Please circle as applicable:
FORWARD / BACKWARD / MOST BACKWARD / SCHEDULED CASTE / SCHEDULED TRIBE.
That was my first introduction to the social activism in everyday life. I wanted to know what each of those categories meant. I wanted to know why our maid could not enter our kitchen and I wanted to know why I couldn’t marry someone from any of the other categories listed above except the one I circled.
As a child I argued a lot, about the scriptures my Dad read, the shlokas he recited (and made me recite) and the rules for girls that were imposed on me. I would have been a really difficult, argumentative teenager. Don’t get me wrong – I still remember most of my shlokas. But I wanted our elders to know the significance of what they were asking me to do and differentiate religious beliefs from social constructs.
As an adult, I channeled all of that into writing. As a writer, I’m always an activist. I’m a representative and a protestor of the world around me. I always believe that any religion, community, family or truth cannot uphold itself if it isn’t open to debate and discussion. So I’m always looking for stories that break the accepted narrative and give the reader a new perspective of an old fact.
I stumbled upon the story of Pattan in the research notes gathered by Philipose Vaidyar. I tracked him down to find out more about the story. And the journey began. I researched the Irular community, watched videos of their modern-day issues, read about the gorgeous mountain ranges they lived in.
<Watch the trailer – https://youtu.be/wUzXvjRUZ0M>
The Irular community is a tribe that inhabited and still inhabits the mountain ranges that span from Maharastra to Kerala on the west. As you go down the western coast, the mountain ranges are a home to many tribes. People of the Irular tribe live in the valleys of the borders of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Due to deforestation and new forest regulations (the Sahayadri mountain ranges are a UNESCO protected site now), the tribes cannot engage in their traditional occupation of hunting, catching snakes and such. Many of these families come into towns looking for construction work.
Pattan is the elder of the ancient Irular community in Kerala. If you speak Tamil or Malayalam you’d know that it is a word for Grandfather. Set in the valleys of the Sahayadri mountain ranges, Pattan’s Pumpkin tells the story of Pattan and his wife living in harmony with nature.
<Listen to me read a snippet from the book – https://youtu.be/iadd03ASM7k>
I felt that bringing the story to the world stage would open the window into Irular’s beautiful world and their way of living. Next time you visit the hills of Nilgiri mountains or stay in a forest resort, think about the tribes that once lived there and looked after the forests for future generations.
I really hope you enjoy reading the story and imagining the forests through the fabulous artwork of Frané Lessac.
Chitra Soundar is the author of over 20 books for children. Her latest book is Pattan’s Pumpkin – A flood tale from Southern India illustrated by Frané Lessac and published by Candlewick Press. Pattan’s Pumpkin is also the chosen book for October, in the 2017 Read Across America / Reading is Fundamental campaign. Find out more at www.chitrasoundar.com or follow her on Instagram at @chitrasoundar and on Twitter at @csoundar.