Chandrika Kumari, 8 years old, from a village in Okra, Khunti district of Jharkhand, shared her response after listening to ‘Jamlo Walks’. She said, “I listened to Jamlo’s story and felt bad for her. She had to walk a long distance to reach home and must have been very tired. She didn’t even have food to eat or money to buy anything; had only a bag of chillies which she earned against working in the chilli fields. She walked day and night since there were no transport available due to the lockdown.” There were many other children like Chandrika who expressed empathy towards Jamlo and connected deeply with the story.

‘Jamlo Walks’ is based on a true story of Jamlo Makdam, a 12-year-old girl, who walked from the chilli fields in Telengana to her home in Chhattisgarh during the nationwide lockdown due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a picture book written by Samina Mishra, illustrated by Tariq Aziz and published by Puffin, Penguin.

Bookworm Goa (https://www.bookwormgoa.in/) an organization working with a vision ‘to inspire and develop a love for reading as a way of life, nurturing humane engagement in every girl and boy,’ had provided an opportunity to the team at Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI), an associate organization of the Tata Trusts (https://www.cinicell.org/) to engage and explore the book with children in tribal villages. CInI works with children belonging to the tribal and other disadvantaged communities studying in government schools and supports in ensuring access to quality education. The team read aloud the story to more than 1500 children across 4 districts (Khunti, Hazaribagh, East Singbhum and Lohardaga) of Jharkhand.

The book provided a safe space for children to talk about critical issues of society and the complexities of lives. It opened a conversation on possible alternatives, what in the narrative could have been different, what could be some ways of supporting distressed people and more. They came up with a range of suggestions on how people should treat one another during difficult circumstances in their daily lives, and thought of ways that could have improved the situations of migrant workers during the lockdown. Some of them shared their experiences similar to Jamlo’s that they went through during the lockdown. Along with a conversation around the story, children also wrote and drew their thoughts. A few older children went on to collect searing images of migrant workers from during the lockdown, and some role played the story.

From the latter part of the book, children were expecting Jamlo to reach home safely. But the story unfolded differently. It had a deep impact on all those who read it, it was rather emotional. With hope that a situation as this never arises again, ‘Jamlo’s Walk’ paved a way for children to thinking about justice, kindness and sensitivity for one and all.

Edited by:- Proma Basu Roy, Team Parag

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