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Touching the chord

Shals Mahajan

Shals Mahajan   | Photo Credit: 09dmc shals mahajan2

Shals Mahajan’s “Timmi In Tangles” which recently won the Kotak Junior Children writing award will appeal to young and old readers alike. The former will identify and relate to the characters, situations, humour and fun in the four stories featuring Timmi, a school going child while the latter will take a walk down the memory lane with a smile and many a times with sense of longing for those days. Shreya Sen’s illustrations make the narrative more interesting.

The author in an e-mail interaction talks about how the book and characters came about. Edited excerpts of the interview:

On winning the award.

Now that I’ve had a week to deal with it, it feels real and good. I am thrilled with the amazing citation from the three jurors of the award and for Timmi to be loved and understood so well. So yes, I am still beaming!

The inspiration for the Timmi stories.

I cannot really say that there was one single inspiration for the Timmi stories. However, the first couple were specifically written for a young six-year-old friend of mine almost fifteen years ago. We both liked to have long conversations and am sure we had several around the joys of getting wet in rain. So I think that was the first story that I wrote. We also had a shared love for food, especially idlis and fruit and so somewhere along they made their way into the stories as well. The rest followed one by one over time.

In one story Timmi wonders what a good girl is. Isn't it a profound question?

I agree with you that the implications of the question, who is a good girl, or a good person, or a good boy, are quite profound. And yet as adults we use these phrases rather indiscriminately to praise or upbraid children around us. So this is just that kind of question that would puzzle a child like Timmi. What would it take to become good? Perhaps, the adults around need to ask this question of themselves and also see what they are pushing children to become to get their approval.

Please tell us about the collaboration with Shreya Sen for the illustrations? Did you visualise the drawings while writing?



Shreya and I have never met and my publishers, Duckbill, are the ones who found her. She loved the stories on reading them the first time and after that began a long series of emails and phone calls and exchanges of words from my end, and pictures from her. While I had a fairly good idea of what the characters and the house and surroundings were like, I had only words to convey them. So I would send long word pictures of each of the characters and the trees and playground and such like and Shreya would transform them into drawings in her own style. Anushka brought to this her experience and suggestions on the illustrations. It was a fantastic partnership, and we spent time on minute details till we were all completely satisfied. It could not have been any better.



How difficult is to write for children?



I write fiction, non-fiction and poetry and while I am fairly aware of my audience while writing non-fiction, fiction and poetry belong to a more personal space. So my first reader, and the one I write for more than anyone else, is myself. The second I guess would be the character (or characters) who I am slowly getting to know and to love. So I guess I write for them and this is the same mindset I bring to all my fiction writing. So writing for children is not particularly harder, but I am learning more about it now that I have actually published a book.



Can we expect more Timmi stories?



I am very fond of Timmi and her world and feel that I know so little of it. So I too would love more stories, but when is a question that I feel safer asking than answering.



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Printable version | Sep 23, 2020 7:18:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/interview-with-shals-mahajan/article7184989.ece

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