“Xuan Zang smiled. “I have no fear of new places. There are always kind people who help me wherever I go.”

A Meeting in the Street is penned by Bharati Jagannathan and illustrated by Tapas Guha. Bharati teaches history to undergraduates at Miranda House, Delhi. She writes in such a way that children can enjoy important historical and cultural facts easily.

The Plot

The book is set in the city of Kanchipuram, also known as Kanchi, near Chennai, in Tamil Nadu. The brother-sister, Valli and Mahendra are on their trip to the market of Kanchipuram to sell their coconuts. It is then they see a person who looked different, strange to them. He could not speak Tamil, the native language of Tamil Nadu. But he smiled at the kids and also politely folded his hands to greet the kids. He was a Buddhist monk, Xuan Zang. The monk was searching for some place and when the kids realized this, they didn’t even take a minute to get ready to help this monk, a complete stranger to them.

Father of the kids, an ardent worshipper of Shiva had sometimes ridiculed the Buddhists. In spite of this, the kids acknowledged that the revered monk has collected hundreds of books and studied with great teachers. They understood at that young age, there is something to be learned from everything. The book is about the monk and the kids, their interaction, their little talks.  

The Learnings

The author presents a lot of knowledge to anyone reading this book:

  • Xuan Zang, the Buddhist monk on whom she bases her book, left China in 630 CE to learn more about Buddhism. He was merely 27 years of old and traveled to India via many other cities/countries.
  • The monk wore the thick pads of leather under his feet. This indicated that though no footwear as of today was available at those times, human beings have always made and worn different kinds of shoes to adapt to the climate.
  • Gaya is the name of the city where the Buddha attained enlightenment and Sarnath is the place where he preached his first sermon.
  • Buddhist monks lived in a place called Vihaara. Buddhist monks were called bhikshus since they begged for alms.
  • Kaanchi was an important commercial, political, educational and religions center from early times.

Why should kids read this book

Bharati Jagannathan talks about the monk who left China to learn more about Buddhism. He traveled a great deal within India, visiting major Buddhist sites and pilgrim places. The book subtly teaches kids about respecting everyone, helping others and being polite to them. This book is aimed at children who are proficient in reading by themselves.

This interesting tale from Kanchipuram will keep them engaged. Valli and Mahendra will steal their hearts by their politeness and helpful nature. The peace and the affection the monk shows to these kids will definitely spark some beautiful thoughts in young minds.

The beautiful illustrations by Tapas Guha are completely synced with the story, and the kids can see Valli, Mahendra and the monk interacting right before their eyes.

So, parents, get your children ready to be with Valli and Mahendra when they meet the stranger monk in the street.

Featured Image Source: Pratham Books

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