Aa is for Aaloo

f95f4466edf83247eabfe99fd6f4e948-4_small

f95f4466edf83247eabfe99fd6f4e948-4Varnamala Geet by Madhu Aggarwal. Diwaliby Manisha Kumar and Monica Kumar. KHUSHE MANÄO by Sheetal Singhal. www.meeramasi.com

We needed three hands to review the three sets of Hindi language products published by MeeraMasi. In part this was because the diverse products encompass traditional children’s books, a helpful Devanagri alphabet chart, and complementary audio CDs. But three hands were also required to give multiple perspectives: native Hindi speaker, non-fluent Hindi speaker, and American-born child.

f95f4466edf83247eabfe99fd6f4e948-3 (1)On the one hand, MeeraMasi uses graphics that feel Indian, while publishing products that exemplify long-lasting American children’s books. Varnamala Geet ’s elegant packaging of a colorful two-sided chart and pocket CD is an example of this excellent hybridization, enabling one to quickly learn Hindi letters and sounds.

On the other hand, there is considerable inconsistency in how the Devanagri script is transliterated into English. Widely accepted rules are not followed; more troubling is the variance in the products themselves. For example, a non-native speaker will not know whether to sayf95f4466edf83247eabfe99fd6f4e948-1 (1) the incorrect “ka” or the correct “kaa” in the title of Diwali: Khushiyon Ka Tyohaar. Also, it is unclear why in one title “Bunty” ends with a “y” and “Babli” ends with an “i,” and in yet another book the itsy bitsy spider is a Chhot Mot Makad, not a Chhoti Moti Makadi.

On the third hand, in the spirit of a dear aunty, MeeraMasi has lovingly introduced something that is easily lost—language and thus culture—into the lives of those having roots in India. The familiarity of nursery rhymes (Bunty and Babli are Jack and Jill in Indian garb) makes these books a fine first step in language acquisition. Indeed, with globalization giving root to greater connectivity, even a non-Indian professional going to Delhi for a business trip would benefit from listening and repeating the sounds of India’s most spoken language. —Anupama R. Oza, Mangla R. Oza, Rajesh C. Oza

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