Fabulous February

Where is February, I ask. It has been a whirlwind of activities in London and rest of England, armed with a bag of books and props, often looking like a bag lady on National Rail Service. And it was mostly fun even when rain poured through dark skies and sleep was a rare commodity.

This February has been extra special – having been invited to the prestigious Imagine Festival at Southbank to run workshops and to the Chester festival of half-term fun and to the South London’s favourite bookstore Tales on Moon Lane’s half-term festivities. Half-term ended with wonderful storytelling at Discover Stratford.

World Book Day ran almost back to back with Half-term across England and my story train barely stopped between the two. I was on the move, constantly checking my orange National Rail tickets and printed maps just in case my phone runs out of juice. Between the boroughs of London, I moved from East to West to North to South, testing TFL’s quality of service.

When I was bereft of sleep and missing home-cooked dinners, there is one thing that kept me going. My engine was fully powered by the stories I tell and the stories the children were inspired to write. We made up wonderful stories with the children and in some schools we told them and in some we wrote them down. Either way, there was no limit to their imagination. That’s the primary reason I go into schools and do events – to fire up the imagination of both children and parents alike and at the same time, be absolutely enthralled by the stories the children create.

From Greek gods to aliens, pigs to fishes, our stories were full of adventures, mishaps, journeys and cartloads of fun. Here are a few stories children jotted down during the workshops.

If you want to be part of the next workshop, do sign up to my newsletter so you can find out about an event near you or if you want to invite me to your schools, do get in touch.

It’s becoming a habit!

Having a double book launch ought to be a once-in-a-decade kinda thing. But it happened in October 2016 and it is happening again in January 2017. And I wasn’t expecting it then and I was sure not expecting it to happen again.

Farmer Falgu Goes Kite Flying is out at the Jaipur Lit Festival on 20th January. Click here to find out more. Along with that, Karadi Tales, my publisher have confirmed that Book 4 in the Farmer Falgu series – Farmer Falgu Goes to the Kumbh Mela will also be released at the same time.

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Kumbh Mela is a special occasion in the Hindu festive calendar. It occurs once in twelve years and thousands of people congregate in Allahabad for a holy dip in the confluence of three rivers. It is one of India’s an the world’s largest religious gatherings.

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Farmer Falgu decides to visit this festival and of course typical of all his trips, this too is fraught with unexpected problems. There is one difference in this book though, the bullocks come with him only until the railway station. And then he takes the train to Allahabad – which is great because I love trains.

Check out a video about Kumbh Mela here. It is noisy, colourful and full of music and religious fervour. It is a congregation of peaceful humanity. Now why would Farmer Falgu encounter problems here? Well, you have to read to find out.

While Farmer Falgu Goes Kite Flying has special connections to Rajasthan and Jaipur, Farmer Falgu Goes to Kumbh Mela will have connections to Allahabad and its festivities.

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Kanika Nair has created brilliant illustrations for both the titles. Her colourful yet minimalist style conveys the busy-ness of India without actually overwhelming the reader. I’m sure children everywhere are going to love these two stories full of colourful imagery from India.

The festival bookstore is run by Full Circle Books who will be stocking my other titles too. So if you are coming to the festival, you have a double treat in store. Both the titles will be available to buy and I’ll be signing your copies too.

Farmer Falgu Goes Kite Flying – The Inside Story

If you’re familiar with the Farmer Falgu series (published by Karadi Tales) that I write and Kanika Nair illustrates, you will notice that Farmer Falgu is always going somewhere.

Falgu_2 Covercropped-Falgu-Front-Cover..jpgIt wasn’t planned – it just happened that way. And now, given my mild obsession with patterns, I always send him off somewhere.

I have a childhood reputation of “going somewhere” all the time. And even now as a grown-up people think I’m always on wheels. But in reality, I’m a homebody. I love staying at home and doing stuff, cooking snacks, reading a book. If I can help it, I won’t leave my cave for days. My alter-ego Farmer Falgu adds to the myth of my “wandering spirits”.

The trouble is Farmer Falgu’s trips are filled with surprises, some nice and some not so nice. But Farmer Falgu never loses his cool – he resolves them the best he can.

Keeping up with tradition, this time for the third book in the series, Farmer Falgu would be going somewhere too. This time too, not so far. But intensely exciting. He’s taking his daughter Eila to the kite festival.

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In Rajasthan and in many parts of northern India, kite festivals are part of the Sankaranthi celebrations. The colourful kites adorn the winter sky adding more colour to the celebrations.

When Kanika made Farmer Falgu a Rajasthani farmer, I wanted to do a book that was unique to the land he was from. The book is full of Farmer Falgu’s charm – he takes his friends and Eila is having loads of fun despite the troubles.

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Eila seems to be following in her father’s footsteps in helping and sharing and I like her for that. When Eila is devastated, Farmer Falgu of course has to save the day. He is her dad and we want dads to chase the monsters and bring order to the world. And that’s what Farmer Falgu does. And all’s well in Eila’s world.

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Want to find out more? Want to listen to the story? Come to Jaipur Literature Festival and buy the book! It’s a free event. So drop in. And on your way back you can always fly a kite.

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Crumpets and Pickles Wrapped in Magic

I grew up on crumpets and ginger-beer.

No, my mum is not a Bakeoff fan. In fact, we don’t even have an oven in my home in India. As a kid, I read so many books with unfamiliar foods in them that my vocabulary broadened even if my taste buds had never experimented with them.

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Even though I grew up in a city that has the second longest urban beach in the world, the beaches, coves and mystery islands I was reading in the books were exotic and exciting.

Now as a writer, I live in the UK. Here crumpets are available in supermarkets and the beaches are cold most of the year but for a brief period of glorious summer.

And I often think the hot Indian weather, the spicy food and the bullock carts would kindle the imaginations of children here, perhaps give them a sense of adventure about the world out there – which is different and yet the same.

And that’s what I want my stories to do. A Jar of Pickles and a Pinch of Justice, brings a whiff of the Indian summer, the caw-caw of the crows, the mango pickles and trumpeting grey elephants. Along with all that, it also poses questions to young readers about right and wrong, fair and unfair decisions.

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Like all young people that have a sense of justice that is unwavering and strong, Prince Veera and his friend Suku too feel strongly about doing the right thing. And in each story, they have to sift through the facts, go deeper than the surface and the come up with a fair solution to the problem in front of them.

But it’s not all work and no play. They have a lot of fun playing pranks, running in the fields and eating corn. Their friendship and camaraderie is infectious and sometimes even the grownups join in.

As a writer, I hope these stories bring the magic of faraway places to children who do not live in India and for those who are familiar with India and its colours, smells and festivals, I hope these are affirming and recognisable.

As a child books from faraway places opened up my imagination, gave me a sense of wonder about the worlds I didn’t know about – for all it mattered an English countryside could have been on another planet, for me they were so exotic and magical.

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That’s exactly what I want to do when I write stories – bring a bit of magic wrapped along with a story to every reader who stretch their boundaries and read a book about something or someone different from them.

AJOP_9781406364675_PC_UK_circRead A Jar of Pickles and a Pinch of Justice and find out if that magic reached you and lit your imagination.

A Celebration of Jars and Pumpkins

Throw a giant pumpkin, a jar of mango pickles and a storyteller together into a bookshop, sprinkle some cake, mix some friends and family, garnish with praise from the publisher and editor and what you get is one amazing book launch and a chuffed author who is busy writing more stories.

Maybe you missed the noisy chatter on Twitter or my invite in the newsletter or perhaps you had AJOP_9781406364675_PC_UK_circrelocapattan_coverted to Mars to escape the pollution on Earth -but if you have not heard, I celebrated the launch of two new books last Saturday (8th Oct 2016) at Pickled Pepper Books, London with storytelling, orange and yellow mini cupcakes and a room full of people who had come from far to celebrate with me.

 

I’ve gone to many book launches in the past few years and I was worried that I p1030032wouldn’t know what to do when it was my turn. I was worried there won’t be any photos. I was worried that I’ll forget my words during the storytelling. I was worried. It was like your baby being sent to nursery or the big school for the first day. Shiny and new into the hands of others. Would they love the stories as much as I do?

p1030050I watched the door as people trickled in. I watched as people on the street walked past and it wasn’t a familiar face. As friends started coming in, I slowly relaxed. As the time came to tell the stories, my story genie took over. She knew the stories, she loved them, she grew up with them. And I hope those who were there liked the stories.

So the books have left the docks and floated away into the hands of readers. A story lives again when it is told and it grows and changes and lives over and over again when retold many times. And I hope these stories live those many lives through the readers and the listeners they read to.