“चिकनिक चूं चिकनिक चूं”

The very first lines of this new nonsense rhyme by Sushil Shukl introduces you to all the fun that is in store. With each repetition comes a question for the peaceful buffalo. Why does he have horns? Why is he always lounging around in the water doing nothing? Why is the brain less powerful than force (referring to the well know Hindi proverb Akal badi ya bhais (it is more useful to use your brain rather than your sword)). As the absurdity of the questions increases, so does the fun.

The text is complemented with illustrations by Atanu Roy, who works in the details but holds off from making the illustrations too intricate. The glorious buffalo is shown in double spread, black and regal, immersed in muddy water as life goes on around him. The birds hunt for food, frogs hop around; many species of fish swim across the pages. Life goes on peacefully till the buffalo decides to pass some gas. And because it’s a buffalo this becomes an event — loud and foul!

The water splashes, the buffalo grimaces, the fish and frogs jump out and the seal closes its ears. Then the buffalo smiles widely, feeling good after the release while all the other animals close their nose and hold their breath!

Lara is giggling away at this point and closing her nose. She wants me to read that part again and points out what each animal is doing at this point. The repetition and humour makes “Chiknik Chun” enjoyable for very young children and would work well as a read aloud to groups. We need more nonsense verse and poetry as part of our children’s literature and especially in Indian languages.