Our editorial intern, Nandini Ranganathan, had some wonderful thoughts about The Homework, written by Ashwin Guha and illustrated by Vaibhav Kumaresh.
The word ‘homework’ brings mixed emotions with it, especially for those of us who do not have to deal with it anymore. It hits us hard with nostalgia and makes us want to laugh at ourselves for thinking that we were even worried about homework assignments back in the day.
When we were still in school, however, not finishing an assignment was the end of the world. We did not have anything bigger to deal with, and that was as scary a situation we could ever be in – the doom of impending punishment, the embarrassment of being laughed at by our classmates, and the dread of our parents inevitably coming to know about the incident during the parent-teacher meet.
So, like Bhattu and Kittu, the protagonists of The Homework, we would try to take a shortcut and submit whatever we could. At least, we would be turning in something. The duo approaches their elder sister, Meena, for help in finishing their illustrated essay on a big mammal. Annoyed at being interrupted while reading, she gives them information on rhinos off the top of her head, and the hilarious aftermath of her half-hearted help is seen when the boys turn in their work.
Children, by nature, connect what they hear to what they know. They fill the gaps in their knowledge with the cues they get from us and weave their realities. They may be profound, or they may be bizarre. They could also be a combination of the two, similar to the way Bhattu evolves a new and improved species of rhinos – the Lastminuteus homeworkaceros. We can’t help lauding his artistic skills, with each detail we notice in his diagram of the rhino, and defending his creation by saying, “He’s not drawn anything false, though!”
The Homework, perfect for children aged 4 to 6, comically introduces the concept of words having multiple meanings, encouraging children to look for other such instances. The illustrations by the Emmy-nominated animation filmmaker, Vaibhav Kumaresh, complement the humour of the book perfectly, leaving readers of all ages in splits. The stick figures, paper cut-outs and the blue-lined paper make us feel like we’re perusing through our completed assignment.
That’s not all. The book, which celebrates the wild imagination of children, also subtly poses a question. “Does the system, as it stands, aim to nurture our imagination or fetter it?”