Published: 27th November 2020
How this Mumbai-based author's latest book drives home the importance of inclusivity in an increasingly divided world
When Adil Speaks is a thoughtful book that has equally thought-provoking illustrations as well. The idea of the book has been brewing in the mind of author Lavanya Karthik for a very long time now
Adil is a child with a hearing impairment. And yet, that's the last thing you'll notice about him. If the notions like reticent and shy, which one tends to associate with any differently-abled person, are coming to your mind he will defeat them all. In fact, Adil has no qualms about making friends. He loves climbing trees while his friends cheer on for him. He is kind to cats and he listens to music by placing his hand in front of the speaker and feeling its vibrations. This youngster was initially a figment of author and illustrator Lavanya Karthik's imagination. And if you want to meet him, all you need to do is pick up Lavanya's latest book, When Adil Speaks! On an aside, if her name rings a bell, she is the creator of the iconic character, Ninja Nani!
From the book | (Pic: Lavanya Karthik)
It's all about representation in children's books for Lavanya. "Even though some novels do touch upon the disabled, there are very few who dwell into the theme. Also, I have always been interested in sign language. It has its own grammar and syntax," she says. Speaking of language, in the book When Adil Speaks published by Puffin, Adil actually draws out an introverted child from his shell with the help of art, unlike stereotypes will have you know that it is usually the other way round where a gregarious child befriends a disabled one and draws him out. Also, this illustrated book relies more on illustration than words to tell you Adil's story. "Adil is full of confidence and is hindered by nothing. Unlike what people think, that the disabled have trouble interacting. Adil is naughty, cheerful and so much more," she says.
And yet, the book is not about disability as much as it is about empathy and inclusivity. Lavanya also calls it a wordless book, because even without the words, you would be able to understand Adil's journey through the illustrations she has made. But does she think illustration curb the imagination of children and spoon feed children the images they are supposed to be drawing up in their mind's eye themselves? "On the contrary. I think it triggers the child's imagination. Plus, it conveys so much more than just text. Without mentioning it, I have shown the reader how Adil is kind to kittens, listens to music and many of his other attributes," says the Mumbai-based author.
Lavanya Karthik | (Pic: Lavanya Karthik)
It's always been about breaking stereotypes for Lavanya. Even with her Ninja Nani series, the main character, Nani, is a senior citizen who has special powers. And it's the fourth installment in the series that she is working on currently. We wonder if the qualities of acceptance, kindness and empathy which we have as kids are left behind with childhood and the world hardens us up? "Yes, it surely does. But maybe with books like When Adil Speaks, we can reconnect with our childhood and remember all those qualities we have forgotten," she says and concludes.