Thukpa for All follows a happy, little boy, Tsering, as he navigates the hilly region of Ladakh. He makes his way back home to his grandmother, dreaming of her yummy noodle soup the whole way.
Originally from Tibet, this dish, also known as thukpa, is now one of the staple foods of the people of Ladakh and the nearby areas of North-East India. After all, what could be more comforting than a bowl of hot noodle soup on a cold, wintery day?
Tsering sings these lines all the way to his grandmother’s house, enticing the various people he meets on the way to join him for dinner and taste the best thukpa in town! He rescues a wandering lamb, comforts an ailing neighbour and finally reaches home. He informs his Abi (grandmother) about the many people he invited on the way there. Abi is worried about having enough food to feed everyone but starts the preparations anyway. Each guest, when they arrive, brings something to add to dinner – cheese, spinach, apricot jam, freshly kneaded dough and buttered tea.
Once Abi starts preparing the feast, the lights go out! There’s no moonlight and Abi can’t finish making the feast.
Who comes to the rescue? Tsering, of course! Light or dark, it doesn’t make a difference to him.
Oh, did I not mention that he’s blind?
He helps out Abi by following her instructions. By the time they drop the noodles into the boiling water, the power comes back on and they all enjoy the best thukpa in town.
The story paints a beautiful picture of a tightly-knit community, who look out for each other. Shilpa Ranade’s illustrations perfectly capture the serenity of Ladakh. From their clothes to the colourful prayer flags hung on the roads, there is an authenticity to the illustrations.
Tsering’s blindness is not shied away from nor is it highlighted to make him feel different. His effortless empathy for the people he meets on the way does not require him to see. It is clear that he is a kind, happy little boy, who loves and is loved by everyone around him and his disability has nothing to do with this.
Thukpa for All follows in the footsteps of other books that try to deal with disability without bringing it to the forefront of the story (Read my review of Machher Jhol here). While it may be more common in the Western world, dealing with complicated issues has not been something the Indian children’s industry has forayed into until very recently. And about time, too.
We’re excited that the book is on the shortlist for the Neev award 2019. Check out our reviews of the other books on the Neev shortlist. What did you think of the book? Comment and let us know! Also check out the Best of Indian Children’s Writing (BICW) – Contemporary Award list!