Dear Professor Nussbaum

About a year ago I was blabbering about what we do, when a young student of economics who had just joined us pointed out that it was straight out of something called the Capability Approach.


I fired up Wikipedia. The first thing that caught my mind was the title of your first book.

The fragility of goodness sounded to me like what happens when you cut long-grown grass to make way, and it soon grows back! It sounded like something I would read in an evening of grandiose weltschmerz.

I checked the full title and now, fully intimidated - better sense prevailed! I put it on my reading list to never read, but to always be gathering the courage to dig into.

Maybe, I will carry it in my bag and that will amount to something.

Some books are good to carry that way, even when you never read them.

I blabber again.

I started The WALLOBOOKS Project in 2014. We work with thousands of vulnerable children in India. We have invented a new kind of storybook.

On the last page of the storybooks, you will see that we ask a question.

They go somewhat like this –

Kiran, can you see the stars from your roof at night?
Kiran, how many times did you take a shower this week?

Can you imagine the first question telling us if Kiran lives in a pucca house? The second question can perhaps tell us whether her mother has to carry water on her head. We worked with Kiran and her little friends in Gujarat.

Perhaps you will see the possibilities of capability hidden in the storybooks, like we do.

Right now, we are trying to build a theory of change where these questions form the basis for understanding the children and their parents, and the answers form the basis for policy and intervention. We are working intensively to grasp your ideas. We are also planning to use the capability approach with children in conflict zones around the world.

I have paraphrased heavily.

I have been obsessed for a lifetime through my personal experiences, about the change children can make to their families and through our work, an opportunity to see that happen. I hope to catch your interest in what we do. I have copied our team (and my daughter who constantly asks – what is really the story behind the story books).

They, perhaps like me also have your first book on their reading lists. But not your ideas about vulnerability, capability and human development :)

We need your help and advice.

Sanjukt Saha