Bijoy and the Big River
By Meera Sriram and Praba Ram
What’s it like to grow up on a river that serves as your family and community’s livelihood? That’s the setting of this story that follows a day in the life of a young boy, Bijoy, growing up in Northeast India along the Burha Luit river.
Bijoy loves to swim in the river and spot xihu, an endangered species of dolphin, which is generally blind. He also takes the boat with his deuta, father, to a weaving village where they deliver the silk that his parents, who are silk farmers, grow and produce. His deuta raises eri silkworms in their backyard while his mother spins the silk. Beautifully illustrated with actual photographs, the pictures allow us to better understand the setting, including boats on a calm river, women spinning silk and close-up shots of the silkworm and cocoon—who knew creatures that looked like that produced such luxurious material!
The story is both fun for children to follow along since it has elements kids will love—worms, dolphins, boats, a rhino—but it is also educational. As the story unfolds, notes in the margins tell us fun facts about the river and region, which are very helpful to understanding the past and present of the village and culture. For example, one fascinating thing I learned is that “In many methods of silk harvesting, the silkworm is killed before it matures into an adult moth. However the eri silkworm is allowed to develop fully and…is not harmed in the process, eri is known as ‘Peace Silk’.”
The book is part of the “Where I Live” series, which explores daily life for children in different settings across India. The authors’ inspiration to write this style of books originates from a blend of their own childhood in India and their own love of children’s books. For Meera Sriram, one of the co-authors of the book, the books she read in school in India growing up were largely always British stories, which did not reflect everyday life around her. This discrepancy was the subconscious thread that later guided her into writing children’s stories set in India that would both mirror the life children experienced around them in India, and be educational for children everywhere.
This book is the authors’ third. Both their first book “Dinaben and the Lions of Gir” and their second, “Subbu and the Signal” were included by the Indian National School Board on the “Recommended Reading List” for children—a huge triumph for the authors that Indian children’s books are starting to gain more ground in a curriculum previously dominated by British’s children’s stories.