World Poetry Day 2017

Today is World Poetry Day and I’ve been itching all day to come back home and read poetry – Swirl words in my mouth, say it aloud, marvel at the meaning and feel the beat in my blood. What should I read and what am I in the mood for? I could go back to one of my favourite poems – so simple you can memorise in a few minutes.

Or I could read some perfect verse from Ted Hughes – The Thought Fox.

Or I could read nonsense rhyme (and an alternate legend) from Roald Dahl.

Then I decided I should check out contemporary Indian poets who are writing amazing poetry in both their own language and in English – people who have had similar experiences to mine, poems that have arisen from the crowded streets of an Indian city.

Here is a little taste of the poems I’ve been discovering. So delicious, so full of meaning, like a layered cake full of your favourite flavours and some that are full of bitter truths like a little piece of ginger inside a plum cake.

Here read this by Anamika, translated into English.

Which is the place from where we fall,

become clipped nails,

fallen hair trapped in combs,

fit only to be swept away?

Read the rest here:

And read this, my latest favourite poem by Jerry Pinto, who also writes wonderful children’s books.

I want a Poem

I want a poem like thick tropical rain

Dense green spatter of syllables

Drumbeat consonants, fertile with meaning.

Sudden. Short. Unforgettable.

Afterwards, jungle silence. 

And it goes into more beautiful imagery… read the rest here.

And here is a scene from a crowded train in Mumbai – the poem Andheri Local  by Arundhathi Subramaniam evokes emotional and physical proximity so well.

Like metal licked by relentless acetylene

we are welded –

dreams, disasters,

germs, destinies,

flesh and organza,

odours and ovaries.

Find out how the narrator feels when she (or he) gets out of the carriage.

And finally I want to finish one of the greats of Indian poetry – Maharishi Rabindranath Tagore.

This snippet from verse 21 is one of my favourites from Gitanjali – the Nobel Prize winning collection of spiritual poems.

The spring has done its flowering and taken leave. And now with the burden of faded

futile flowers I wait and linger.

The waves have become clamorous, and upon the bank in the shady lane the yellow

leaves flutter and fall.

What emptiness do you gaze upon!

Do you not feel a thrill passing through the air with the notes of the far away song

floating from the other shore?

I can’t let WorldPoetryDay go past me without writing a little snippet myself. Here is my humble attempt

When My Grandmother Came…

Chitra Soundar

When my grandmother came, as an immigrant bride

She brought with her, a box of bronze

Simple, plain and its edges chipped by grandmothers gone.

I opened it to find,

The coolness of cumin,

And the grace of fenugreek,

The confidence of coriander,

The passion of peppercorns.


When my grandmother came, naïve and wide-eyed,

The box she brought, the one of bronze

Fragrant and familiar of things left behind.

I opened it to find,

The sliver of joy,

And the reason for love,

The reason to belong,

The attar of HOPE!



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.

Nowhere Girl – A #ReadYourWorld Review for MCBD 2017.


AJ Paquette kindly gave me an electronic copy of this book to read and I’m really enjoyed reading it.

It’s not always that a story is set in South East Asia and shows us the intricacies and wisdom of the people there. Right from the start, I loved the narrator, she had me wondering where she was and what dangers awaited her.

As story unfolded, I loved not just the narrator but many of the characters I met on the way. The Warden was such a beautiful soul and so were the inmates and guards. Isra stood out as a person I wanted to meet in real life.

Luchi, the protagonist is vulnerable, yet has to learn her strength. She is new to the outside world and the outside world to her. But she learns slowly to trust, to unravel the mysteries of this world that is ours, and she makes mistakes like all of us do. Sometimes we all trust a bit too much and sometimes we are too careful.

When Luchi stays with Kiet’s family – I almost longed to be there with her. But Luchi is right, she had to be on her way and she couldn’t trust anyone.

When I visited Bangkok the first time, my immediate response was – I know this place. This looks so familiar just like Chennai, the city I grew up in. It had the same spirit, the same busy-ness and the same chaos intertwined with an unseen pattern that worked. And anyone who hasn’t been in a big city before would be overwhelmed just like our Luchi. And she manages to find her way around although she is betrayed when least expecting it.


I grew up with a maxim that everything happens for a reason. And that’s exactly what I would tell Luchi if I had met her a corner shop in Bangkok. Because her dire situation take her closer to her final destination.

I loved the poetic quality of AJ Paquette’s language in this book. 
The descriptions and the story unfolded as if 
they were spun of silken words.
My concern for Luchi kept me going.

I did want a bit more of the danger though. Luchi even though she does not know, has a safety net around her except when she starts walking on her own and towards the end and even then she gets a guardian angel. I think Paquette loved her so much that she didn’t put her in too much danger. As a reader, I wanted Luchi to be able to face the world on her own for a little longer. In this war-ravaged world, there are many such girls on their own, escaping camps or war zones and having to to survive on their own, and it would help them gain strength.

Nevertheless, it’s a story of adventure, of love, of families far and near, of families that are related by blood and not and more importantly of trust – trusting others and one’s own self. It’s a feel-good book for boys and girls with a sense of adventure. I’m sure it charms many readers as it charmed me.

I created a pinterest board with the floating market, just outside of Bangkok. It is still one of my favourite places since I visited it in 2005.

Here is an activity for all readers – can you create a pinterest board (or a cardboard collage) of all the places Luchi has visited in the story? Share it with us with the tag #ReadYourWorld.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is in its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team is on a mission to change all of that.

Current Sponsors:

MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include ScholasticBarefoot Books and Broccoli.

Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. RomanAudrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTVCapstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle SwiftWisdom Tales PressLee& Low BooksThe Pack-n-Go GirlsLive Oak MediaAuthor Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

Author Sponsor include: Karen Leggett AbourayaVeronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen BurkinshawDelores Connors, Maria DismondyD.G. DriverGeoff Griffin Savannah HendricksStephen HodgesCarmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid ImaniGwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana LlanosNatasha Moulton-LevyTeddy O’MalleyStacy McAnulty,  Cerece MurphyMiranda PaulAnnette PimentelGreg RansomSandra Richards, Elsa TakaokaGraciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

MCBD Links to remember:

MCBD site:

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers:

Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators:

Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents:


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.


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.


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.


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.