INTERVIEW Khyrunnisa on what led her to write two books based on sports
H owzzat Butterfingers, a cricket-based book marks Khyrunnisa’s debut. The Thiruvananthapuram-based English professor even got a letter from M.A.K. Pataudi for two of her works, Howzzat and Goal . Pataudi wrote: “What great fun. It brings back long lost memories of my prep school days. This is the first book or story written by you that I have read but I shall now look for others to read and to give to my grandson.”
Recently, members of a Thiruvananthapuram-based children’s book club adapted her football-based book Goal Butterfinger for a two-hour musical.
“The children who performed said they chose the book, because they had all enjoyed it and could relate to it. They raised more than Rs. 5 lakh for the show and donated it to the Regional Cancer Centre (RCC) and National Institute of Speech and Hearing (NISH),” said Khyrunnisa.
She speaks of how Butterfingers was born. “ Butterfingers was my first story for Tinkle . It was my entry for the Tinkle Original Short Story Competition for Adult Writers of Children’s Fiction (1996). We used to get Tinkle for my son. When I saw the announcement, I entered just for the heck of it. Coming from a family that loves cricket, I chose to write a story based on the sport. We call clumsy people butterfingers. So, I created a character who loves cricket but whose slip grip has given him the nickname Butterfingers. Also, Butterfingers is commonly used to refer to fielders who drop catches. So I decided to weave a cricket based story with Butterfingers as the eponymous hero.”
In 2006, Khyrunnisa was asked by Tinkle to create a regular character for the magazine. Her choice was Butterfingers.
“He became a favourite with children. Though clumsy, he is well-intentioned, funny and an endearing character. Children tell me they love him because they can relate to him.”
Khyrunnisa loves sports. Since her first novel was well received, she decided to write another one on sports. “I thought I’d move to another sport and chose football, which is another favourite. Also, when we have been subscribing to The Sportstar for almost 25 years, how can sports not figure in my books? I love sports!”
“I wanted to evoke a realistic school atmosphere. I deliberately didn’t give a definite location in order to have a pan-Indian appeal. The books had to be humorous and enjoyable. I also wanted the descriptions of matches to be exciting, funny and free of mistakes.”
How tough was writing for children? “Children are demanding and also honest. They will tell you if they liked something or not, to your face. You don’t have the freedom to write as you do in adult fiction. I used to tell my son a lot of stories when he was small. He kept me on my toes for he wouldn’t allow me to repeat an incident or a character. And he would demand consistency in my creations.”
Khyrunnisa promises yet another sport-based book.
She says, “A schoolboy suggested that I write a novel on swimming and call it Splash, Butterfingers ”