A child wears a face mask depicting Disney characters amid concerns over the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, in Kolkata on July 21, 2020. Photo: AFP / Dibyangshu Sarkar

What do you do when you’re suffering from an “easily curable” disease like, say, diarrhea? You give your body the rest, the right amount and assortment of nutritious food, medicine, doctor’s consultation and time it needs to heal. But did you know there is a section of people in this world who are absolutely unaware of the causes, meaning, remedies and ill-effects of this apparently treatable disease called diarrhea? In fact, diarrhea kills 2,195 children every day, more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

Do we take this reality as seriously as we take the deaths caused, for example, by a plane crash? All lives matter, whether it is the death of an innocent person in an air crash or of a child who lacks resources for even maintaining good hygiene.

Unfortunately, our world is fragmented by several invisible, unnoticed walls – and the big shots of this world excuse themselves from bringing about equality by leaning on these narrow walls. The rut of selective empathy repeatedly abandons a particular assemblage – that same assemblage of people that has also been suppressed through centuries.

In these dire circumstances, as millions are poisoned and thousands die every day, it is important that we look forward to change. To make a difference, one must use one’s resources, intellect, privilege, and sensitivity toward humankind as a whole.

In this context, it is fitting to recall the words of Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Consequently, we must awaken ourselves, and more importantly our children, and educate them creatively about the world and its manifold issues. One book that creatively informs children is The Tale of Makkhilal

This book, authored by Geeta Dharmarajan and illustrated by Charbak Dipta, was first published in 1994 by Katha, and was recently reissued by the same Indian publisher with additional illustrations. Though a children’s book, it is in actuality an eye-opener for every mindful member of our community.

It unravels several issues that have been prevalent in India since several years now – ignorance toward the unhygienic conditions and inhumane ecosystems in which a large section of the human population lives, the lack of initiative coming from the members of the higher cusp of the social order to help the ones coming from under-resourced backgrounds, and unawareness of the damage such diseases can do.

Additionally, some underlying facets of this opus reflect a bunch of issues that are relevant to particularly the Indian masses – blind faith in “Godmen” and serving them unconditionally, constant fear of being “cursed” by an invisible, master-like figure that was, to begin with, placed on a pedestal by this commonality. 

The book addresses some of the most critical issues, such as health and hygiene, equality, and the importance of a promising governing system, in the form of a delightful poem that is easy for children to comprehend.

The poem is simply worded and vividly illustrated. This makes it a perfect children’s book. It motivates one to lead, to start a revolution toward a clean and hygienic planet, and consequently, a happy and healthy community. At the same time, it helps children revisit the idea of leadership and who and how to choose role models in their lives.

To bring about change, one must not be afraid to take the first and most important step. Reading this book and contemplating its subject matter is that first and most crucial step. 

Rhythm Gupta

Rhythm Gupta is pursuing a BSc in economics and finance at Ashoka University in Sonipat, Haryana.