Water: it is the elixir of life, wonderful and wondrous, and something that takes us easily from thirst to thrive! Pindar, a lyric poet from Ancient Greece, said of water so very aptly, that it “is the best of all things.” And it is indeed so. And like water, books also help us quench our thirst for more.
We all know the importance of water, and how critical it is to each and every one of us. Yet, even today, all over the world, people still struggle for this basic amenity that nature actually provides for free. This year’s theme for World Water Day (celebrated annually on March 22) is about accelerating change to solve the water and sanitation crisis.
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One of my recent reads that dwells into water and the struggle for it is Varsha Bajaj’s Thirst.
Book Review: Thirst
Thirst by Varsha Bajaj | Children’s Realistic Fiction (10 – 12 years, and up) | Nancy Paulsen Books (July 19, 2022)
Minni lives in the poorest part of Mumbai, where access to water is limited to a few hours a day and the communal taps have long lines. Lately, though, even that access is threatened by severe water shortages and thieves who are stealing this precious commodity—an act that Minni accidentally witnesses one night. Meanwhile, in the high-rise building where she just started to work, she discovers that water streams out of every faucet and there’s even a rooftop swimming pool. What Minni also discovers there is one of the water mafia bosses. Now she must decide whether to expose him and risk her job and maybe her life. How did something as simple as access to water get so complicated?
How do I begin writing this review? The book covers so much within its pages that my brain seems parched of ideas.
Quenches Your Thirst For Tough Issues
Bajaj effortlessly weaves together tough issues into a book that it accessible for its young audience through a powerful and beautiful narrative.
In addition to the struggles for water (suggested by the title of the book), the book also explores the extreme disparities in wealth and access to other amenities like education and sanitation, as well as issues of corruption.
That Peek Into a Mumbai of Slums and High Rises
Through Minnie’s story, we also get a glimpse into life in the slums of Mumbai, and not just the dreary morbid picture many books present, but that of a resilient hopeful one among the struggles of its residents. We also have a look at the other side of the coin when Minni takes over for her mom to work at the home of one of the rich in a high-rise building.
Minni notes that one of the bathrooms there is as big (or maybe bigger) than her whole home, and realizes that “Money, not prayers, makes the water flow” from the taps in that bathroom unlike the community taps in her slum that barely drip for a couple of hours a day. But there is much richness in her community as well, in the people and their bonds.
There is so much to admire in the spunky protagonist Minni, as she bravely faces each challenge that comes her way to quench her thirst for not only water, but also education and justice. Minni is smart, determined, enthusiastic, brave, and faithful to her family and friends, as well as to her neighborhood.
I loved the portrayal of Minni and Faiza’s friendship, and Faiza is such a loyal friend to have! So many other characters make their impact on Minni and this story, despite the briefness of their appearances in this overall not-too-lengthy story. Like Pinky, the girl who lives in the high-rise apartment where Minni goes to work; and Shanti, who lives in the community and is forever helping everyone. There are neighbors and social workers and so many others as well.
Minni’s family members too are so likable, and it was wonderful reading their heartwarming interactions, especially that between Minni and her brother.
those little drops of knowledge and lessons that teach without preaching
I learned so many things that I did not know before, even though I had some idea of the history of the city and also knowledge of the slums in Mumbai. The book is full of lessons without being preachy about them; about being grateful for what we have while pursuing our dreams for more; the importance of education and of working to find solutions for problems that impact us; the need to stand up for what is right, and of the strength we have in the people around us.
In addition, Bajaj’s writing is rich and imaginative, and yet straightforward and simple, which makes it a great literary resource for younger readers. And with plenty of nonfiction topics and issues to explore, this book is also one that is sure to generate lot of curiosity to learn more and discussions across so many areas.
Then the Other Side of the Coin
I would have loved to read more about the water thieves themselves, as well as about Minni’s foray into her computer classes, and her poetry too. A little more about Sanjay’s cooking, Faiza’s dancing, and other such ‘little mores’ would have made the story well, more better than it already is.
This book is a wonderful window into a world like Minni’s, and kind of like things for Goldilocks, just right in every way. Not too long or short; not too preachy or otherwise; not too serious or humorous too; just the right tone, the right length, and the right pace as well! A quick read, that is powerful, memorable, and one providing lots of food for thought, or to put it another way, one that makes you thirsty to learn more while while quenching the thirst for knowledge and reading too!
Get More With Thirst
“In every drop of water, there is a story of life.” – Leena Arif
This book, like I mentioned earlier, is a great resource for exploring many themes and starting discussions. We can use it in classrooms and homeschooling, as well as at home to do so in various ways, including:
- Pair it with other reads to make connections:
- Talk about water scarcity around the world, ideas to provide clean water, access to education and other basic needs, disparities in socioeconomic classes, and more
More Reads to Quench Thirsts
- 13 Easy Ways To Up Your Water Intake Without Drowning
- Water Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas
- Extra, Extra: Recipe: Mango and Peppercorns Smoothie
And Now, the End of This Post
Dear reader, which of these books have you read? Your thoughts on them? And any recommendations for similar reads are as always, welcome!