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Tales of hope

Tales of hope
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First Published: Sat, Aug 23 2008. 12 20 AM IST

Updated: Sat, Aug 23 2008. 12 20 AM IST
With just five medals (if you don’t count hockey) in its 60 years of participating in Olympic events as an independent nation, India is not exactly hot property. But there is always hope.
Kolhapur to Beijing is one such story of hope. With the country sending out a swimming team (earlier, it was just the odd contestant) for the first time to the Olympics, 17-year-old Virdhawal Khade’s story will hold a lot of meaning for every growing, aspiring youngster.
Son of a basketball player, Khade took to water like fish. When he was 4, his father Vikram took him to the swimming pool, where the coach asked him to step into it. After a long look at his father, the little boy jumped in without any hesitation. Though fearless, he was like any other normal boy. At a sub-junior swimming competition in Aurangabad, he missed his race because he was playing hide-and-seek with other boys. A furious Vikram dragged him away muttering about his son’s lack of application.
Since then, Virdhawal practised alone and practised with a determination that saw him shine at the junior national meet in Delhi. All of 11, he won two gold medals in the 100m and 200m after drawing a blank in the 50m race, with which he opened his attempt. “The only thought in my head is to make my strokes well and to swim to win,” he tells the author. Coached by Nihar Ameen, a keen-eyed talent spotter, Khade competed in the 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle events in Beijing.
Pratham Books is a not-for-profit publisher that produces quality, but affordable, children’s books in 11 Indian languages.
Kolhapur to Beijing: Freestyle:
By Mala Kumar, Illustrated by Ashish Nangia,
Pratham, 24 pages, Rs25.
The cover itself will make you pick this book up. You instinctively want to reach out to the cuddly teddy, with his hands crossed at the back, as he looks out enquiringly. Even if you are 100 years old.
Thorston Gustavus Bookridge III is Felicia’s bear. He has lived with the family for three generations. Both Felicia’s mother and grandmother were his previous owners — sorry, “friends”. Thorston has an interesting past. He is a castaway “German bear”, that Felicia’s great-grandfather picked up from a second-hand shop in England because nobody wanted him. Germany wasn’t too popular during the World War II.
Pinto’s narrative is through the eyes of the bear as he moves from one generation to the next, changing name and gender, too. To Felicia’s grandmother, Lavinia, he is Fatty, while Felicia’s mother calls the bear Betty. A teddy bear is a girl’s best friend. As Pinto puts himself in the bear’s shoes, what comes out is sheer magic.
There are gems such as: “Play checkers with your friends. Play with your dolls alone,” advises Thurston when Felicia’s plans to get her friends to play with her toys and dolls — and keep them happy — go slightly awry. Or, when Felica prefers to carry Thurston with her than put him in a box when they change homes. “I wished I were safe in the box. A child may leave you in the taxi, in the lift, in any of the places in between one house and another…” Delightful though sometimes Pinto tends to lecture — “Beautiful people (refers to a doll) often do that. They become ugly inside since they only pay attention to the outside.”
The story takes a sudden twist when it is discovered that Thurston is a Steiff (bears made by the Margerite Steiff Co.) from 1940 and is very valuable. Felicia’s father is all for selling the bear and actually tries to as there is a willing buyer. Can Thurston be saved?
This, says the introduction, is the editor, columnist and poet’s first book for bear cubs. There will be more, hopefully.
A Bear for Felicia:
By Jerry Pinto. Illustrated by Ajanta Guhathakurtha,
Puffin, 99 pages, Rs150.
The writer is the editor of Heek, a children’s magazine. Write to lounge@livemint.com
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First Published: Sat, Aug 23 2008. 12 20 AM IST