Author Suniti Namjoshi’s Blue And Other Stories spurs young and adult readers to discover the deeper meaning of fables
Hidden stories of unloved queens, girls sprouting wings and wise old kingfishers surface in Suniti Namjoshi’s picture book Blue And Other Stories. Launched by Tulika Books recently, this book of fables not just tells tales but also asks children and adults to look for their deeper meaning.
The stories are simple but hold out a subtle message. The Unloved Queen, is about Suniti’s name. “These stories are not deliberately written for children but are also for adults,” says the author, “The first story is about my name — how a boy whose father (the king) does not love him meditates for years till Vishnu appears and grants him a boon. He asks the boy to remain constant and makes him the pole star. I use this story to make a point. What about his mother who was also unloved? Her name was Suniti. No one ever talks about her.”
And so, Suniti’s stories always try to address gender issues through subtle undercurrents. “I always say that parents must buy two copies of my books,” she laughs, “One for their children and one for themselves. Sometimes people read my stories and arrive at a conclusion — ‘oh, this is about racism, or that one is about women against men. But these are fables and when there’s an imbalance of power, I subvert the story to point that out.”
The vivid yet surreal illustrations of Nilima Sheikh not just reach out to the children but also to people across ages. The colours are earthen and free-flowing, as if merging with the story. “Nilima is an artist but she thinks it is important to illustrate children’s books well because they are more influenced by the art in their school books than that which is displayed in galleries. She believes they need to see good things,” says Suniti.
As a fabulist, Suniti talks about how fables evolve. “Like myths, fables mutate over time,” she explains, “I take an image and if it clicks, then the story writes itself. It’s only logical. Blue is about having fun with the colour blue and Frog Life is about a frog who thought it was better than the rest. I write them because that’s how my mind works. Myths and fables are extensions of a metaphor and aren’t fixed. Each time they’re written or told, they change.”
Blue And Other Stories is available online at www.tulikabooks.com for a price of Rs.250.