It was a point of blissful dissolution, a forgetfulness of mindful writing. The first draft of Padma Goes to Space was written spontaneously in creative writing workshop that was a part of the Scottish Universities International Summer School at the University of Edinburgh. I was attending this programme on a Charles Wallace India Trust Award grant.
To me then, Edinburgh was a place from a book, a beautiful imagined thing come to life. My consciousness, in that city of festivals, was that of a child - playful and joyous. My creative writing workshop was lead by Allyson Stack, who was remarkably brilliant and encouraging. She set us an assignment, one morning, to spend 10 minutes describing something that had a lifelike feel to it. I wrote 'The Rhino', as the story was then called instantly, without thinking about anything, word after word, sentence after sentence. There was no thought, no structure, no plan, just one word following another. I now know this to be a yogic state - when the conscious mind is simply suspended and innate being takes over. The class instantly responded to the piece and it was published in Northern Light, the SUISS anthology.
Later, I sent the text to Tulika. They were very positive about the story and asked me if it could be rewritten with a science fiction / fantasy element built in. This lovely suggestion changed the entire texture and flavour of the book. In the original story, Padma had been reading Enid Blyton and wanted to visit the places the Famous Five went to and eat muffins. Instead, she went to space!