Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A multilingual presence in children's publishing

An interview with Radhika Menon, Tulika Books 
(as told to Scharada Dubey)  
The Buzz at Chamiers, Vol 1, Issue 18, Dec 2009- Jan 2010

Radhika Menon began Tulika Books in 1996, and the imprint has gone on to become a respected name in publishing children's literature, a pioneering publishing house that has a multi-lingual presence in English and Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam, Marathi, Gujarati and Bangia. Here are some insights from a chat with her:

Would you say that reading habits have changed since you first began bringing out children’s books in 1996?

I would describe the change not so much in reading habits, as in children's publishing itself. In the last few years, there has been a buzz about Indian children's books. We have Children's Books Festivals and there is a large pool of talent of illustrators, writers and graphic artists working to make children's books better. It is now an active and vibrant space.

Was there a shortage of such talent earlier, or did the field just not have the resources to attract the right people? 

Well, you still hear about the lack of talent — people tend to talk about it a lot. But I don't agree. To me, publishing is not just about printing and selling books — it is about working with people at every level. To create good artists, illustrators, translators, all the professionals who will build good books, you have to put in the time and energy to train them and draw the best from what they have. For me, one of the measures of success is how many people we have launched as writers or artists, translators or editors.

What are some of the rewards of the work you have done at Tulika?

We have taken themes and ideas that are not exactly market-friendly and made them work. We are not an ethnocentric or culturally narrow Indian publishing house but one which is truly contemporary and culturally informed. The most rewarding thing is of course, our readership, which cuts across the world. Our relationships with schools and NGOs are also valuable ties, helping us stay close to the needs of our readers.

What are you looking forward to at Chamiers?  

Definitely showcasing the books at such a beautiful and intimate space. Its always a pleasure to work directly with people and our reading events will give us the opportunity to see directly the delight that young readers derive from our books.