On a quiet and a calm Saturday morning on Nov. 16, 2019, Devika Cariappa, Bal Sahitya Puraskar awardee of this year conducted a workshop for children. The event was at Tulika Bookstore in Alwarpet.

Devika Cariappa is by profession, an archaeologist and also an amazing author. The workshop she had with children on that day was based on her award-winning book ‘India through Archaeology: Excavating History.

There was an air of fun atmosphere and ambience with thousands of books kept neatly. Around 30 children, aged between 5 to 12 years were seen immersed in activities, having different articles with them.

The young kids, in groups of two and three, played a game wherein they acted like archaeologists from the year 3019 who have just excavated articles from 2019. They tried to decipher what those articles could mean. Each one had different ideas; some funny which made the parents laugh while some others had even more interesting ideas. Parents of the kids also took part in this.

After this interesting workshop, author Devika Cariappa read out a few excerpts from her book. She spoke about Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, who is recorded in Indian History as the first woman freedom fighter of India. The participants listened to her in rapt attention.

When they heard about the oppression faced by women in those days such as child marriage, they were shocked beyond their core. They vowed that they will not discriminate their friends on the basis of religion, caste, sex or creed. After the reading session, the author signed copies of her books for parents and children.

On her interest in archaeology, Ms. Cariappa said that she had a deep and passionate love for the subject since childhood and getting to know things about the behaviour and habits of the ancient people made her very excited. When asked about the challenges she faced while writing the book, she said that, while the publishing part was taken care of by the Tulika Team, it was difficult for her to gather vast information and present it in a manner which will captivate the children. She said that she always wanted to write a book for children and this book took her almost two years to fully process, illustrate and publish it. To a question about her favourite civilisation, she replied that Chola and Indus Valley Civilizations always kept her intrigued and amazed.

Mother of Rahul who attended the workshop said, “People always consider non-fiction as dull and boring. But Devika has done a great job by writing a non-fiction book which will appeal to the children.”

As I left the bookstore, I looked around one last time and this particular quote by Marcus Cicero came to my mind: “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” Indeed there is no better thing than a book and no greater heaven than a bookstore!