Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dinaben and the Lions of Gir.

Friday, February 19, 2010
Authors: Meera Sriram and Praba Ram
Photographs: credited to many
Illustration: Preeta Suresh
Publisher : Tulika Publishers
Age : 4+

Dinaben and the Lions of Gir captures how man and animal coexist in the forests of Gir in Gujarat. It fits beautifully into the series of bilingual- photo- animal books from Tulika - the earlier ones having featured tigers, bears and elephants.

The attractive cover page, in bright saffron, has a lion cub with a bewildered-beseeching expression, rather like a baby wanting to be picked up.

Dinaben and her husband represent the Maldhari tribe whose main occupation is the dairy business - milking cattle, making butter and ghee and selling it to make a living. They do this the "primitive" way- churning it by hand and so on.

A lot of children today are unfamiliar with this, having hardly ever seen ghee or butter being made at home. If you quiz them on who gives milk, they will probably reply the milk carton. The photos and text will offer them a glimpse into the age old methods of dairy farming.

As for the lions, I did not even know there were only 350 Asiatic Lions left. Is it not really alarming? Just imagine, our grand children may not get to see what Simba looks like in person.

The book subtly brings out that both the animal and the tribe with their already marginalized lifestyle are under threat. It is important for us to respect nature. Otherwise neither the centurires old Maldhari tribe nor the lions will survive.

Corporate sponsorship of such causes has become a necessity and HSBC has taken up this one -as reflected in a letter from their communication person, which forms a part of the book.

The photos are evocative and rich- Dinaben, the lions and the forest ' come alive'. The sketches of an expressive lion cub generally having fun are truly cute. Paw marks are also used to good effect.

Like the rest of the Tulika series, a map sets the geographical context - it helped my four year old understand where Gir is.

While there is so much publicity about protecting another endangered cat - the tiger- we hardly hear about lions in media. The set of facts about the Asiatic Lions at the end of the story provoked our curiosity and together with the story it will surely sensitize readers, even young ones, towards nature in general and in specific to the majestic King of the Jungle.