Tuesday, March 22, 2016

WRITER & AUTHOR THARINI PANDE: Scurry's New Neighbor & the Importance of Calling Each Other by Name

Inspirational Writer & Author
Tharini Pande (www.tharinipande.com)

Names are important.

Just recently, my wife has changed her morning routine. She used to walk down our almost quarter-of-a-mile gravel driveway to retrieve her daily newspaper, walk back, pour herself a cup of tea, sit down at the diningroom table and dictate to me the noteworthy parts of the newspaper while I mind-mapped in one of my journals or worked on my laptop. This routine would last from 8:00 a.m.-9:30 a.m. until recently when we woke up to the reality that, while informative, this arrangement did more to stifle our chi than, say, listening to caustic talk radio for positive inspiration.

 Our driveway

The reason we stopped reading the paper in the morning was because it set a pretty depressing tone for the rest of the day. As writers and publishers, my wife and I naturally channel and assume the thoughts and positions of others. Additionally, we have a vested interest in topics currently popular, like veteran issues, cause marketing, business trends, and immigration. It's a high level of functional empathy we experience that can be both intermittently exhilirating and exhausting. You just don't know until it happens. But one factor that made it easy to switch up my routine of newsgathering was the refugee crisis. Especially the children. 

Other than suffering, acceptance of one's mortality, or having children, I'm not sure of any better teachers to help dislodge the meaningless, petty, and untried doctrines to which we intellectually subscribe but which becomes ugly when manifested in the physical world. I have children: six of them. And lately when challenged by religious, political, and social idealogues whose gut impulse is to speak in damaging ways about the least of these, I've ended such conversations with the sentiment I'm a parent. I don't have the luxury of principles. So when I saw the image of the three-year-old Syrian boy who was found washed up and face-down in the surf on a Turkish beach, I couldn't help but to feel a jolt of primordial pain.

The Grayson Children

During this last year as the refugee situation has taken up more and more space in our daily newspapers and news outlets, I was working with the author Tharini Pande (www.tharinipande.com) on her first children's book Scurry's New Neighbor, illustrated by Lex Avellino (http://www.alexanderavellino.com/). The story has a simple storyline, reminiscent of Aesop's Fables, but in expanded form. 

Scurry is a squirrel that, living up to his name, darts about gathering food around his tree. One day he realizes that a beautiful bluejay has built a nest in his tree. Fearful that the bluejay not only has invaded his space but might also compete for his finite food resources, Scurry doubles his efforts to scurry about and hoard all the food that he can. More anxious than anything else, Scurry finds himself overworked, caught in a rainstorm, tired, and hungry. But just when he is about to go to bed miserable, the bluejay invites him into her nest to share berries. Needless to say, the selfish squirrel is caught off guard but accepts the offer.

Blue-wy: Call me Blue-wy.
Scurry: And call be Scurry.
Both: I think we are going to be great neighbors.

I told Tharini in a phone call that after several dozen times of reading her book, it finally clicked with me why the book's message meant so much to me. It was because the relationship changed when they learned each others' names.

So I learned the little Syrian boy's name. His name was Aylan Kurdi. I also learned that his 5-year-old brother's name was Galip, and his mother's name was Rehan. All drowned. And as much as it pained me to learn their names (others might say that I've unnecessarily burdened myself by learning their names), it makes Aylan, Galip, and Rehan that much closer. Like neighbors.

Aylan and his brother, Galip

So that's one major reason my wife and I don't read the newspaper in the morning anymore. Too many nameless faces and too many tragic histories that our hearts, unable to take it all in at a respectable human level, become that much more hardened to the plight of these humans. To our plight. Now, we learn about their stories after our work for the day is more than over. We converse about it in the evening, and it often plays out in our dreams. But then we wake up again the next morning, feeling more energized to work on their behalf, especially when we know their names.

To learn more about Tharini Pande and her book Scurry's New Neighbor, go to website www.tharinipande.com or drop her a line on her fb page at https://www.facebook.com/authortharinipande/

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