The main motivation behind this children’s book was the writer’s determination to pass on her grandmother’s stories.
“I grew up listening to my grandmother’s stories of how Pakistan was formed and how they came here,” smiled Asma Sikandar Khan as she spoke about her first book for children, ‘A Magical Tale About Pakistan’. “I have tried to preserve those tales and pass them on to the younger generation.”
Khan, a software engineer who became a teacher of technology at the Haque Academy, came up with the idea when she couldn’t find a book for her own two girls. Our children should be introduced to Quaid-e-Azam and the Partition in a magical way, she decided. “I hope my book induces patriotism in kids.”
At the informal book launch at the Warehouse held on Saturday, Asma said that one of the motivations behind the book was her own grandmother’s narratives. She wanted to pass down her messages from the first generation to the fourth one.
In the book, the character ‘Nana’ is a wizard and ‘Nani’ is the grandmother who takes all the children - eight-year-old Fatima, and twins Aisha and Hamza - on a magical adventure back to 1947. Here, they see men guarding and protecting houses, and people getting on the train to go to Pakistan. Along the trip, the children also meet Quaid-e-Azam, feeling excited as they scream Pakistan Zindabad when he announces the creation of the new country.
With a magical door transporting the children and the grandmother using magic tricks to convert pencils into food, the book delivers its promise of magic.
The writer whose grandparents moved from Khurja, a small town near Delhi, to Pakistan, felt that parents nowadays need to work hard on their kids who ask why they should live here. “I keep on telling my children that this is their country and that Pakistan will be always their land,” she said. “If they go away, who will take care of the homeland?”
Khan tried to give the same message through her book when Nani takes all the children back in time in a bid to make them realise about the sacrifices their ancestors made and what freedom means to them.
In the colourful illustrations in the book, Khan tried to imbed some hidden messages and symbols in every drawing, as well. “Children can read art too,” she explained. “When I was writing the book, I spoke to my kids a lot. They would reply and joke and I would say - hey that’s my line for the book.”
The new writer also felt the dearth of local English writers for children. “There are writers for children in Urdu but we don’t have any English ones.”
Khan, who had written the manuscript in last December could not find any publisher, and finally decided to come out with the project on her own. “I have launched my work on my own as publishers did not want to invest in new writers.” Now, she has been in touch with some distributers and hopes to see her book hit the racks of leading bookshops soon.
Her daughter, Aisha, who has a character in the book, said she loved the part when she and her grandmother went on adventure. “I wish it was real,” smiled the little girl.
Reading aloud the book at the informal launch, seven-year-old girl Dania shared how much she liked to read. “I like to read about Quaid-e-Azam as he is the father of the country.” Her mother, Maheen, was also delighted with the concept and felt that schools and parents should come forward to talk more about the country’s history to their children. “Yesterday was Defence Day but schools did not celebrate the day as we used to when we were young.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2013.
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