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Children are the gurus as they help us from the perils of being adults: Vani Tripathi Tikoo

The launch of actor and Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) member, Vani Tripathi Tikoo’s book Why can’t Elephants be Red? celebrated children, women, and the role of families in the upbringing of kids. “The title of the book Why can’t Elephants be Red? was the last play I did for my theatre education company, called Laal Laal Hathi, which was about the inner world of a child and a small little red elephant that lives inside the heart of a kid. The world is full of grey and black elephants, and the rare white ones. But this child believes there is a red elephant who goes to school every day in the school bag along with them. I wanted to remember all those little red elephants that we still have inside but we have forgotten because we have become adults,” said Tikoo. “Children are the gurus as they help us from the perils of being adults,” she added.

The book — also tells a touching story of the time Tikoo couldn’t go back to her toddler daughter in Singapore for a year and a half during the Covid-19 pandemic. “During the Covid-19 lockdown, my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Akshara (Akku) was without me, because I was with my mother in Delhi. Akku, who is also the protagonist of the book was being brought up by this beautiful family of 12 people, who every day made it possible for her that she would play and be happy. So, this journey is unique and these are all real people. These are grandparents that you and I have had in our life. These people are the diddas, the buas and the aunts, and all those people who help us in bringing up our children. Well, there is a saying that it takes a village to bring up a child. I think in my case, it takes two different countries to bring up this child. I am very grateful for bringing this story out,” said Tikoo.

The book was released in the presence of Smriti Zubin Irani, Union Minister for Women and Child Development and Minority Affairs. Also present at the launch was actor Paresh Rawal, who read excerpts from the book, and Ramesh Chandra Gaur, director of the National School of Drama (NSD).

Addressing the gathering at the launch, Irani said, “If I go back to the day when Akshara left, to the day I saw her reunite with her mother, all I can remember is the howls of a mother taken away from her child. Ki dard mein bhi, bachchon ki kahani kahi jaa sakti hai, yeh kitaab uska saboot hai. Paresh sir, and I, are here to celebrate the life and journey of not a co-actor, but of a mother. One of her greatest challenges was to be torn between her mother and her child. Being the eldest daughter in my own family — a family that has only daughters — we know how relationships can tear you apart. Not Geographically but emotionally. Two and a half years ago, if somebody told me that the phone is ringing, and it was Vaani who is calling, my first question was never that, ‘oh, she is calling me to share jubilant happenstance’. Or, she is calling me because she has good news to share. I knew that she called to tell me that something happened to her mother— that either amma has collapsed or she has to be rushed to the hospital or somebody has done something at the hospital and she is not recovering.” She added, “So Vaani, jab aap chaturai dikhaati hain, aur ek bahaut hi sundar si bachchon ki kitaab likhti hai, toh shayad isko compliment karte huye, un auraton ke liye bhi kitaab zaroor likhni chahiye, jo rishton mein bant jaati hai, par har rishton mein nyaya karti hai.”

Complimenting, Tikoo on becoming an author, and a child’s inquisitiveness being one of the reasons for getting inspired to write a book, Irani said, “I will be honest that I don’t stand here for the child’s book. I am being blunt. I don’t stand here for the publisher. I stand here for families that have kept themselves together irrespective of pandemics, and challenges including those that are brought forth by Geographies. I have heard Vaani howl because she could not get a visa to visit her family in Singapore. I have seen her break down in the most glamorous of markets, called the Khan Market. Why? Because she was going from one desk to another to just reach her child. And, just when there was a glimmer of hope that she will reach her child, she would volunteer to stay back with her mother, who had nobody else to depend on.”

The author tweets @Namyasinha

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