Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Art of the Mills

Found these adverts/postcards for some of the textile mills in Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Mills like Phoenix and Jubilee which exist in different avatars now... Obviously, we loved firang models even then! Some of the clothes are fittingly gujju. I bought these from a kabadi wala in junagadh...

gujju romance zindabad!

the over-the-shoulder smile of a gujju sari pehni hui mem? is she thinking fondly of theplas?

this one could be a pose from a mary cassatt painting!

sometimes, beauty is a beast!

chandani raat hogi, taaron ki baraat hogi!

the guy was going for rakish but has obviously reached evil. well, the girl's kinda saucy too.

raja-ravi-varma wannabe meets bryllcreamed sophisticate...

this one to is actually dressed a lot like my grand mom in her youth... i love the scholar-beauty look - glasses and the fancy lace-collared blouse and tiny clutch!

Amit (for a change)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

‘We wanted to fill kids with the wonder of this large, complex land’

An interview which appeared in the Deccan Herald of December 6, 2009

Anita & Amit Vachharajani are passionately involved with children’s literature, and the books by this writer-illustrator couple are proof of that. While Junagadh-born Amit went to the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad and later shifted to Mumbai to pursue a career in filmmaking, Mumbai-born Anita conducts writing workshops for children, helping them express themselves more freely. The couple, which has an enviable collection of children’s books at their home in Mumbai, has recently come up with Amazing India – A State-By-State Guide (Scholastic), a beautifully-illustrated book introducing all regions of the country in a style that will make them aware about India’s diversity in a fun way. The Vachharajanis spoke to Deccan Herald’s Utpal Borpujari on why it was important to bring out a book of this sort:

How did you conceive the idea for this book?
Scholastic USA had published a book called My World – A Country-by-country Guide, and our publisher, Scholastic India, felt that a similar book on India would be great. We began working on Amazing India about two-and-a-half years back. It’s a richly-illustrated description, covering everything from India’s forests and animals, to its peoples, arts, crafts, music, film-makers, poets, dancers, warriors and artists.

What were in your ‘do’ and ‘not to do’ lists while compiling the book considering that India has so much to offer?

What we did not want to do was give kids a book with a laundry list of facts that they would be tempted to memorise! We wanted to fill kids with the wonder of this large, complex land through an exciting and visually-rich book. We chose to present a mix of facts laced with humour, so that each child who looked at it – irrespective of his or her age and interests – would find it engaging.

How did you go about deciding what to include and what not to in the book?
For each state, we wanted some points on history, geography and ecology; some on monuments; some on people, arts, dance, music and craft; plus some facts and figures. We did focus a little more on ecology, because India’s animals, wetlands, forests, farms, rivers and mountains are all in grave danger. Of course, we kept it flexible – in Karnataka, for instance, we used the monuments built by powerful dynasties to tell the state’s story.

With every state having so much to offer, wasn’t it difficult to leave out quite a lot of info?

It’s incredible that in India, each region is so different from the other, and so full of its distinct species, land forms and cultural practices. Despite this, however, a lot of intermingling happened between the thoughts and practices of different peoples to create what we so easily call ‘Indian culture’ today. To give children a small but memorable peek into this wonderful complexity, we devoted two pages to each state, with a map, informative points, illustrations, a fact file and an arts and crafts section. Space was tight and it was really tough choosing what would go in.

How did you do the research? Did you make personal visits to the states or you relied on available information?

Ideally, we would have loved to experience every single thing we wrote about and drew, but given the wide scope of this book, that might have taken us a little over a lifetime to do. Researching it was like being back in school, but with the freedom to choose what we wanted to study! Once we spotted an interesting fact, the first step would be to cross-check it across different sources. Then we would go to the next step in the research, which was finding correct visual references.

How did you decide on the mix of the known and relatively unknown facts for the book?

We were constantly walking a fine line between what is obviously important and should go in, and what is well-known and so can be left out. We consciously chose to describe lesser-known or forgotten facts. While we did talk about known monuments like the Taj, Fatehpur Sikri, Meenakshi temple, the churches of Old Goa and Nek Chand’s Rock Garden, we also wrote about less-known things and places like the Living Root bridges of Meghalaya, the cave networks of Andhra Pradesh and Meghalaya, the Neolithic cave art of Kerala and Haryana’s Saketi Fossil Park, where four-horned giraffes and giant tortoises roamed millions of years ago.

The book also indirectly encourages the targeted young readers to explore more about each region. What is the idea behind this strategy?

The whole idea behind it was that kids should get tempted to go out and learn more about the places they live in and visit. We have the do-it-yourself scrapbook pages at the end so that kids can slip into an observational mode. Hopefully, when our readers travel after going through the book, they would know what to look out for and would want to preserve their memories!

The mix of words and visuals in the book is almost 50:50. How important is visuals in a book of this nature, especially when the target audience is young?

Any factual book without arresting visuals would be a drag because visuals ensure that a child is drawn in. Drawings were a great way to make the ideas concrete for children and to help them visualize what was written. Children have a pretty sharp instinct for art and visuals. So when they see good, hand-drawn-and-coloured illustrations, they are bound to feel engaged by them. That was why why Amit actually drew over 250 drawings for this book, instead of using photos or computer-generated art.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 06-12-2009)


Friday, December 04, 2009

Reading the magic quilt

Nonie's Magic Quilt has been reviewed in The Hindu!

Six year old Nonie refused to sleep and what did her parents do? Relate stories of every kind:
“Stories there were of little kids
who grew green grass on their lids
Tales there were of tiffin-ly fun
Of candies, cookies and cream buns
stories of princesses living in pails
stories of dragons with tricky tails

But interesting though these stories were, did our little Nonie sleep? Of course she didn't.

“Try milk” said the doctor, the teacher said “Rice”
Their cat said, “Just feed her some mice”.

As the parents grew weak with the effort of making her sleep, Nonie only got stronger.

It was decided then that this was emergency and help had to be summoned in the form of Munni, who arrives on a flying broom with a load of luggage.
She is quick to grasp the problem and sets down to work. And the solution is “The Super Sleepalicious Quilt, the X-42”.
Somu the snake, Munni's assistant, and she get down to work and exciting “ingredients” are called out for:
“The screech of a parrot, the swish of a breeze
The roar of thunder, a sigh of the seas
The tinkle of bells, the flute's tinny tune
The twinkle of a star, the silver of the moon
The wolf's howl in the dark of the night
Across the sky, the eagle's long flight…”
As all these swirl around, they are bewitched into becoming little pieces of cloth that make Nonie's quilt. And did Nonie sleep after this?

Read this delicious hilarious story Nonies Magic Quilt by Anita Vachharajani, in rhyme, to find out. Along with the lines that make you double up in laughter are the illustrations by Anitha Balachandran that sets you giggling and your imagination soaring. A “must read” as it can inspire you to set out on your own story in rhyme.

And in the Timeout:
Six-year-old Nonie has no time to sleep. After all, if she shuts her eyes, when will she laugh and play? Her parents tell her stories about princesses living in pails and dragons with tricky tails, yet she refuses to catch any shuteye. Finally, they summon Aunt Munni, who sets about making a Super Sleepalicious Quilt. This delightful story is told in verse form and is refreshingly cheeky and funny. Anitha Balachandran’s sharp and witty illustrations add colour to the poem making it a perfect bedtime story for children who are just learning to read.

Here's a link to the publisher's page.

And this email from Jenee, a friend who read Nonie out to her kids: (you can see she's been very, very kind :)

Hi Anita,
...I envy you, to take some much time to make something so nice and simple is soooo difficult. How much writing rewriting sitting with editor, convincing publisher, sitting with illustrator
Please tell Anitha that the Gandhi on the stamp is nice and mostly reminds me of Mario Miranda’s style)
The rhyming and at the same time runs like a story
What’s ‘green grass growing on the lid?’ “Bit of lunch”
‘Tight sleep’ a nice old phrase
Who named her Nonie? It’s not a common nickname I think.
The broom is kicking interest as my daughter suddenly said “Harry Potter poleya?”
Parents and adults who are reading will have to run to get dictionary and imagine really a lot with this story so kudos on that! Simply put it is worth the money and time put in while the kids will like the book itself.
Why have you named the quilt X-42?
I liked this the best
“Oh there’s always lot of room when you travel on a broom.”
“She plays all day, sleeps at night
Wakes up each morning, feeling bright.”

Thank you, Jenee! And of course, the reviewers at the Hindu and the Timeout.

Dhan te nan!

Amazing India is finally being launched (yes, well after it has sold 7000 copies and gone into a 2nd print)! It's a quiz competition, to be held at the Hiranandani School in Powai - we will be there along with the scholastic team. See more here on the fb page and on the Scholastic site
more updates on that later!