‘A Pair of Twins’, a picture book from Karadi Tales

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Sometimes you write a story and sit on it for years. I wrote this one about 7 years ago. And then because it was an odd length (Open Sesame always took stories of about 800 words, and ‘Twins’ began life at 3000 words), it sat in my D drive, undisturbed. Till a friend sent me a link (Andaleeb, are you listening?) that informed me that Karadi Tales was looking for submissions. So I sent this off and it got accepted. I then spent months in suspense, dying to see how it would look with the pictures. I had no idea who the illustrator would be, but am I glad they picked Nayantara Surendranath! She’s done the most glorious pictures for the book, taking it to a whole new level. ‘A Pair of Twins’ will be out early in 2014. Here’s what the cover may look like:

 

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Portrait Gallery

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Viswanath Anand

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Sunitha Williams

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Vikas Gowda

a rare bird

 

Every now and then, when some important person did something important, I got a chance to do a caricature of them. Lots of fun, because it involved doing some research on them and writing up a short piece which would accompany the picture, usually in a large, full-page poster format. Here are some of them…minus the research!

‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’, the book that became an Oscar-winning movie

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Here’s a review of a book that was made into a movie that most of you have probably seen — ‘Hugo’. There are zillions of black and white illustrations in the book, even though its a novel for young adults. And I loved it so much, I haven’t had the courage to go see the movie! It’s like the picture book ‘Polar Express’ by one of my favourite illustrators, Chris Van Alsburg…the book had this gentle, haunting and very quiet bed-time story quality to it. So I happily trotted off to the movie expecting to come out full of warm cosy feelings. Instead I was rocked off my seat and taken on such a frightening roller coaster of a ride, it almost felt like a horror movie to me.

It all began with another book. When well-known American illustrator Brian Selznick read a book called ‘Edison’s Eve’ by Gaby Wood, it got his creative juices flowing. Wood’s well-researched story about ‘automata’ began with a report on Thomas Edison’s attempt to make a wind-up doll that could talk. In this day of micro-chips and cheap talking-dolls, you’d probably laugh that the brain who invented the incandescent lamp, wasted his time with a wind up doll. But back in the late 1800s, the silicon chip hadn’t been invented and everything that moved on its own had to be wound up first, so clock-makers (or horologists) were considered the most high-tech dudes.

This book about well-known automata that survived in museums, had an entire chapter on George Melies, a French film-maker who’d made the first science fiction movie called ‘A Trip to the Moon’ in 1902. He also had a collection of wind-up ‘dolls’ made by a famous French magician called Houdin. A bulb went off in Brian Selznick brain. He remembered seeing Melies’ film when he was a kid. He decided he wanted to write a story about George Melies, his collection of automata AND the history of film, before Hollywood. And he did. By January 2007, he’d completed ‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’.

Hugo is a young orphan. His mother died when he was an infant, but his loving father, a clock-maker, took care of him well – teaching him all that he knew about horology. When Hugo’s father dies in an accidental fire at the museum he worked in, Hugo is taken in by his drunk uncle, who’s in charge of winding up the clocks at Paris’ central railway station.

Soon Hugo’s uncle disappears. Petrified that he’ll be turned out of the room he lives in deep in the bowels of the station, Hugo meticulously winds all the clocks, hoping the authorities won’t realise his uncle is missing. But apart from this boring job, Hugo is fired by a dream — to somehow make the wind-up ‘writing man’ that he salvaged from the charred ruins of the burned down museum to work. Since his father too had been trying to repair this automata before his death, poor Hugo decides that whatever the ‘writing man’ eventually does write, is bound to be a message from his dead father.

So in pursuit of this dream, Hugo takes to stealing little wind-up toys from the toy shop in the station, recycling their parts into the insides of the ‘writing man’. He gets caught of course. But read about how he befriends Isabelle, the shop owner’s ‘niece’. The shock he receives when he realises who the owner really is. And the mysteries both Isabelle and he unravel when they finally get the wind-up ‘writing man’ to pen down his message.

This is a fat, fat book but 284 pages of it are beautiful black and white illustrations. Apart from Hugo, this book is also about the history of cinema; and a reminder that though Hollywood seems the Mecca of the film world … it all started in France! It was the Lumiere brothers who invented the ‘cinematograph’ — the first projector throwing moving pictures onto a screen for an audience to watch.

Martin Scorsese bought the movie rights in 2008. His film ‘Hugo’ came out in 2011 and went on to win a record 11 nominations for the Academy Awards, eventually winning 5 Oscars.

The book is hard to find and bloody expensive to own, so if your school/local library doesn’t have it, borrow ‘Hugo’ the movie from your local VCD/DVD library.

The Perks of Being a Sportsperson

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The best part of sports, for me, was the food! When I was in school, I was forever hungry. And during sports practice, or during track meets and tournaments, there always seemed to be a lot more good food going around. The absolute icing on the cake was the hamper that our school packed and loaded onto the bus when we headed out for inter-school matches…cutlets, rolls, fat sandwiches, flasks of hot tea…!

Then there were the rivalries with particular schools. We wouldn’t mind being beaten by School X, but hated it when School Y beat us! Or how winning a tournament had no value, if through the league matches, we never got a chance to beat arch rivals School Z ourselves.

What about all the classes that we could happily miss! The bruises, cuts and scratches that we came back to school with, proudly flashing them like badges. The stories that I still remember, and that we repeat over and over amongst us old school friends, even though its been decades since we left school.

My book, ‘No 9 on the Shade Card’ is my first novel for young adults. And it’s all about life on and off the sports field. It’s been published by Rupa’s new children’s imprint ‘Red Turtle’. And is out in stores, on Flipkart and available for download as an eBook from Kindle, etc.

It’s also about all the hurdles that one girl has to cross while chasing her dreams of becoming a champion. Strangely, none of those hurdles have anything to do with fitness levels, improving speeds, building stamina, or the high level of competition. What she has to grapple with are barriers within her own home. Her grandma’s obsession with her being dark (and hence unqualified to spend any time outdoors!), her own worries about practicing in a public ground that’s getting taken over by a gang of weirdos…the strange phase that her once-great relationship with her brother is going through… Hope you like it.

Here is a link to my post on Red Turtles’s blog. You’ll discover a bunch of other interesting books just out:

http://www.redturtlebooks.com/blogs_details/?blogs_id=39

Discovering that Akbar hated studying

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History had never been my favourite subject in school. So I was surprised by how much I enjoyed researching the Vijayanagar Empire, while writing about Tenali Raman. So when Puffin commissioned a set of historical biographies, I was quite happy to write about Akbar. I loved discovering the non textbook facts about him. We might have all admired him in school, if they’d only told us how much he bunked his lessons! I might have remembered the names of his innumerable sons, if I’d only known that they were all drunkards! So if you like the interesting parts of history, maybe you’ll like ‘Akbar, the Mighty Emperor’. The biggest surprise for me was how many interesting, intelligent and powerful women there were in Akbar’s life.

Here’re a couple of links to reviews of the book:
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2010/20100822/spectrum/book4.htm
http://www.thehindu.com/features/kids/tale-of-mystery-and-intrigue/article628871.ece

Lunch Break

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These are some cartoons from another series that appeared once a week in the Deccan Herald School Edition. I had this mad idea of a school that admitted all creatures, humans sometimes included.

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Bando — My lucky break

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Sometimes stories behave really badly. You might have a clear picture in your head about what kind of tale you want to tell, but after hours and hours of typing on the keyboard, what stares back at you from the screen is a disjointed, irritating set of paragraphs that somehow don’t add up to a half-way decent story. Now THAT’s what I call a bug, the story virus, the Keyboard Kleptomaniac who steals away your thoughts and ideas, and mis-represents them on screen. And sadly, there’s no ‘anti-virus’ software that can tackle this creature. Backspacing and brutal deleting is all you can do. Maybe taking days or weeks just to get a 1000 word story to sound good.

But there are times when Keyboard Klepto (let’s call him KK) goes to sleep, or maybe trots off over the internet to harass someone else on your address book. And then those stories behave themselves. So I was lucky that when I decided I wanted to write kids stories, KK was away. ‘Bando: The Dog Who Led A Double Life’  got written out fairly fast. And after I’d illustrated it, I sent it off to Open Sesame (Deccan Herald’s kid supplement). Daksha Hathi, who was editing Open Sesame back then, liked it, and promptly began serialising it. I couldn’t believe my luck. Even better, though I hadn’t yet gathered up the courage to think of myself as an illustrator, Daksha did…she soon began sending me stories by other writers for me to illustrate!

So in case you missed Bando all those years back, here’s a short introduction to him…

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CHAPTER 1

Bando was not the kind of dog you’d enter for a dog show. Not that he was ill-mannered or ferocious; it was just that he didn’t have the drawing-room manners that win prizes at such shows. At the time when the poor dogs are expected to walk up and down in front of a large crowd, holding their heads high and looking posh and dignified, Bando would be sure to catch the eye of some friendly person in the audience and wag his tail furiously. This, of course, would earn him a series of minus points from the two or three stern-looking judges.
Then there was the problem about his appearance. His birth certificate had ‘LABRADOR’ written very boldly against ‘BREED’. But that was either a terrible mistake or an outright lie. A Labrador, as everybody knows, has ears that flop down on either side of its friendly face. Now Bando had only one Labrador ear, the left one. The right ear stood up cockily at an angle that made you wonder where on earth Bando’s father came from. Similarly, he had a rich, black, Labrador coat all over, except for a white patch over his right eye!

bando-veg
So if Bando trotted past you on his way to the market and you saw only the left side of him, you’d probably be very impressed and raising your eyebrows appreciatively, would say to yourself, “Now, there’s a handsome Lab!” On the other hand, if you caught sight of him on his way back from the market, you’d only see his right profile. Then you’d wonder, “Isn’t that a strange-looking dog… and what, in God’s name, is it doing with a bag full of vegetables?!”
Well, the strange-looking animal would be Bando, on his way home after doing the weekly shopping. If you happened to be close enough, you’d also hear a strange jingle-jangle that sounded like Bando was wearing a pair of anklets. That would be the change left over from shopping. Bando carried it in a yellow pouch around his neck.

All this added up to make dear Bando look rather odd, but he couldn’t have cared less. He was far too busy being old Mrs Murbando-bedthy’s dog and had no time to be fashionable and well-groomed.
…over the last couple of years, Mrs Murthy had been gradually losing her sight. And the only one in the whole world who could look after her properly was Bando… He had decided long ago that it was his duty to make up for the family Mrs Murthy didn’t have.

So in the mornings Bando brought in the milk. Then on Mondays, the weekly shopping was done. Sometimes, if his work led him by the park, and if nobody was looking, he’d pluck a flower for Mrs Murthy. He knew well enough that she could see it only very fuzzily. So he’d first place it in her hands for her to feel it. Then he’d wait for her face to break into a smile before she turned to Bando to say, “What a lovely rose, Bando! Thank you so much.” Bando was very proud that even though Mrs Murthy was almost blind, she never, ever got the name of a flower wrong. “Bando!” she’d exclaim, “This sunflower would look lovely by the kitchen window.” Or after gently feeling the long stalk and thick petals of his latest gift, she’d say, “I’m going to put this precious lily in a tall glass on the dining table.”
Inside her own home Mrs Murthy was quite capable of looking after herself.

 

…End of excerpt from Chapter 1…