Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vyasa's Mahabharatha and Ismat's Eid

Two special festivals fall on September 1st: Vinayaka Chathurthi and Eid, and we have books to celebrate both! - Vyasa's Mahabharatha and Ismat's Eid. Sandhya Rao, who edited Fawzia's delightful tale, and Chitra Krishnan, author of Vyasa's Mahabharatha,give us insider takes.

Tulika’s Ismat’s Eid is Marshall Cavendish’s Nabeel’s New Pants. Author Fawzia Gilani-Williams who is currently relocating to the UAE, lives in the US, but grew up in UK in the 1960s and 70s. So when she recently got a chance to go ‘home’, she was excited about the possibility of taking Ismat aka Nabeel to kids there. But she found herself on a rather sticky wicket of a sartorial kind… because, you see, when we say ‘pants’ in UK, they see the piece of innerwear that Superman made outerly famous! So how could she, in all seriousness, talk about Nabeel’s pants, forget the fact that he had bought them for Eid???!!! Luckily she happened to have taken Ismat along on that trip!

It’s only words, you might argue. But some words conjure pictures that need no imagination…

But back in the US and Canada, Nabeel reigns supreme, while Ismat steals hearts in Tulika’s world, thanks also to Proiti Roy’s marvellous illustrations. 

When Tulika first commissioned Proiti to do the pictures, she came up with not one, not two, not three, but eight different styles, each more delicious that the other. And each rendered with care and affection. Proiti used Indian ink and gouache water based paint to render the pictures. Take a look at the book: you will fall in love with the girls in Ismat aka Nabeel’s family: Habiba, Yasmeen, and Mahjabeen. No wonder he bought them each something special for the festival. Eid Mubarak!

Sandhya Rao

Vyasa’s Mahabharatha? Just utter the name and I puff up with pride like a cockerel ready to crow at first light! (this includes wobbly chins and crest - read grey hair- standing on end!!)

I am inordinately proud of this slim, colorful volume that set me on the first step of realizing my dream… to fill the blank space next to profession in my passport with the letters A-U-T-H-O-R. 

A first small step in terms of literary achievement but a giant leap forward in terms of moral and mental attainment of goals … the degrees of separation between dreams and reality just got a whole lot smaller!

In any case, it was all quite fairy tale-ishly  simple. Once upon a recent time, I walked into Radhika Menon’s (Tulika) office and while chatting, narrated the famous story of the origins of the Mahabharatha. It happens to be my husband’s favorite story, one that I have been subjected to ‘n’ times…Being a sucker for a good tale it was never a trying experience. However I digress. Back to Radhika’s office where she is casually suggesting I put it down, as Our Myths, a new series, was in the Tulika pipeline.  

I floated down the narrow stairs and back home as I had just been officially commissioned to write a story! Casual maybe …but let us not split hairs here! Don’t get me wrong, I do have academic tomes to my credit, seen my name in print on ponderous volumes! Never before have I been commissioned to write a piece of fiction! I refused to float down from my own private cloud 9.9 despite my daughter’s dire warnings that I should take a huge big reality bite…No one was allowed to rain on my private parade with Mr Cockerel in the lead…

Of course as sure as night follows day, months of agonizing followed! My natural tendency is to write serious, humourless, researched pieces complete with footnotes et al … I am after all a dyed-in-the-wool academic … it took Sandy’s (Sandya Rao - Tulika editor) frequent and well placed editorial kicks to get me to reach into my inner child and the eternal spring of innocent laughter so that the tone and words were finally just right!

And then came the day when they (Tulika) showed me the illustrations! What to me was an ordinary single layered narrative was transformed into a masterpiece of multilayered hues and proportions by the illustrations!

And then came two very important days in my literary career…because now I can only talk in such majestic terms of my life after Vyasa’s Mahabharatha…  (i) When the book was released and I was asked to autograph it in public (ii) When I received my very first cheque as royalty… forget the dearth of zeros…no Midas could have been happier, no Ali Baba’s cavern could hold more riches! This was proof that I had arrived… everywhere I looked or turned, I simply presumed people were whispering beneath their breath Vyasa’s Mahabharatha … My own private cockerel of course continues to send out clarion cries of “here comes the  writer”  and I slumber on content with a beatific smile on my lips… I may not be Anna but I certainly am Vyasa’s Mahabharatha!

Chitra Krishnan


  1. @chitra krishnan:
    i picked up this book in June mostly because your name is my ma's maiden name.

    i want to tell you that:
    My firstborn is a fan of the tamil translation of your book. he loved the cover photo...he tried making a copy of it. ( a very solemn effort but he has a long way to go, let's just say)

    but he so loved the lightness and the zest of the story. congratulations on beautifully reaching into the head of a 6 year old.

  2. @maidinmalaysia - Thanks for sharing! Will pass this on to the author.:)


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