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Ramendra Kumar’s Unique World of Children’s Literature

May 1, 2024 | By

Excerpts from a talk presented by Mr. Anand Patil at the daylong seminar held on Ramendra Kumar’s writing on 15th of April, 2024 at Bengaluru

Anand Patil

Anand Patil speaking at the daylong seminar

I feel extremely happy to be with Ramendra Kumar, affectionately called ‘Ramen’. He is a different type of personality, always seems to be in high spirits, full of vivacity even at the age of sixty. He has struggled with cancer for quite a long period and has emerged victorious. He is a true warrior who has kindled hope in all. I have no words to express my admiration for Ramen.

book for pet lovers

The Canine Chronicles is Ramen’s one and only book which he has “ghost-written” on behalf of his beloved guppy Aryan.

The eponymous character in his novel A Tsunami Called Naani, a senior citizen, says, ‘A person is as old or young as she/he feels. I am twenty-six years young!’ We can apply these words to   Ramen himself.

At the outset I want to say that it is very clear that the author is deeply, so to say, passionately involved with the fascinating world of children. His umpteen plots, varied types of characters, innumerable situations are all centered around children, his chosen field.

He has expressed his philosophy through a character in The Canine Chronicles. While reacting to an aged relative’s statement, “By calling me childlike, you have paid me the sweetest compliment possible. I don’t want to grow up. I think the most perfect state of being is that of a child — always in the present moment, living life to the fullest.”

How to perceive Ramendra Kumar’s vast writings? Where to place him among the various children’s writers? These questions need to be answered while discussing his contribution. After going through his stories and novellas, it is my desire to place him in a suitable spot among a number of other writers.

It just came to my mind to view him in comparison with Nikolay Nikolayevich Nosov, a Russian writer of children’s literature who is called the ‘king of children’s writing’. He seems obsessed with the unrestrained, willful childhood and creates his plots around a number of playful activities. On the other hand, Hugh Lofting, a British-American author who participated in the First World War, comes across in his widely acclaimed series ‘Dr Dolittle’ with his own urge to get into pure, uncorrupted childhood, as against the disturbed adulthood. J M Barrie, a Scottish writer, goes for ‘everlasting childhood’, free from the adult world of chaos in his book Peter Pan. A A Milne, who always was a reserved type of person and hesitant to mix with children other than his son, became famous as a result of his classic Winnie the Pooh, the world of innocent little beings. In the book, the stuffed toys his son used to play with were made the main characters.

A few of Ramendra Kumar books for children

A few of Ramendra Kumar’s books for children

Indian children’s literature doesn’t come with this type of a varied worldview. In creating such literature, most of the time, the writers turn to play the adult roles of parents, teachers, elderly advisers, resource persons, professionals etc, and not the role of a sensitive and childlike writer or an artist.

Ramen, so to say, also comes from such an Indian canvas, but what he has produced all these years, incessantly, makes us introspect. Yes, the difference between ‘creating text’ for reading by a child and writing to fulfill an ‘author’s own urge’ often seems to get blurred while reading his stories.

With complete certainty, we can say that childhood has been preserved, still unabated, with all the freshness of Ramen’s work and his personality. At this age, he can suddenly transform into a child, forget his surroundings, and become one with children. This is the main mantra behind his relentless involvement with children’s literature, as I think, and can give us a fresh perspective into his oeuvre.

There are a huge number of Indian authors writing in English. Ramen stands out among them with his zeal, distinctive approach and style.

Ramendra Kumar with a young reader

Ramendra Kumar with a young reader (LnC Archives)

In one of his articles, Ramen has declared his fondness for ‘here and now’ writing and not the old stuff of folk and traditional, mythological stories. Of course, this is the general trend today, in English and even in our regional writings. Ramen says the changed scenario of today throws up greater challenges as well as higher responsibilities. He elaborates his statement by tracing a number of situations such as shrinking families, information and entertainment explosion, the single parent phenomena, working couples, the omnipresence of sex and violence in the media, and so on.

In some ways, such thinking,  Ramen feels, deeply impacts the plight of children around us. As a result, he doesn’t go for unusual adventures, mysteries, and science fiction in his stories.

The children in his stories have a middle-class background and live in urban areas. Many of them are fighting against the odds.

We find different types of locales, and settings, (home, school atmosphere, playgrounds, cycle shops, slums). Sports is a subject that often comes to the fore in his stories.

Childhood is found in its usual garb. It is present with all the joys, laughter, inevitable sorrows, and pain. Of course, there is an undercurrent of humour, in a number of his creations. Day-to-day musings, quarrels, pranks are all are present in his stories in an interesting and engaging manner.

Again and again, we find the encounter between adults and children, very naturally, with different sets of behaviors. We find companionate, brave, very active types of grandfathers and grandmothers. At the same time, we usually meet fathers and mothers struggling to adjust to the working hours and expectations around their children. There are children with sensitive responses coming forward to help the elders, getting adjusted to the unavoidable circumstances – each of these aspects is found in the stories.

In his writings, every time, it is noticed without fail that even though help comes unexpectedly, it comes to deserving kids who are deprived of their due share by society. A humane heartbeat is heard in all stories, but it doesn’t appear superficially, just to keep an ideal before the children.

Above all, his language grabs us with its charming naturalness and unhampered easy flow, bringing liveliness to the writing. He imbues his tales with all playfulness while narrating his stories. He has mastered the art of creating narratives. Living in a childlike universe requires a different type of mindset. The language, the words, the mood, the situations, and the twists, and turns all have to be met with a different type of approach. Ramendra Kumar brings the requisite creativity successfully and with ease. A highly experienced hand carves his stories every time. We can go on picking up examples from any collection, whether it be a very short one or a novella. He comes out as a very skilled writer.

It will not be a sweeping statement if I say he creates all such things with compassion, with concern for children’s future. What I find is Ramen doesn’t seem to place before the audience, ideal-like, humane-like models as lessons.

It would be justifiable to say that he is very involved in the life drama of children. He is moved deeply by all the happenings and the sensitive human emotions, which is the natural force that moves him and kindles his creativity.

What I am concluding is that his stories are creations of art with childhood as a subject, as an immensely felt desire from inside. They deserve a readership of both children and adults.

Ramen seems to bring an optimistic end to all his plots. He might think it is required. Whether it is so strictly needed is a question. When you feel something needs to be placed before a particular class of readers, such things may come to the forefront. But there is literary justice every time. A creation of art brings this out very unassumingly and in a very natural way. A piece of writing turns into an art-piece thanks to the inner urge of a writer, not keeping in mind the specific readership or the market. Of course, this aspect is open to discussion.

More Must Read in LnC

Against All Odds: The Triumph of the Human Spirit – In Conversation with Ramendra Kumar

Friends Forever

Stories of Resilience: The Indomitable Girls Who Rebuilt Their Broken Lives

The Real Hero

Anand Patil is a noted writer in children’s literature from Karnataka. He studied folklore for his post graduation, and did his PhD in ‘Folk Art and Rituals’. He joined All India Radio as a programme officer, served for 30 years, and retired as Station Director. Children’s literature has been a fascinating field for him. For almost 35 years he has worked on children’s literature. Creating a friends’ group, he has organized a number of programmes throughout the state, which include seminars, discussions and interaction sessions. He has spent time with children, especially from rural areas. He has created journals in Kannada and English carrying studies and criticism on children’s literature. As a creative writer he has bagged awards from Sahitya Akademi, Karnataka Sahitya Academy, and from a number of other organizations. With his keen interest in research, he has participated in a number of seminars at state level and national level. He has more than 50 books to his credit, which include 10 poetry collections, 4 novels, 8 anthologies of stories and other prose material, 3 picture books in Kannada, 2 picture books in English, 10 translations from English and Hindi, a collection 4 plays and 12 books carrying studies and criticism.
All Posts of Anand Patil

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