The bird of light and wisdom

Published February 11, 2012

Fauzia Minallah reads out from one of her books. -Photo by Nadir Siddiqui/Dawn.com

The first day of Karachi Literature Festival covered a myriad of topics catering to various sections of the society. However, one session which particularly stood out was that of Fauzia Aziz Minallah, an artist and an author who writes for children.

A change-maker to the hilt, Minallah conducted an interactive session in Urdu, a welcome respite for many of us. She took the children and participants on a journey through her books, emphasizing the importance of coexistence.

The engaging video that accompanied her reading built upon these ideals and was a collage of multi-ethnic communities where children of different religious orientations lived congenially with each other. Not surprising, as this was the cornerstone of her ancestral region of Hazara which, sadly, is presently lobbying for a separate identity after being marginalized.

Her session titled “Tolerance through children’s books” focused on the essential components of a rich and diverse society. She brought to life the character ‘Amai’ from her book “Amai’s Wish”, illustrated and written by Minallah. ‘Amai’ which means mother in Balochi, is portrayed as a bird of light and wisdom, teaching love, compassion and humanity to children.

Being an animal rights activist, her message of kindness towards animals was particularly appealing to me. I will reiterate that the first and easiest step to spread harmony in the society is to teach children to be kind towards animals. Minallah’s visual representations of these teachings were impressive and are bound to stay in the minds of the young audience for sometime.

The message of tranquility, peace and accommodating individual views was present in each and every word Minallah uttered and the excitement amongst the children was extremely evident.

I believe the only way to promote tolerance and equality in our society is by engaging the children and penetrating into the masses. This can only be achieved by making books like Minallah’s a part of children’s curriculum.

Intolerance and bigotry, off-shoots of the same tree, run too deep into our society and there is no way of eliminating them unless we instill good set of practices amongst our youth.

People like Minallah, should be applauded for their efforts to create a diverse society. Her foundation, Funkor Child Art Center, is doing its bit by reaching out to the ‘Children in Crises, the under-privileged and the ethnically marginalized. The foundation even reaches the various refugee and relief camps around the country with an aim to educate through the medium of art and simple, yet meaningful books.

I urge parents around the country to step up as well and teach their children to become the ambassadors of the revolutionary change.

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