I have fond memories from my childhood and adolescence. There was no television then; we were expected to be in bed by 9 in the night. The only time we were permitted to stay up late – almost till midnight – was going out to watch Ramleela with my grandfather. This is a street play organised in Indian villages, towns and cities every year for a few days before the Hindu festival of Dussehra, depicting the life of Lord Rama till he killed Ravana.
Another memory is that of visits to the temple on Saturdays for the sweet boondi, traditional offering for the God. The common character in all these memories was our mythological superhero Lord Hanuman.
As I grew older, I saw my friends visiting the temple to pray for success in examinations. They also recited verses to the God when scared. Over years, I also mechanically listened to the verses sung by priests and devotees during prayer ceremonies. The words were melodious and soothing, but I did not understand the meaning as they were written in Awadhi language by the great poet Tulsidas. This hymn in praise of Lord Hanuman was Hanuman Chalisa.
I recently came across My First Hanuman Chalisa, an illustrated translation in English. This is not a story book; yet an interesting book not only for children, but also for adult parents of children. It was a revelation to me also as I finally understood the meaning of those verses from my memories. The illustrations will appeal to children as they read the book or the book is read to them. It is a good addition for the home library of every child, but price of Rs 999/- would be a deterrent for a wider outreach.