The Little Rainmaker by Roopal Kewalya, published by Puffin, the children’s imprint of Penguin, is situated in a world without rain. The year is 2028, and it hasn’t rained for the past ten years. Anoushqa’s grandfather is old and frail and doesn’t have long to live. He dreams of seeing it rain again before he passes on, and Anoushqa is determined to make this happen for him. Here lies the emotional heart of the story – the sentiments that drive the characters who aid and encourage Anoushqa in realising ‘Grampa’s Wish’ – her friends, the scientist Gargi, teachers at school and, as the story progresses, her parents, and even the Prime Minister. Anoushqa also reaches out to the Magic Mistry Rainwalla as backup support, just in case. With all these characters rallying behind her, she fights the forces of capitalism – rapacious Mr Bhalla, the owner of the Humidome Mall, who wants to hijack the idea of rain for his own gain.
A strength of the story is the manner in which it projects children as agents of change. Anoushqa is ten years old. But in a ‘waterless’ world she resolutely pursues her aim and becomes ‘The Rainmaker’. In the words of her grandfather, she’s a little butterfly which, “when it flaps its wings, can set off a hurricane in another part of the world.” Anoushqa’s “little-ness” is in no way a limit or a constraint. Even though she has inherited a world riddled with environmental challenges, she collaborates with adults, experts and decision-makers to co-create a better future, inspiring young readers to think, act and drive change.
Published just before teenaged climate warrior Greta Thunberg came into the collective consciousness, this book, almost clairvoyantly, created her fictional counterpart. Both Anoushqa and Greta speak the same language when insisting that, “we hear the scientists,” as also when they’re guided by feelings and emotions. In an impassioned appeal to world leaders to act now, Greta said, “We children are doing this because we want our hopes and dreams back.” Within the pages of this novel, Anoushqa says, “Those who don’t feel are abnormal. And it would be awesome to have the power to shake things up when you really feel something.” Interestingly enough, both use social media platforms to garner support for their cause – Anoushqa’s page is ‘Grampa’s Dream’ and Greta’s global youth movement – ‘Friday’s for Future.’ A prescient fictional narrative, The Little Rainmaker, is a moving account of childhood grappling with a world steeped in an environmental crisis.
By Archana Atri