Wednesday, June 29, 2011


The girl has sweetness, spunk and knows her moves. If you go down to the city of Sadram, you can get a ride, and who knows, she’ll take you to the movies and if you’re lucky, even sing you a song a Blue River tune. Editor Niveditha Subramaniam talks to B.Vinayan, author of Beyond the Blue River, and Grace, its heroine.

City Auto For Hire No. SD 01 3422 didn’t always have a number or a nameplate. She first made her entrance in a nameless tale (made up for the benefit of Vinayan’s nephews who insisted upon a story at bath-time) as a bored little auto who was tired of carrying passengers, just as they tired of homework.

When Rosalind Wilson, editor of the popular children’s magazine Target, asked him to write a story for its annual issue, Grace turned up again.
“I wrote this one about an auto setting off driverless for a day in the city and having a whale of a time. Even as I was writing it, I sensed the possibilities of a bigger story within it – the auto seemed to be finding the city limits too confining!” says Vinayan.

Every time Grace hears the Blue River tune, she gets a “funny feeling.” Sometimes, she can hear it even before it is hummed! But what is the Blue River? One day, Grace decides to hit the road in search of it. . .

Cut to Grace, who’s on a different planet, not listening to a word we’re saying. This isn’t unusual at all, given that she’s been through enchanted forests and worlds within worlds, of course. Even less surprising when Vinayan confesses he was “rather dreamy as a child, sitting on the back step or porch of the house and staring away into empty space – I still do that now!"

There is a constant, often dizzying pre-occupation with space and time in BTBR, which keeps readers on their toes, transforming what begins as a deceptively simple story of an auto who dreams big into a gripping, gritty mystery – where myth and science meet, taking turns to pose riddles.

Vinayan sees no obvious references to mythology. The only myths he knows, he confesses, are his grandmother’s tales “tucked away in his subconscious” but from science, yes. “But even there it was entirely an unconscious process, growing more out of the needs of the story than anything else. In fact, it was when I saw the scientific parallels in the story – as with the extremely tiny creatures – that I started reading books on science (a subject I had intensely disliked and did very poorly at in school).” Fritjof Capra’s
The Tao of Physics, he says, first introduced him to the world of new physics. Stephen Hawking, Paul Davies, Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins are some other writers he enjoys reading.

“Did someone say extremely-tiny-creature?” asks Grace, suddenly joining in the conversation.

Extremely tiny creatures aka e-t-cs are among the colourful cast Grace meets on her journey.  When asked to pick a favourite, Vinayan simply can’t. “
They’re all very close to me, for various reasons. Writing about the tractor and the Mountain of the Phantas Sea was easy, fun and more spontaneous. These two were like the children that every parent would like to have – obedient and untroublesome. This-That the Itsians and Barumi the yagin, in spite of being more conventional characters, proved to be quite a handful  and needed more working over than the others. . . The e-t-cs, especially the Everlanders, are less conventional and I’m pretty curious and excited about what they’ll get up to later in the story.”

Perhaps Grace has a favourite. We turn to her but. . .


Spinning tops and wheels! There’s only one half of her. GR. Where’s ACE, then? That, ladies and gentleman, is what the Blue River does. Bamboozles you, just when you think you know it.

Understood? No?

Wear the old kurta, and read the new Tulika book.

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