• Friday, December 02, 2022

Interview With Chitwan Mittal, Author of "Peace with Buddha"

on Sep 29, 2022
Chitwan Mittal

Chitwan Mittal holds a BSc degree in English Education from Boston University and an MA in Values in Education from the University of London. She is a published author with titles such as Education for the Complete Person, Taittiriya Upanishad, and The Arguments for the Existence of God. Actively involved in children’s education since 2005, she was part of the committee that established the Indian Institute of Teacher Education and the Children’s University by the Government of Gujarat, India. Both institutes are focused on experiential learning and the holistic development of children through innovative educational tools. She is now foraying into the field of writing children’s picture books. Her books encourage engagement and diversity and focus on value-oriented education, bi-lingual learning, and South Asian culture. She lives between India and Singapore with her husband and two sons, who are her constant source of inspiration.

Frontlist: What exactly is Peace with Buddha all about? How would kids relate to this book? 

Chitwan: Peace with Buddha is about finding the inner peace that the Buddha talked about. The idea that desire is the root of all suffering is challenging even for adults to grasp. However, we feel this is an important idea for children to be introduced early. Children today are surrounded by advertisements targeting them, by a culture in which accumulating material things is seen as the measure of success. Children imbibe this idea early, and it ends up creating dissatisfaction and envy, and a whole host of other negative emotions that many of us continue to feel as adults. We wanted to break the idea down in a way that’s relatable to kids by talking about how wanting something often leads to simply wanting something more and that this is a progression that only keeps growing. 

Frontlist: How much power illustrated books like these hold to teach Emotional growth, Self-discipline, and being mindful of kids?

Chitwan: The stories we are told form the fabric of our understanding of the world we live in. I think illustrated books have a crucial job to play in helping children understand values. Picture books are a great way of teaching without being didactic or preachy. A well-written picture book shows rather than tells, which makes a much more long-lasting impression on a child’s mind than simply instructing them to behave a certain way. Our books are meant to show children how they can incorporate values into their own lives without giving them rules to follow. A story that illustrates (literally!) is a better way to teach these life lessons and make them stick.

Frontlist: What qualities can kids learn from Siddhartha, i.e., mentioned in this book?     

Chitwan: The book presents the story of the Buddha's discovery of the root of suffering: desire. It explains how he met an old and sick man and was prompted to find out why people suffer, which led him to realize that inner peace and the rejection of desire can prevent suffering. The idea that in times of trouble or difficulty, one can turn inwards for peace is important for children to learn early. We also wanted to show children that satisfaction and contentment come from within oneself rather than from things or other people.   

Frontlist: Chitwan Mittal and Sarita Saraf have collaborated to publish the 'Learning To Be' Series. How did the idea of such a series strike you, and what is its objective? 

Chitwan: I started AdiDev Press to create high-quality picture books for children representing South Asian culture and perspectives. This series, in particular, came about because of my longstanding interest in philosophy and education. The objective was to introduce young children to life's significant values engagingly. Several religions have been born and flourished for centuries in India, but these great thinkers' ideas are often inaccessible to young readers. We wanted to break the ideas down to be relatable since the values and thoughts of people like Mahavira, Buddha, and Guru Nanak remain immensely relevant to us in the modern world. Their teachings can equip kids with values to help them navigate the difficulties and challenges that come their way. 

Frontlist: Would you like to share the first-hand experience you received from parents and children after this book? 

Chitwan: We have received wonderful feedback from parents and children about not just the content of the books but the high quality of the production. Many parents have told us that the books have sparked interesting conversations and encouraged their children to explore their roots. We were also very heartened by a parent telling us that if their child can read and understand this book, their job as a parent is done! Another told us that their child is constantly thinking up ways to be kind to people at school and in their community. This is wonderful to hear. Parents have also appreciated the focus on Indian values and themes and the illustrations representing people and situations their children can recognize and relate to. We've been told that our books have made children curious about South Asian culture, which is the best feedback we could hope for! 

Frontlist: Have you ever considered including these books in the curriculum for children ages 4 to 8 to teach knowledge on such a subject? 

Chitwan: Our books are primarily written for leisure reading, but we think these values should be part of what children learn. It doesn’t have to be part of the curriculum in terms of something children are tested on because that tends to reduce learning to test scores. Instead, we would love our books to be part of school libraries, used during circle time or book weeks, and to be stories teachers read to children. Often, the most long-lasting lessons come from stories we’ve read or been told as young children. We hope that our books fulfill that role for parents and children alike. 

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