Dinaben and the Lions of Gir

I’d like to present our very own stars, bloggy pals and now published authors, Praba Ram and Meera Sriram  – and their book, Dinaben and the Lions of Gir. Did I tell you guys how insanely proud of you two I am? And incase you don’t know, Praba is the force behind Saffron Tree, the children’s book review blog I contribute to.

Published by Tulika, the book talks about the Maldhari tribe, whose main occupation is dairy farming, and also the Asiatic Lion. Read this to know more about the story behind the story. And read this to get to know more about our two authors.

We’ve all been going on about saving the remaining 1141 tigers – but did you know there are only 350 Asiatic Lions remaining? Are you as horrified as I am? Go on and read the review and then go out and buy the book for your babies. And oh – can we start a Save the Lion campaign too?

I started it in my own small way. The Brat loves lions and when I told him that soon all the Asiatic lions will be dead and he’ll only be able to look at them in picture books, like his beloved dinosaurs, he was most upset.

He had this school fancy dress competition a few days ago and when I asked him what he wanted to be, he said he wanted to be an Asiatic lion!! So that is what we went with. I got him a pair of brown trousers, and hunted in vain for a plain brown shirt or teeshirt. Finally on our Mussoorie holiday I found a very cute yellow sweater with a lion made on the tummy. On our return I began work on a mane. I picked up a brown woollen cap, and brown wool and began to pull long strands through it. But the wool wouldn’t fluff out like a mane and he just looked like a very weird little girl in a wig. Of course that upset him because even he, at 4 and a half could see that he didn’t look like a lion! We finally got (read: tailored!) a brown body suit and got a mane and taught him his lines, – which included the last cheeky line – “There are only 350 lions like me left. Please save me before you save the tiger.”

The OA and I roared with laughter each time he said it and the Bean went as a little fairy because that is her current craze. When we reached school on the big day, there were the usual round of social messages – donate blood, save the earth etc with some very well made costumes. One parent whose kid is learning classical Indian dance sent her in her dance costume and her tape and she first spent a good three monotonous moments telling us what she would do… and then another 4 -5 minutes dancing. She was only 4.5 and undoubtedly learning, but it wasn’t meant to be a dance recital, it was meant to be a fancy dress – so coming and performing something that you have been learning for a year isn’t the deal. My personal favourite was a little drop of water who said her lines beautifully. The one that really got my goat was someone who copied last year’s winner – a Thank You card to the school. Gah – apple polishers. Did I mention there were a whole bunch of tigers asking to be saved too!

I gave the Brat very few lines and he drove me nuts when I was teaching them to him. He’d change them everyday and say anything he pleased – “I am an Asiatic lion and I like chasing deer… ” or “I am an Asiatic lion and I am going to eat you up. Growwwwwl”. It would be funny if I weren’t trying to get him to stand still on stage and say his lines. After his recent setback and suspected learning problem, I didn’t want his school to have yet another reason to complain about him. Day after day the OA and I chased him around pretending to be lions, laughing, joking, having fun, practicing in front of the mirror with a comb held like a mike. But the Brat would not say his lines right. We shoud have realised he would say it eventually after  last year’s drama over the fancy dress but we didn’t want to regret not trying hard enough.

So as I sat there watching the other children shuffle on to stage and slowly and indistinctly mumble lines that no one understood I crossed my fingers and prayed really hard that my son wouldn’t get upset by the crowd and run away. I saw him standing in the wings and smiled at him. He glared at me and growled. I gave up hope and made my peace with the fact that it was after all, only a children’s contest.

And finally his turn came and I felt my stomach clench. And then Someone Up There smiled down on mother and son and the Brat bounded on to stage cheerfully where every other child had reluctantly shuffled on. He grinned confidently into the audience, bestowed his sweetest smile on me and said his lines beautifully after introducing himself. Loud and clear. His words distinct, his voice ringing crystal clear across the audience. I felt my eyes well up and I fumbled to take pictures of him. Perhaps I am biased and if I don’t write it down here where else will I – I think he was the best. My little lion cub rocked his few simple lines, bowed and said thank you, and walked off stage.

Maybe if this were a hindi movie like Taare Zameen Par, I’d be able to end this saying that he came first. But he didn’t so I can’t. The apple-polishing Thank you card came first (the grapes ARE sour !!;)). But it didn’t matter at all. I think he had wonderful stage presence and if he lost out at all it’s because we didn’t trust him with a more complicated message. And perhaps because his costume wasn’t the most creative either.

It’s also a lesson to me to not expect so little of my son. Other parents have high expectations and are disappointed when they aren’t met. I tentatively give my children lower benchmarks to meet and end up pleasantly surprised when they surpass them and also kick myself for not  helping them push that bar higher.

The Bean on the other hand spent a good fortnight preening in front of the mirror and saying her lines to any visitor. The OA was after me to give her a nice lengthy poem to go with it but I figured the point was to just participate. With no house help (again!), my job, a recalcitrant Brat who was refusing to learn his lines and the  Mussoorie holiday bang in the middle, I really didn’t want to rock that boat. She was just doing so damn well that I didn’t want to add to my work.

A good thing too because she woke up on the morning of the show and began to cry for just about everything. She didn’t want to eat, to dress, to brush her teeth.. anything, nothing.

We reached school and she howled while waiting her turn. A lot of the other 2-3 year olds were also crying and parents were encouraged to go on stage with them. I walked up to her, carrying a little handful of fairy dust that was to be thrown the moment she said her lines. She decided it was a good time to play Holi with me and by the time our turn came she had my face shining like the moon.

She wrenched herself away as we walked on to stage and I groaned inwardly. Kicking myself for thinking less of my son and too much of her. And then the moment she reached the mike, the little diva in her took over and she grabbed it, grinned confidently at the audience and said her lines. I threw her fairy dust over her and we walked off the stage to applause.

End of one headache for the year!!

Anyone want to predict the next?!

Let me end by thanking Praba and Meera for their lovely book and the idea, once again, and wishing them luck. Anyone else want to join hands and start a proper campaign for the Asiatic Lion?

53 thoughts on “Dinaben and the Lions of Gir

  1. Lovely post! And I think its so sweet that you are putting all this down. Years later when you read your old posts and the memories come rushing back it will be such a warm happy feeling.

  2. Fancy dress competitions were so much fun, for us kids that is, I now see the effort and prep that the parents put in. I once went as a vessel seller- the kinds that sell their wares on the street. I was completely, at age three, taken by the one who was a regular on our street. I also once went as the Kelvinator penguin with a thermocol fridge as my side kick. My dad made the fridge which I think we still have in the store room in Calcutta and my mum sewed the outfit and all the work paid off I won first prize!!!

  3. Hi MM,
    Wonderful post….1411 v/s 350…add to that about 70,000 parsis and you know that good things just don’t last forever.

    And then consider the ‘efforts’ the government undertakes to ‘save’ these species from extinction –

    1. The MP government wants to take away some of these Asiatic lions and ‘re-settle’ them in that state. The Guj government, meanwhile, is cashing in on the fact that Sasan Gir is the ‘last abode of the Asiatic lion’ and therefore, doesn’t want to let go of that precious title. They say that if they send lions to MP, they’ll lose the revenue from phoren tourists, who’ll obviously flock to MP, where they’ll get a lion and a beer rather than just a lion. they won’t send lions to MP, but they’ll allow a vehicle inside the park after sundown, where the headlights will scare a full-grown male lion to jump off a bridge and drown in the hiran river below (it is a mean drop…the lion, all of 300 kgs, cleared the 3-ft cement barricade and jumped into the river)…they’ll do that, but won’t send the lions elsewhere.

    2. Sariska Kanha and Simplipal…..just three reasons why everything is intrinsically wrong with tiger conservation in India. in kanha, they pinpoint tigers inside the tall grass using elephants and then arrange for tourists to sight-see from their comfy perches atop elephants. if a tiger spends most of the morning and evening caught in-between tourists and elephants, where will it find time to mate?

    3. lastly, parsis haven’t made things easy for themselves by being so insular. and then pranab-babu allocated a princely sum of 1 cr in this budget for helping the parsi community ‘propagate’…hello? in case they haven’t noticed, parsis are rich enough already and don’t need this 1 cr….they need a better deal and a culture that demonstrates more inclusive-ness.

      • @Anand & MM: I’ve been meaning to do my bit to appeal for the lions with the tagline “As a Parsi, I know what it feels like.” 🙂 Maybe I will finally do that post.

        But seriously, when the Boy first read about the 1 crore, he snorted and said “Hell, you guys could give the government 1 crore and not even notice.” Which is true. We don’t need money. Just hands to rip off our blinkers and shovels full of good old common sense. If we still choose to use them to hammer nails into our collective coffin, then even the Wise Lord won’t bother with us and She’ll be darn right in doing so too.

        On a related note, please read:

        MM, love and a big squish to my Lion and Fairy. Tell Brattie his Leo aunt is most chuffed. Daintiness isn’t exactly my forte so I’ll just have to live vicariously through Beanie.

        • LOL! i think it’d be a great line…..for a race that’s so intelligent, i can’t wrap my head around the fact that they can be so closed in some matters (recently, a friend got married to a half-Christian, half-Parsi girl and he’s been already decalared persona non-grata in his own home)

          abt the lion-tiger story….sigh!….just yesterday, my wife tells me that there was a report abt 2 tiger cubs being poisoned by villagers in ranathambore- the tiger cubs were becoming a problem as they were killing the villagers’ livestock for food…..
          so there’s this other major problem with ‘conservation’ campaigns….most of these focus on growing the ‘numbers’ through insemination and importing…there’s a lot that can be done by mother nature if we just let tigers (or lions, for that matter) live in peace…

          • half christian, half parsi? wow – and i thought i was the most mixed up brat I knew!
            you know i met this girl who works in spiti. and she was telling me about the villagers killing the wolves because they attack their cattle. its a sad situation. we’d also attack if someone endangered our livelihood. the govt also needs to help these villagers protect their cattle. thats half the problem solved. i mean in that one step the villagers took the number down from 1411 to 1409 .. and imagine how much goes unreported

        • I’ve read your parsi post on UV. I thought I commented too. I must have forgotten to. And yes please – appeal for the lions, not the tigers. enough people doing that!

      • no MM, not a new reader…i regularly read ur posts (stumbled on to your blog from Cal Chromosome’s)…..i think the first post i read was abt u and OA turning ur car around to give money to some urchins, late at night…so, definitely not a new reader 🙂

        just that i never got around to commenting; a couple of times i tried to connect with other bloggers, there was absolute silence, so stopped commenting…was happy when u took time to respond to ur readers (i think that is important)….so, here i am…with my comments almost as long as ur posts!
        ps – the name’s anand 🙂

        • ah – Dipta’s blog. this must be first – a reader coming to me from Dipta. I must take his trip about it. Its usually the other way around and he rags me about it endlessly 🙂

          Yes, its annoying to comment and not get replies. Its like talking to a wall. Which is also how bloggers feel when they see they’re getting 4000 hits a day and only 60 comments!

          and err.. pleased to meet you, Anand 🙂

  4. That is the cutest lil lion with the most adorable button nose, that i ever saw! And the fairy with the wings.. awww…
    Beanie baby, sprinkle some fairy dust my way too 🙂
    Reminded me of my own fancy dress days.. I used to be such an enthusiastic participant! 😀

    • 🙂 yep – I did say that. And I stand by it. My getting a bit of brown fabric tailored is very different to buying a full firefighter’s set from Mothercare, with tools and the rest of the jazz. Where is the effort?

      That said – this is so funny. You read my blog dligently obviously. In fact.. I might go so far as to say that you’re *gasp* a fan! Who else would remember what I said last year?! And yet you’re so nasty? Whassamatter? Your life is not fulfilling enough so you take potshots at the very person who entertains you everyday? Shame shame. If I were you I’d crawl back under that smelly toadstool.

  5. Hey,
    I have been reading your blog for ages (no idea when/how I stumbled upon it) but never really felt the need to comment. However, if you ever decide to do something about the issue of Asiatic lions do publicise it on the blog, I will follow along, and try to contribute in any way possible!

    PS: It’s really very admirable that you take parenting so sincerely and seriously.

      • Ab dikh raha hai.. Surprised at this person! Time enough to remember intricate details but only to deride! Who are these folks??!!

        • *psst*
          don’t say anything okay? I’ve got a troll after a long time and I dont want to hurt its feelings and make it go into hiding. I was wondering if I’d been ditched by all those strange creatures who read devotedly but hate me too. now i see they’re still around. so shhh… dont disturb them 😀

  6. MM, you know, I am glad you taught them simple lines. He is 4 – it would have been a bit ridiculous for him to say – “The near extinction of the Asiatic lions leads to a pall of gloom amongst the wildlife conservationists..”

    Where do I begin? Its a regular argument I have with myself – how much do I script of the kids school projects? I would rather assist in words they understand and relate to.. but sadly, the flashy/fancy ones are the ones that are picked for the prizes..

    • thank you. i am glad someone understands. every word my son said, he understood. better than those who spoke of carbon emission and didnt understand a word of what they were mouthing – even if he won nothing. to me this leads to further spoonfeeding – like making their projects at an older age, instead of letting them do it – again, raising the bar for the poor kids who are doing it themselves. plus what about the small matter of this being about the kid and his understanding ?

  7. Chef last year and Lion this year …. simple and age appropriate !
    So glad his lines were simple and he understood them …

  8. I love your blog. Been following for a long time….been a lurker:). I look forward to your posts. You make every mundane chore/place/event appear so interesting. Love your writing style and of course your kids are adorable. God Bless!

  9. they look totally adorable! mine insisted on being a fairy too, but that was ages ago, when she was three (feels like it was ages ago). I had a poem I wrote for her (simple stuff, cute things) but this fairy dust would have kicked ass, did not think of it!

    • i think its at three that fairies fascinate. the fairy dust didnt strike me either until we left for school in the morning. we’d done craft the night before and it was lying on my table and i grabbed it. am rather thrilled myself. although you know me – i am now wishing i’d figured a way to get it to fly out of her wand. oh alright, ignore me then

      • Since I am sleepless and since I picked up some gorgeous-y, lovely, pastel-ly, pretty, sunny printed Kota sarees over the weekend and since I have been wearing them to work and feeling all Spring-y myself, and since I love your header too, I decided to post one more comment 🙂

          • Oh, they TOTALLY are sesky in such a summery way..yes, sending pics.. along with the mail, soonly.. 🙂

            And well, *ahem* well.. ummm.. well, ONLY the Brat can carry off that line, sorry! 😛 Hehe. Did I mention that I find him totally edibl-y cute in that pic? You must seriously reconsider the moniker of Brat 🙂 Faaar from it, he looks!

            • awright. off to bed with you now. am off to shampoo!
              as for far from brat – i wish i could show you how bratty he is in his gentle, stubborn way. presses all my buttons. its easier to handle a bean who is as hot headed and diva-ish as i am

  10. What a nice post – you rock MM. Your parenting, ideas everything. Muaah.

    They both look super cute. Super super super cute. I loved the lion costume!

  11. this is a real downer –
    BEIJING, March 11 (Reuters) – At least 11 tigers have died of hunger and malnutrition in a Chinese zoo so far this year, the Year of the Tiger in the lunar calendar, local media reported on Thursday.
    China’s wild tiger population is dwindling, but a number of tigers still live in zoos and breeding centres in the northeast.
    Some institutions are lobbying to end a ban on trade in tiger parts, used in Chinese medicine, in order to meet feeding costs that exceed revenues from government support and ticket sales.

  12. Hi,
    I loved loved this post. It was like i was there especially the ‘shining like the moon part’..giggle..
    You make parenting sound so fun and fulfilling rather than dreary,troublesome etc etc…something to look forward too. Thank you.

  13. De-lurking after quite sometime in your response to Anand’s comment 🙂 Read your blog daily but hardly ever comment 😦

    Loved the kids’ costumes and the flower festival.

    Like almost everything you write including about the OA, the kids, issues which interest/bother you, etc.


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