By Nidhi Gaur
Climate change is not fifty years away. It is here, shaping our reality. When we are Home, written by Priyadarshini Gogoi and illustrated by Pankaj Saikia urges readers to take heed of this crisis through the story of two siblings rafting on an overflowing Brahmputra, as they think about their home… fragrant with Aneaido’s til pitha, rhythmically swaying to papa’s snores, and dancing to the beats of ma’s loom. The home that is now submerged in flood water, leaving the two children homeless, struggling to survive with their family in a makeshift house.
What makes it particularly evocative is the gradual unfolding. Readers enter this cautionary tale with optimism and leave with a vivid awareness of the jolting reality of climate change and the threat it poses for children. Yet, the seeds of hope are planted and are likely to stay, encouraging young readers to make the world a better place for everyone.
The story compels us to ask what we are leaving behind for our children and what lies ahead for children born in the recent years? It also takes a searing look at the socio-economic reality, raising uneasy questions about the background of the children.
Assam is a particularly flood-prone state. In recent years the devastation caused by floods has been unprecedented. In June 2022, even before the onset of monsoon, the region had seen over 100 percent excess rainfall, affecting nearly 30 districts and more than 40 lakh people. Moreover, the state government reports that extreme rainfall events are likely to increase by 38 percent. By centring the narrative within this ecologically-fragile geography, the book encourages readers to find out more about the state’s topographical realities, the causes of frequent flooding and how climate change is making life increasingly difficult for its population.
A special note of appreciation is due to Pankaj Saikia. His imaginatively composed illustrations effectively manoeuvre the tricky then-and-now narrative, to provide a striking glimpse of everyday life in a rural home in Assam, without overwhelming readers with the weight of the tragedy.
As the weather pushes to the extremes every year, and floods and droughts become rampant, this picture book offers a timely reminder of the immediacy of the crisis and how it is shaping our everyday lives.
Nidhi Gaur is an academic and a researcher who has been working with children in various capacities for nearly 20 years.