When Amma went away – Devika Rangachari 1

Worth a read
When Amma Went Away - Devika Rangachari

After reading the exciting and enthralling “Queen of Ice” by Devika Rangachari, I thought that the author’s name rang a bell. Then I dug out this book “When Amma went away” written by her about a decade back, proving her mettle as a writer even then.

Nalini, a 14-year old girl, hears an unexpected news that her mother, a researcher got through a tough selection for a project in Singapore, which would translate to six months of time away from the family.

Though Nalini is proud of her mother’s achievement, she is also reluctant about having Patti (grandmother in Tamil), who is almost a stranger to her to substitute for Amma.

Patti, in her traditional attire of madisar and no-nonsense ways is not an instant hit with her, but her 8-year old brother, Arun takes to Patti easily.

Unable to discuss her affairs at school with mother, Nalini is upset. When Patti insists on she having her breakfast before going to school and Nalini gobbles her food only to fall sick at school and miss the much-awaited Prayer Service, Nalini’s anger turns towards Patti.

When her father requests Patti to attend the PTA meeting, Nalini feels ashamed to show her traditionally attired grandmother to her friends.

Things reach a peak when Nalini goes to the Book fair with her neighbour Mrs. Anand and chooses to return late with other friends of hers. Patti and Nalini have a verbal assault and Nalini breaks down.

There are a few incidents which serve as a silver lining in the clouds, like when Patti serves a grand lunch for Nalini and her friends or when Patti and the children set up the golu arrangement of dolls for navratri.

But do these make Nalini accept Patti? How will she manage with Patti till Amma returns?

Read this simple tale of relationships and emotions to find out.

This book won the first prize for General Fiction in the Competition for Writers of Children’s books organized by Children’s Book Trust.

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  1. A simple, but effective story exploring relationships and emotions.
  2. Devika Rangachari has raised a valid point of some Tamilians feeling ashamed of their culture and traditions, when they move outside their native state. (This could be true of other communities too.) Nalini feeling ashamed to wear the pavadai in front of her friends or to show her patti to her friends is proof of this. Eventually Nalini learns to appreciate her own culture. I am reminded of a similar question raised by a friend on a social network. Why have south Indian weddings adopted lots of north Indian traditions – the Sherwani for the groom, the sari style of the bride, the food and even the Mehendi ceremony? Are we ashamed of our traditions?
  3. Nalini’s friendship with Aditi and Renuka, her enmity with Richa and her love for Arun hidden behind their squabbles are portrayed efficiently using the incidents that tie the story.

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  1. I am not sure if I fully understood how it feels to be in the place of Nalini because I was never separated from my mother during my entire childhood. My daughter, who has had a similar experience to Nalini might know the feelings better. Every child of a career woman would relate to Nalini in the story.


Book Details:

Title When Amma went away
Amazon Paperback
Flipkart Paperback
Editor(s)/Author(s)/Illustrator(s)/Translator(s) Devika Rangachari
Publisher CBT (Children's Book Trust)

About Menaka S

Menaka is a computational linguist by education, an optimist by attitude and a dreamer by how she spends her time. Being left-brained, she runs PlusMinus'n'More to indulge her right brain interests.

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