There is no authentic Indian writing for children: Suchitra Krishnamoorthi (Interview)

January 13th, 2009 - 11:45 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 13 (IANS) Actress-turned-musician-turned-artist Suchitra Krishnamoorthi has donned a new hat - that of a writer. She has just released her fiction series for young adults - “Swapnalok Society”, a magical reality tale about life in downtown Mumbai.Krishnamoorthi said the idea had been bouncing in her head for a few years. “I wanted to write a book but was not sure what. I wanted something light and frothy,” Krishnamoorthi told IANS in an e-mail interview from Mumbai.

The first book in the series - “Swapnalok Society: The Summer of Cool” - is now on the stands.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: What was the inspiration behind “Swapnalok Society”? What made you embark on a children’s series?

A: “Swapnalok Society” emerged out of my desire to write and the fact that this story had been bouncing in my head for a few years. I knew I wanted to write a book but was not sure what. For a while, I toyed with the idea of turning ‘Candlelight’ - a musical play that I had written four years ago - into a book, but found the subject matter too heavy. I wanted to do something light and frothy and emotional at the same time. So I set this story against the backdrop of my own childhood experiences of growing up in a very interactive cooperative housing society in downtown Mumbai.

I don’t consider “Swapnalok Society” a children’s series. It’s more for the young adult and the child in every one of us.

Q: Will children bred on western classics be able to identify with characters nearer home?

A: I grew up on Nancy Drews and Enid Blytons and enjoyed them. But I never really identified with eating buttered scones and cycling down the English countryside, or shovelling the snow from my drive. I’m more of a jalebi and bata poha and school bus kind of girl as most Indians are. And that’s what I tried to create.

Q: Is “Swapnalok Society” the microcosm of Mumbai? Will it be right to compare it with the chaotic world and diverse cast of the city?

A: “Swapnalok Society” is the Mumbai I grew up in and the way I see it. It is a microcosm - a filtered viewpoint. I knew that I had to write about things I knew - and family life and the people from the educated urban milieu is the only thing I could write comfortably about. Mumbai is chaotic and crazy and stark, but it is also warm and loving and good. That is my emphasis.

Q: Is the book based on personal experiences? Do the characters take off from people you have come across?

A: Yes. The description of the society and many of the characters have all been things or people I know. Even some of the names I have used are real.

Q: Is India churning out quality children’s fiction? What is it that arrests the growth of children’s fiction in India?

A: One of the things at the back of my mind even before I started to write was that there was no authentic Indian writing or literature that I could ever gift my nieces and nephews. My own daughter is too young, but “Swapnalok Society” is the kind of book I would love her to read.

Every time I had to pick up a book for youngsters, the backdrop was always English or American. And I wondered why. We have such a typical ethos and a huge culture to tap into that has been so far ignored. I’m not surprised people stay away from this unexplored territory. The economics of publishing in India are very poor; so nobody is willing to risk their time and effort.

Q: The transformation from an actress, musician, artist and writer must have been very interesting and profound.

A: I think the fact that I don so many hats is the way I am perceived by the outside world. For me, they blend seamlessly and come quite naturally to me. I don’t see one as separate from the other. I try to keep my mind open and not box myself into labelled cartons. As long as my creativity flows, I am in a happy place.

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