7th Delhi Bookaroo – Day 0 at the Schools Day

I’m new to Bookaroo! But I felt right at home the minute I walked in through the gates. I was a bit early – you can tell when I am over-enthusiastic that I couldn’t sleep longer and couldn’t hang around the hotel more. Header-logo-unit-DELHI2

The grounds were getting ready, volunteers were arriving and soon bus-loads of school kids were brought in and let loose amongst authors.



I had met some of the authors the previous evening at a SCBWI India event organised by Anushka Ravishankar of Duckbill books. And I met more on my first Bookaroo event day.  IMG_0394I met with Anita, the wonderful editor and publisher at Young Zubaan and met with one of the most wonderful illustrator Priya Kurian – the illustrator of Where is Gola’s Home?

I met writers and illustrators from India, Sweden, Australia, Germany, Singapore and of course UK too. A lot of names to connect with on Social Media and meet in future festivals.

I was thrilled and honoured to meet Eileen Brown and Jamila Gavin. I am proud to say Jamila even bought Farmer Falgu Goes on a Trip and I signed it for her grandkids.

My session was in an open space on the grounds and apart from the kids and teachers from the German school, I also had a visitor with feathers – an eagle. I had two wonderful volunteers who were so excited, they joined in eagerly.


We talked about long python like stories and tall giraffe like stories. We made up tall tales and every student and teacher in the audience was able to participate. We had loads of fun because we were all good at making up stories and tall tales.

The session was filled with stories too. I told them the story of “catching the hound” from Mississippi and the Counting Story from India and of course Farmer Falgu paid a visit too and told them about his trip to find silence.

After a great lunch we all were packed into three cars and taken to see Old Delhi. We went through narrow streets, walked into old buildings, shamelessly took pictures of selling beads and old doors and brightly painted windows. IMG_0420The street was filled with so many tiny shops and each shop was filled with millions of beads in hundreds of bags. Then we walked through a tiny street selling food where they deep-fried bread with fillings twice – and then went to the spice street. IMG_0410 IMG_0445

After inhaling a lot of smoke and spice filled air, we left the streets to the safety and comfort of our air-conditioned hotel rooms.

Day 0 ended with a wonderful party organised for all attending writers, illustrators, editors, publishers and sponsors.

Tomorrow is a special day. Farmer Falgu Goes to the Market will be launched at Bookaroo. I received my first set of copies on Thursday of the new bookIMG_0396. More tomorrow after the launch itself.




How my Fascination with Eggs turned into Farmer Falgu Goes to the Market

Falgu_2 Cover

I don’t like to eat eggs as eggs. Mix them up in a cake and if I can’t smell it or taste it and I ‘m fine.


But drape an egg over fried rice like they do in Singapore and Malaysia, or on top of a pie or layers of thick eggs in a pastry or a frittata – no thanks!

As a south Indian Iyengar, growing up, my only experience with eggs was traumatic and pehaps once fun. I had some weird nutritional deficiency called Primary Complex. Sounds like the old building in my school. So I had to eat more protein.

I can hear my gym trainer Jay say – you could never get the protein you need from just lentils. True enough when I was 6 or 7, the doctor said I had to eat eggs. Perhaps he didn’t mean raw. But I was in an orthodox Brahmin family which doesn’t cook eggs or go to a restaurant that does.

So whether or not the doctor said it had to be raw. Because it was an egg, it couldn’t come into the house.  The eggs were purchased by a maid and brought in to the bathroom via the backdoor. Bathroom was the place you could wash off impurities before entering the house.rawegg

So the maid would crack open the egg, pour it raw into a glass of milk (I repeat glass of milk, not a tumbler we normally use – because this is egg, we can’t use household things), and made me drink it.

That put an end to any kind of love affair that could have blossomed later in life with eggs. I hated the smell of it. I couldn’t swallow it without screaming and crying.

Then when I was 11, I foolishly entered the egg-shell painting competition. It was foolish in hindsight but as usual impulsive and adventurous for me – because I didn’t realize I had to crack the egg a little and take all the stuff out and of course I had never painted anything before – I didn’t even own a paint set.

So I dragged my religious mum to the big hall where this was happening, and we cracked open eggs, poured the goo out all the while my mum muttering why I never check with her before entering competitions like this – but she was good natured about it and then I copied what others did as they painted.eggshellpainting

That’s it – by the time I encountered eggs was much later when I was in Singapore working in a bank, for long hours and going to the shop opposite my office for some dinner – and the man brought vegetarian fried rice with a fried egg on top.


The white waters and the yellow island – that fascinated me. I still love to see the yellow blob float in a cup when I make cakes. I love the sizzle of chillies and onions, the mixture of coriander and the how the egg turns into an omlette.

Visually it is a treat. That’s it. The rest of it – I don’t like. I don’t like the texture of a fried egg. I don’t like to eat them. But I love to make them.

And that fascination found its way into my next book Farmer Falgu Goes to the Market.

There are eggs in this story. There is coriander of course. And tomatoes, and chillies. A sizzling pan too. And there is an ……


You have to read the book and find out what happens next!

And of course you’re invited to the launch party at the 7th Bookaroo in New Delhi on the 29th November (just 8 days away…)

Farmer Falgu Goes to the Market - Book Launch at Bookaroo

We have songs as usual, all Farmer Falgu books have songs. We will introduce everyone to Farmer Falgu’s friends from Book 1 too.

So don’t miss the opportunity to break some eggs!

Children’s Day in India

It is children’s Day in India today and I thought I should ponder over it and share my thoughts with you all.

What constitutes Children’s Day – I think many countries celebrate this and perhaps for different reasons and with a different focus. nehru1Children’s Day in India is celebrated to honour Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime-minister who was born on 14th November because he liked spending time with children and he always had kids over to his office to talk to them.

The Universal Children’s Day is celebrated quite close to the Indian one – on 20th November since the mid-50s. Almost every country has a date dedicated for this.

It is not a public holiday obviously – there used to be performances, competitions, more relaxed timetable at school and having events like debates and speech competitions at school. eggshellpaintingI think one such event I participated was in the Egg-Shell painting competition. That was adventurous for me because I had never touched an egg before that in my life.


For me though this day was a bit more special– both my mum and sister celebrated their birthdays on 14th November. P1000199We always had sweets and special prayers at home and we used to tease my sister saying the whole country was celebrating her birthday.

For me Children’s Day should inspire people to do better for their children. For India, that means – providing education and food to so many children who do not have a childhood. This year India and Pakistan won the Nobel Peace Prize jointly by two people in their own ways has furthered this cause. We should support and help Kailash and Malala to do more – the collective strength is greater than the sum of its parts.

I love the flags, the roses and the sweets that politicians distribute on this day.


But I want them to stop doing token celebrations and do something in their own circle of influence. Even teach for a day, find out which kids amongst their party followers don’t go to school and provide free schools for the people who work in their parties. I want politicians to stop making gestures and get stuck in, get hands dirty.

Today I am a writer and I write for children. I love spending time in schools and enjoy telling them stories and listening to their stories. As an author of children’s books, as a writer who wants to connect with children and inspire them –what is children’s day to me and what should it be?

I want to be a role-model. I want to teach children to read, write and listen to stories. Every child is creative, imaginative and capable and I want in a small way to be part of that process.roomtorread

I have been pondering about the charity Room to Read – I want to do a bit more than fund-raising or donating money. They too won accolades this year for bringing books, schools and education to girls across the world. Perhaps it is time to join them and get stuck in myself.

I’m not doing enough yet. Children’s Day has turned into more of a family celebration time given the two birthdays we celebrate. One of my math teachers is also born on this day. But I think it is time I celebrate Children’s Day in a more meaningful way – and I am going to spend the next 12 months until the next Children’s Day putting some ideas into action.

Do you have ideas? What do you think we should do for Children’s Day wherever you live?

Events Gallery

Swept Away in Stories

events 270414 090Storytelling came into my life long before writing. I told my first story in public when I was seven. I told more stories as I grew up to my sister, cousins and children younger than who I was tutoring.

But as a gawky teenager, as a girl who was unsure of herself, I moved away from storytelling. Though I wrote those days I was not ever close to it. Never thought of writing stories. When I started writing, it was due to the need to tell stories – my own stories, made up ones. I also wrote stories that had been passed on to me and that didn’t feel like writing – that felt as if I was recording a piece of my past, my culture, my inheritance on paper.

Writing felt and still feels as if it suits me. I can be on my own, in my head. I can write in my room, write on a bus, write so I could be amused more than anything else. But I think the storyteller in me wants to get the story published so I could tell it out loud. Writing like storytelling is a performance art – though not in the same way. For a writer in many ways, having a reader is gratifying. Having a reader who likes what you’ve written is redeeming. And it is performance – I’m so glad you liked this story – did you get what I wrote there?

Storytelling needs a listener. An audience. And I was afraid of it. It is more immediate. In storytelling I have to sit in front of you and enthrall you – otherwise you are going to boo me, throw tomatoes and rotten eggs at me.

But there is only a subtle difference. If readers don’t like your story, whether they are editors, publishers, the person who bought the book, the child who is read to – it is the same. The rotten tomatoes still come – but perhaps more in virtual reality. Maybe I don’t know about them. I still have to fear it and I do.

So when I braved myself two years ago to join a weekend course in storytelling – I wasn’t sure why I was doing it. It felt as if I needed a new distraction. New courses to go to instead of going on holidays like regular adults. New courses I could learn in, having exhausted all the courses in writing and there was nothing more to learn except write.

But the course felt like homecoming. I love folktales, always loved it and there was a joy in discovering a story that had the wisdom of your ancestors. I had escaped from falling in love with storytelling for almost 20 years. And there I was in this course – thinking maybe I have to do this more seriously.

In that weekend course, Abbie Palache asked to look up some storytellers on youtube or out in the performance arenas and one that stood out for me was Jan Blake – storyteller extraordinaire. snap_apr_jan_blakeFor the next few months I cyber-stalked her – well I looked her up, listened to all her youtube videos, tried to find performances that I could go to and of course see if she was teaching a course that I could join.

I made connection with Jan in one of her performances and she said she was doing a one-day course in West London. I couldn’t believe my luck – I booked my place and there I was in front of one of our master storytellers. We had a day practicing storytelling with Jan Blake and 3 other students – and we got tips about posture, presence, voice, enrichment and more. I was hungry for more.

Jan tells a lot of stories – her repertoire is quite wide and varied. She tells to adults and to children. But the fascination for me was that she told folktales from her own culture. She told to children as well as adults. And I wanted to learn from her – even if only 1% would rub off.


I wasn’t sure I was good enough though. I always have big doubts about my abilities, even in my successful day-job – it is good to be insecure about yourself someone told me a while ago – it keeps you alert on the job. But I am always anxious about my writing and now I am anxious about my storytelling. If I had a shrink, his kid’s college fees would be paid for.

Jan told me I had it in me to become a storyteller – yes, I have to learn a lot of things – but I had the spark that could turn into something bigger if I nurtured it. I reluctantly believed it.

One day Jan announced that she was going to run her masterclass which she taught 12 years ago – it is 4 weeks, one week a month covering various aspects of storytelling. I messaged her and said I’m in.

As the course neared its start date, Jan told me there wasn’t a lot of participants for module 1. In fact due to pre-half term dates, it was just me. So I had a one-one coaching with Jan Blake (can you believe it?) last week.


Right from my story choices, to my eye-contact, my expressions, my telling, my presence – I was up-close and personal with my coach for 3 days. I learnt about voice, emotions of the characters in the story, how not to tell it and to demonstrate what I was doing wrong, Jan would tell my story in her own way. What a treat that was.

And when I tophoto-4ld her my stories, she would remember a similar story from Africa or another part of the world (a treasure-trove of stories in her memory) and I would listen enthralled, but also trying to capture and observe how she was telling it – even though she was telling to one person, not in performance mode.

And if this was not treat enough, after the third day of the course, Jan Blake was going to perform at the British Musuem with another veteran storyteller Tuup and she took me along with her as her guest. What an honour that was.


Ben Haggerty (another British storytelling stalwart) asked me “Was it intense?” – Yes it was. Here was a tsunami of a storyteller in my living room. How could it not be intense, powerful and radiant? It was harsh in some ways – because I had to no place to hide, no backbench distractions, no waiting for someone else’s turn to tell – I was there alert and under her intense coaching.

I helped out with the carrying of props, I listened to four storytellers discuss the upcoming performance, met people I would have never been able to meet and I got to listen to gothic horror tales from the Caribbean. If that wasn’t a grand finale to a course, what could be?

The next module is on 10th November in Southwark in London. Then there is a module in December and one in January. I’m hoping to attend all of them – hopefully nothing would come in the way.

While I am still preparing for telling stories in schools, preparing a repertoire based on Jan’s advice and would be posting details of my school programme soon, I have my first hurdle to overcome – tell a story to a camera with confidence and post it on my web and my youtube channel. Can I do it? Would you come and watch it? Do you like stories?