Making history come alive
Where does a parent find an interesting book on Sri Lankan history that would capture the imagination of a child? We may just have the answer.
When Angu Rajendran began preparing to teach Sri Lankan history to the Primary Five class at Asian International School, she realized there was no standard textbook to follow. Undaunted, this dedicated teacher did her own research from the works of eminent historians such as Prof. K.M. de Silva, Marie Musaeus Higgins and Nath Yogasundaram, and prepared her notes, but soon found that she needed something more to make the past come alive to her class.
The questions her students asked made her realize that it was difficult for modern children to visualize a world sans TV or computers, restaurants and supermarkets. Not enamoured with the thought of giving copious notes, she looked for a way to help them easily understand and be fascinated by the ancient history of our land and the way of life of its people in times past.
Come September and a new school term, she has just that. Her set of colourful, attractive books, available in both English and Sinhala tell the stories of the country’s famous kings and queens and important milestones in history in language that these eager young nine and ten-year-olds can relate to. “Books that don’t just give you a million points to be memorized for the exam and soon forgotten but books that will recreate a particular time period and leave it forever in the memories of our ‘TV and Computer games’ kids” was her aim. ‘Vijaya’, ‘Pandukhabhaya’, ‘Devanampiyatissa’, ‘Ruhunurata’ and ‘Viharamahadevi’, the first set of five books written by Angu and illustrated by S. Venky was released under the title ‘Ancient Times- Sri Lanka’ on August 31 and is now available at the Colombo International Book Fair.
Clearly and concisely written and equally vividly illustrated, the books present the events in story form with a few moral lessons and explanatory notes woven in to aid young readers. The stories are also written to give the students a broader world view- in the book on Devanampiyatissa, for instance, she relates the circumstances of Indian Emperor Asoka’s transformation after the battle of Kalinga.
Curiously enough Angu’s chosen field was computer studies but her love of history saw her spending more time in the library poring over the lineage of British kings and queens than studying her prescribed subjects of Maths, Physics and Chemistry. And so aftersome eight years at Asian International, initially as Head of Computing and more recently as Sports Instructor -pursuing another great love- sports, she welcomed the opportunity to teach the Sri Lankan history class.
The books, she hopes, will be the first of many that will continue to the last King of Kandy Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe.
The support of many people made it possible, Angu adds, citing AIS’s dynamic principal Goolbai Gunasekera, herself a historian and former Junior School head at AIS Dushy Parakrama, her close friends Aroshe Ranasinghe and Bambi Wickramasekara who “coaxed, bullied and pushed her into publication”, her lawyer Mohamed Adamally, her brother Karthik, also a publisher and her husband Krish for supporting all her ‘harebrained schemes’ the best he can. Published by Keshawa Publishers and Distributors, the books are priced at Rs. 150 each.