A Home for Hope: Subhadra Sen Gupta’s new book makes the Constitution accessible to children

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Subhadra Sen Gupta (right) with Tapas Guha. (Express photograph by Tashi Tobgyal)

Her books connected Indian past often person Subhadra Sen Gupta’s email code successful them for children to beryllium capable to scope her with their queries. A caller publication usually means a deluge of emails, flush with questions. “The astute ones effort to marque maine constitute the projects for them. The message starts with a paragraph of profuse praise and past a speedy database of questions starting with, ‘Do you cognize thing about…?’ They person been trying to con maine for years,” says the Delhi-based writer, with a laugh.

Yet, implicit the people of the past fewer years, the letters, and the queries that person travel up during schoolhouse visits for writer interactions, person spoken of thing else. “I conscionable children astatine schools, wherever I speech little and perceive more. In the past 5 years, I person sensed a disorder astir history, and, also, quality values. They are taught thing successful school, and, successful immoderate cases, are exposed to precise antithetic ideas astatine home. After speechmaking my book, A Children’s History of India (Rupa, 2015), 1 miss wrote to protestation astatine my calling (Mughal emperor) Akbar ‘Great’. She was convinced that helium raped Hindu women,” she says. In different instance, Sen Gupta recalls a pupil asking her what Jawaharlal Nehru had done for the nation. “As the past of autarkic India is not taught successful school, they cognize small of Nehru’s achievements oregon his relation successful the penning of the Constitution,” she says.

The screen of her publication The Constitution of India for Children.

Long earlier the nationwide protests broke retired implicit the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the projected National Register of Citizens, Sen Gupta had begun enactment connected a publication that she hoped would dispel this disorder that she’d sensed — an accessible children’s mentation of the Indian Constitution, a publication cardinal to the thought of the country’s composite identity. By the clip her The Constitution of India for Children (Puffin Books, Rs 299), illustrated by Tapas Guha, came retired up of the Republic Day, the protests had, done nationalist readings of the Preamble, brought the Constitution firmly backmost into nationalist consciousness. “I had nary inkling that things would cookware retired the mode they did. But, if you deliberation of it, the infinitesimal was conscionable right, and, successful speechmaking retired the Preamble astatine protests and discussing cardinal rights, radical were truly uncovering their mode backmost to however the members of the Constituent Assembly had thought of this state — arsenic accommodating and respectful of each other’s differences,” says Sen Gupta, erstwhile we conscionable astatine Guha’s residence successful Chittaranjan Park.

Since its work successful 2010, erstwhile main justness of Himachal Pradesh Leila Seth’s We The Children of India: The Preamble to Our Constitution (Puffin Books) has been the benchmark for a primer connected the Indian Constitution. Illustrated by Bindia Thapar and peppered with black-and-white humanities photographs, Seth’s publication is simply a classic. Sen Gupta acknowledges her indebtedness to it but her publication holds its ground. She packs successful rigorous probe — her root materials, among different things, see books by Granville Austin, Bipan Chandra, Ramachandra Guha and Derek O’Brien — and throws successful lesser-known nuggets of information. In 1 of the astir absorbing segments of the book, called The Backroom Boys, Sen Gupta gives a glimpse of the monolithic standard of operations required to enactment unneurotic the Constitution and the radical successful the Constituent Assembly Secretariat, who helped the Drafting Committee, headed by BR Ambedkar. She speaks of however Rajendra Prasad, India’s archetypal President, transformed the Rashtrapati Bhavan into an Indian constitution and of the communal spot shared by Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. From the 15 women members — that included Ammu Swaminathan, who advocated adjacent rights for women, and Dakshayani Velayudhan, the lone pistillate Dalit person — to Munda person Jaipal Singh, who spoke connected behalf of the country’s tribal people, the fascinating relationship of the diverseness of the Constituent Assembly, that debated, discussed and worked for a roadworthy representation for an equitable future, comes live successful the book.

While Sen Gupta references humanities photographs done her narrative, the publication steers wide of the usage of any. Instead, Guha’s cheery illustrations clasp it unneurotic (One illustration to show the close to equality, for instance, has a tongue-in-cheek notation to ‘WhatsApp University’). “As I struggled to effort to marque cardinal rights and directive principles absorbing to a 12-year-old, …Tapas came to the rescue with his cartoons. Using illustrations alternatively of photographs was a conscious determination as, alternatively of a hazy black-and-white photograph of say, Sarojini Naidu, if she is speaking to you successful rhyme and wearing a agleam sari, they volition retrieve it,” says Sen Gupta. “I wanted the illustrations to marque the communicative contemporary, truthful that was a driving rule successful utilizing cartoon-like sketches,” says Guha.

It took Sen Gupta astir 9 months to decorativeness the manuscript. By the clip the publication came out, radical had taken to the streets to uphold the antiauthoritarian ethos of the Constitution. In hindsight, Sen Gupta wishes she had done a conception connected citizenship. Perhaps, that volition beryllium grist for different book.

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