, art, music and folklore.
Billa and Munni are on a break from school and at home with their grandmother, Naen, who tells them stories during snowy winter days. An entertaining read with excellent illustrations, it familiarises children with the diverse cultural heritage of Kashmir.
Munnu: A Boy from Kashmir
by Malik Sajad
Publisher: Fourth Estate
What is life like for children growing up in insurgency-ridden Kashmir? This heart-warming tale lets us into the home of seven-year-old Munnu, who lives with his parents, sister Shahnaz, brothers Adil and Akhtar and, his favourite, older brother Bilal. Munnu’s childhood experiences are set against the backdrop of terrorism and continuous armed conflict.
Bilal’s classmates are crossing over to Pakistan-administered Kashmir to be trained to resist the ‘occupation’. Papa and Bilal are regularly taken by the military to identification parades where they have to identify ‘terrorists.’ One fateful day, Munnu finds that his school is closed; neighbours killed and the homes of Kashmiri Hindu families ransacked. Closely based on the author’s own childhood in Kashmir, it provides searing personal insights into everyday life of children in this beautiful but war-torn land.
Inspired by a journal that she finds hidden in her bedroom, Callie decides to join a birding club. And she begins a journey to make friends and discover nature.
The Legend of Himal and Nagrai
Retold by Onaiza Drabu
Publisher: Speaking Tiger Publishing Pvt Ltd
With serpent kings, long-lost lovers, magical birds and seductive witches, The Legend of Himal and Nagrai is a magical collection of folk tales from Kashmir. In the title story, serpent king Nagrai assumes human form to be with his true love, princess Himal. But despite Nagrai’s warnings, when Himal doubts her lover’s origins, all hell breaks loose. Will the star-crossed lovers ever be united? These and 27 other tales highlight a rich, multicultural and largely undocumented folk storytelling tradition of Kashmir.