Friday May 24, 2024

A successful endeavour to teach idioms to children through stories

By Arshad Yousafzai
November 29, 2021

Though juvenile literature is a genre that has been largely overlooked, Athar Iqbal’s new book ‘Aik Muhawarah Aik Kahani’ (One Idiom One Tale) containing over one hundred tales is a pleasant addition to the literature written for children in Urdu.

The author has weaved 101 stories around one Urdu idiom each so that the children could learn the language from the book besides being entertained by it. The author had earlier employed the same style in the three editions of his book ‘Aik Kahawat Aik Kahani’ (One Proverb One Story) with a total of 303 stories. The first and second editions of that book won the National Book Foundation’s Children Literature Awards in 2000 and 2001.

‘Aik Muhawarah Aik Kahani’ is written for primary schoolchildren. The book narrates short stories with a moral to explain some most common Urdu idioms. Each story in the book is also illustrated with cartoon characters.

As idioms do not mean what the words in them literally denote, they are often difficult for the children to learn. For example ‘Aql Par Parda Par Jana’ does not mean a curtain falling on the intellect. The idiom is used to describe a situation when someone is not able to exercise their judgement properly. The author has tried to teach this and 100 other idioms to children by telling a story with a situation that corresponds to that particular idiom.

It, however, seems that the author forgot to narrate stories with female characters. Of the 101 stories, 99 stories have men or boys as their chief characters. Although illustrations help develop the children’s interest in the book, one might wish they had colours.

The stories in the book have been arranged according to the alphabetical order of the 101 idioms. Due to its linguistic element, the book can not only be read as an accessory to curricular books but it can also be read by the children to spend their lesiure time.

A specimen

In order to explain an Urdu idiom ‘Zakhmon Par Namak Chirakna’ (Rubbing salt into the wound), the author has narrated the story of Aunt Hamida whose only son had seemingly deserted her after he went aboard.

Being a widow, she was naturally very sad at her son’s apathy as there was no one to look after her. In that situation a neighbour taunted, “Your son is a great son who went aboard to make money and forgot his mother.”

To this, Aunt Hamida replied that there was no need for ‘rubbing salt into her wounds’. That day, she cried and prayed for his son’s return to home. Her prayers were answered and a few days later, someone knocked on the door. As she opened the door, she saw her son standing before her who apologised to her for his past follies and promised that he would never leave her again.

The author

Iqbal is currently serving as the director of the Urdu implementation department under the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation. The book also contains views of literary personalities about the author and his works. Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, Dr Jameel Jalibi, Qamar Jameel, Mustansar Hussain Tarar, Qamar Ali Abbasi, Amjad Islam Amjad, Shakeel Adilzada, Mahmood Shaam and Masood Ahmed Barkati all have showered praises on the author for his works for children.