Mumtaz Embroiders her Dreams
Jolly Rohatgi
Ram Soni
age group: 
9+ yrs
Number of pages: 
Pratham Books
embroidery artisans
picture book, fiction

Part of a series of four books brought out by Dastkari Haat Samiti, an organisation of Indian craftspeople and supported by UNESCO, this book is a great attempt to encourage children to appreciate and enjoy the varied and rich cultural expressions of India's folk traditions.
This book takes one on an informative journey on the art of 'chikankari' embroidery of Lucknow.

A story set in the Lucknow of yore, this is an informative, educative, as well as a touching tale. Mumtaz has to leave her home and stay with her aunt to learn new designs of embroidery. However, she is persona non grata in her adoptive family and is generally left alone. Even on the occasion of the festival of Eid, her cousins take off to the market to indulge themselves with sweets and toys, leaving her to her own devises.

Munnu, a local vegetable seller's son befriends her and magically enables her to take off to new lands holding on to her grandmother's 'chadar' (dupatta). There she learns new and exciting designs that results in her not only getting fame and recognition for her work but also the reluctant appreciation and acceptance of her jealous and self-centered cousins.

The thorough research into the various forms of 'chikankari' embroidery done by the author gives an authentic ring to the story. Whilst enhancing one's appreciation for this art, it also helps us understand and appreciate the difficult conditions in which our crafts people live.
However, the use of many colloquial terms may deter some readers (a glosssary may have helped!).

It is illustrated for the first time ever, in the Sanjhi art of paper cutting, by Ram Soni, an award winning artist.

Reviewed by Shamim Padamsee