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Careful what you wish for

All Time Favourites for Children celebrates Ruskin Bond’s writing with stories that are perennially loved and can now be enjoyed in a single collectible volume. Curated and selected by India’s most loved writer, this collection brings some of the evocative episodes from Ruskin’s life. It brings together many known charming, endearing characters such as the iconic Rusty, the eccentric Uncle Ken and the ubiquitous grandmother, and a smattering of new ones that are sure to be firm favourites with young readers, especially middle schoolers. Heart-warming, funny and spirited, this is a must-have on every bookshelf!

All-Time Favourites FC
All-Time Favourites||Ruskin Bond

Here’s a taste of what’s in store in this exciting collection of stories. An extract from the story of a parrot who could, but ‘wouldn’t’ talk. ‘What goes around comes around’ is a complete mood in this one.

~

‘Kiss, kiss!’ Aunt Ruby would coo, putting her face close to the barge of the cage. But the parrot would back away, its beady little eyes getting even smaller with anger at the prospect of being kissed by Aunt Ruby. On one occasion, it lunged forward without warning and knocked my aunt’s spectacles off her nose.

After that, Aunt Ruby gave up her endearments and became quite hostile towards the poor bird, making faces at it and calling out, ‘Can’t talk, can’t sing, can’t dance!’ and other nasty comments.

It fell upon me, then ten years old, to feed the parrot, and it seemed quite happy to receive green chillies and ripe tomatoes from my hands, these delicacies being supplemented by slices of mango, for it was then the mango season. It also gave me an opportunity to consume a couple of mangoes while feeding the parrot.

One afternoon, while everyone was indoors enjoying a siesta, I gave the parrot his lunch and then deliberately left the cage door open. Seconds later, the bird was winging its way to the freedom of the mango orchard.

At the same time, Grandfather came to the veranda and remarked, ‘I see your aunt’s parrot has escaped!’

‘The door was quite loose,’ I said with a shrug.

‘Well, I don’t suppose we’ll see it again.’

Aunt Ruby was upset at first and threatened to buy another bird. We put her off by promising to buy her a bowl of goldfish.

‘But goldfish don’t talk!’ she protested.

‘Well, neither did your bird,’ said Grandfather. ‘So we’ll get you a gramophone. You can listen to Clara Cluck all day. They say she sings like a nightingale.’

I thought we’d never see the parrot again, but it probably missed its green chillies, because a few days later I found the bird sitting on the veranda railing, looking expectantly at me with its head cocked to one side. Unselfishly, I gave the parrot

half of my mango.

While the bird was enjoying the mango, Aunt Ruby emerged from her room and, with a cry of surprise, called out, ‘Look, my parrot’s come back! He must have missed me!’

With a loud squawk, the parrot flew out of her reach and, perching on the nearest rose bush, glared at Aunt Ruby and shrieked at her in my aunt’s familiar tones: ‘You’re no beauty! Can’t talk, can’t sing, can’t dance!’

Aunt Ruby went ruby-red and dashed indoors.

But that wasn’t the end of the affair. The parrot became a frequent visitor to the garden and veranda and whenever it saw Aunt Ruby it would call out, ‘You’re no beauty, you’re no beauty! Can’t sing, can’t dance!’

The parrot had learnt to talk, after all.

A diving holiday, disturbing discovery, and kidnapping

Far out in the Arabian Sea, where the waters plunge many thousands of metres to the ocean floor, lies a chain of bewitching coral atolls – the Lakshadweep Islands. Vikram and Aditya dive into lagoons with crystal-clear water and reefs that are deep and shrouded in mystery. But when they stumble upon a devious kidnapping plot, their idyllic holiday turns into a desperate struggle for survival.

Here is an excerpt from Deepak Dalal’s new book, Lakshadweep Adventure where Faisal – the boy who’s care Vikram and Aditya are left in – makes a disturbing discovery.

Front Cover A Vikram–Aditya Story: Lakshadweep Adventure
A Vikram–Aditya Story: Lakshadweep Adventure

Faisal was in a bad mood. His uncle’s impending arrival hovered like a dark cloud above him. And his friends’ decision to abandon him for the day only made things worse.

Faisal had noticed the wind the moment he had strolled out on to the beach, and his mood had soured even further when he saw his friends enjoying themselves. He wished he had accepted Aditya’s offer as he watched them speed their boards across the lagoon. But it was too late now. His uncle would be arriving shortly.

Faisal sat under a palm tree. He passed time drawing figures in the sand. Above him, palm fronds shook and fluttered as the wind whistled through them. The sun shone brightly. The sand intensified its glare, forcing Faisal to shut his eyes. It was pleasant under the tree and the wind was crisp and enjoyable. The rustling of the palms overhead soothed him and he soon fell asleep.

The tide slowly crept up the beach and finally washed over Faisal’s feet, waking him with a start. He looked at his watch, muttering softly to himself. It was past midday.

Basheer uncle would have arrived by now. He dusted sand from his clothes and rose hurriedly to his feet.

Faisal heard raised voices from the living room window when he entered the yard. He crept forward till he was below the window and peeped in.

His uncle was standing in the centre of the room, facing a group of men.

Basheer Koya was a copy of Faisal’s father, except that he was fatter and there was hardly any hair on his head. But unlike his brother, whose manner was calm and collected, Basheer Koya’s face was contorted with rage. His cheeks were dark and red and he was shouting like a man possessed.

‘Fools!’ thundered Basheer Koya in Malayalam. ‘Monkeys have more brains than you lot. Idiots. I thought you had ears. But obviously you don’t. You weren’t to set foot in Kalpeni. How many times did I tell you not to come here? Yet, not only do you come to the island, but even more brainlessly, you visit my home.’

A bearded man with big, wide shoulders spoke. ‘Sir,’ he began. ‘Sir—’

Basheer Koya ranted on, cutting off the man. ‘I travelled all the way to Kochi to make certain that no suspicion fell on me and I returned only after the operation was over. And you? I come home and see you fools sitting in my house. I take all these precautions and now everyone on this island can link me to you and from there to the operation.’

‘But, sir—’

‘You were under orders to head to Tinakara Island. What are you doing here?’

‘Sir. I was trying to explain just that, sir. We were headed for Tinakara. But we had engine trouble, sir. A terrible rattling noise came from the engine and we were forced to head for the nearest island. You can speak to the mechanic, sir. He looked at our boat and said we were lucky to make it here to Kalpeni.’

The explanation diminished Basheer Koya’s rage, yet he continued to glare at the bearded man. ‘Kumar. Where is Kumar?’ he barked.

‘Kumar is safely on board, sir. There’s no need to worry about him. He is in the lower cabin and one of our men is with him all the time. He can’t make a sound or do anything. He won’t be able to alert the mechanics.’

Faisal froze. This was not for his ears. It was wrong of him to eavesdrop. He wondered if he should leave, but who was Kumar and what was his uncle up to?

‘No one is to know that we have a prisoner on board,’ growled Basheer Koya. ‘Even Allah will not be able to help you if he is discovered. I make no allowances for mistakes.’ Basheer Koya stared at his men, shifting his gaze from one to the other. ‘Do you understand?’

There was silence in the room.

Faisal understood full well what his uncle meant. He shuddered.

***

Journey through these breath-taking islands with a tale of scuba diving and sabotage, set in one of India’s most splendid destinations.

The more (books), the May-rrier!

We know that our current times are not the most optimistic. But now more than ever, we believe that books can act as a source of hope and joy, howsoever small, and keep us going.

We have an assorted selection of books for you this May! These will keep your young ones occupied as they spend the summers indoors, inside the safety of their cozy homes.

**

All-Time Favourites for Children

Ruskin Bond

Front cover of All-Time Favourites
All-Time Favourites for Children || Ruskin Bond, Kashmira Sarode (Illustrator)

Ages:  9+  years

All Time Favourites for Children celebrates Ruskin Bond’s writing with stories that are perennially loved and can now be enjoyed in a single collectible volume. Curated and selected by India’s most loved writer, this collection brings some of the evocative episodes from Ruskin’s life, iconic Rusty, eccentric Uncle Ken, ubiquitous grandmother, and many other charming, endearing characters in a single volume while also introducing us to a smattering of new ones that are sure to be firm favourites with young readers.

 

Ninja Nani and the Freaky Food Festival

Lavanya Karthik

Front cover of Ninja Nani and the Freaky Food Festival
Ninja Nani and the Freaky Food Festival || Lavanya Karthik

Ages: 10 to 14 years

It’s time for the annual festival and a special guest is expected to arrive in Gadbadnagar, but has a certain President gone too far? Has Nani finally met her match in the meanest, scariest and awfullest demon ever to crawl out of the Dark Forest? Will the Mayor’s mustache ever run for office?

Wait, there’s more!

Fake Mystery Heroes! Haunted falooda! Giant dogs–

And what’s that again about goats? You’re going to have to read it for yourself. 

 

Mirror, Mirror

Andaleeb Wajid

Front cover of Mirror, Mirror
Mirror, Mirror || Andaleeb Wajid

Ages: 10 to 14 years

Five years earlier, a friend’s nasty comment makes Ananya start hating her body. She decides to change into a new person-one who effortlessly fits into all kinds of clothes, who shuns food unless it’s salad, and who can never be called ‘Miss Piggy’-and to cut everything from her ‘old’ life, including her best friend, Raghu, for being the witness to her humiliation.

Ananya is on her way to becoming the Ananya of her dreams, but she’s still a work in progress.

One day, her parents announce that they’re expecting a baby (at their age!). To make matters worse, Raghu reappears in her life …

Andaleeb Wajid’s latest novel for young adults is a touching and funny story about a young girl’s journey to acceptance and self-love.

 

What’s the Big Secret?

Sonali Shenoy

Front cover of What's the Big Secret?
What’s the Big Secret? || Sonali Shenoy, Annushka Hardikar (Illustrator)

Ages: 9+ years

Eleven-year-old Aditya really wants to know about periods.

Ever since Rhea Didi began getting brown paper packages, there’s been something that no one is telling him. Mama turns red, Pa chokes on his coffee and Dadi has steam coming out of her ears! Thank goodness for his friends Naveen and Vinay-whom he can talk to.

But when Vinay brings an odd-looking napkin to school that soaks ink, Aditya is even more confused. Doesn’t his sister use a microtip pen?

All of this is only making little Aditya more determined to find out What is going on!

 

Dark Tales

Venita Coehlo

Front cover of Dark Tales
Dark Tales || Venita Coehlo

Ages: 9+ years

In this collection of eleven very dark and twisted tales, Venita Coelho lays bare the underbelly of contemporary India. Get ready to gasp and cringe in horror as you have the rug pulled out from under you! This is a book you won’t want to read after dark.

 

And That is Why

L. Somi Roy

And That is Why || L. Somi Roy, Sapha Yumnam (Illustrator)

Ages: 8+ years

Dear Reader, do you know
· why the deer does not eat rice?
· why man gets wrinkles and a stoop?
· why the cat buries its poop?
· why a doll is worshipped in a village called Kakching?

Discover twelve magical tales from Manipur, the mountain land in the north-east of India on the border with Myanmar. Passed down by learned scholars, balladeers and grandmothers over hundreds of years, these unknown myths and fables are enriched with beautifully rich paintings that will transport you to Manipur!

 **

 

 

 

 

 

A slip and a fall in search of the grey ghost of the Himalayas

In Deepak Dalal’s new book, The Snow Leopard Adventure, Vikram and Aditya are back in magnificent Ladakh. Having finally freed their young friend Tsering from the hands of dangerous men, they’ve set themselves up for an even greater challenge: to track down the grey ghost of the Himalayas, the snow leopard.

But things don’t always go according to the plan during their trek. Here is an excerpt from the book that highlights one of the more challenging events of the trek.

Front Cover The Snow Leopard Adventure
The Snow Leopard Adventure||Deepak Dalal

I didn’t see exactly what happened because I was looking down at the gravel-strewn track as I ran. I heard a scream, and when I looked up, I saw a pair of hands grabbing desperately at the edge of the outcrop. I wasn’t far behind Caroline and scarcely a few seconds must have elapsed between her falling and my flinging myself to the ground and locking my fingers around her wrists. I had barely grasped them when her scrabbling fingers slipped, and her entire weight was transferred on to me. I was dragged forward and my chest hit the rock at the edge of the cliff with a thud.

We were both stuck, Caroline dangling from my hands and I pressed against the cliff edge, pinned down by her weight. Caroline is three inches taller than my 5 feet 7 inches and also heavier than me (sixty-five kilos to my sixty, she told me later). I could feel myself being pulled towards the edge. Disaster appeared to be a certainty, but Tsering intervened, saving us by clinging to my thighs and adding his weight to mine.

Now, on reflection, I don’t think any of us would have died if we had gone over. The cliff we clung to was not a large one. The fall was only a few metres. But the area at the base of the cliff was not flat, it sloped downwards at an alarming angle. Our injuries could have been serious. We would have broken several bones, but we would have survived.

My breath came in rapid gulps and sweat must have flowed from my every pore. Yet, even though I was terrified, a part of my mind admired the vista that spread before me. I could see the river valley below and the mountain slopes opposite. I spotted flecks of colour in the distance—our camp mates. I wondered if they could see us.

I am ashamed to admit that I lost control of myself up there. My hands shook and my chest hurt terribly. My heart kicked and pummelled my chest, and my senses swam about me. I kept assuring myself that there was no reason to panic and that nobody would go over.

I had no idea then that I was speaking my thoughts aloud (Caroline and Tsering informed me later). I told myself that we only had to wait it out. Somebody would come . . . Tina and Kathy would return and untangle us.

Luckily, a heaven-sent determination infused Caroline as she dangled in the sparse Ladakh air. While I was rambling, she spotted fissures and cracks on the rock face she was suspended against. She willed her legs to grope beneath her and she found secure anchors in the stony crevices. Her fingers and palms gripped rock at the cliff edge. With me still holding on to her wrists, she pulled herself up a few inches.

I heard her breathing. She was gasping and panting far louder than I was. Soon her face was level with mine and our eyes met. Hers glittered with cold determination. There was a vacant expression in mine, she told me later. She was probably right, because she had to shout several times before I paid attention to what she was saying. She wanted me to release her wrists, which I did mechanically. Now sure of herself, Caroline dragged herself up and without further incident she flopped beside me. We lay inert on the rock, Tsering looking down on us.

After a long time we continued our walk to the crest. The rest of the morning was a blur. None of us were in any state to look for bharal or search for leopards. Kathy, Tina and Yuan turned up, exhausted, after an hour. They had found more sign of the leopard they were following but had not been able to locate it. We turned back for camp shortly thereafter. Caroline had extracted a promise from

Tsering and me not to speak about the morning’s drama to anybody. She smiled gratefully when it became clear that we were not going to say a word, and she turned distinctly friendly when we maintained our silence at camp too.

Aditya was aghast when he learnt that I had not pursued the leopard with the others. ‘How could you let such an opportunity go?’ he wanted to know. ‘You were so close to the leopard!’

Does Aditya eventually see the Snow Leopard? Grab your copy for Snow Leopard Adventure to find out!

Did our universe… always exist??

It all started with a big cosmic blast. Or did it? Refresh your facts with this excerpt from Shruthi Rao’s How We Know What We Know  and immerse yourself in a world of fun facts about the world, its origins and all the awe-inspiring details of how everything works.

~

What is the Big Bang? The sound you hear when you burst a big balloon?

Umm, no. The Big Bang Theory is an attempt to explain what happened at the beginning of our universe.

Wait. Our universe had a beginning? Didn’t it always exist?

That’s what scientists thought too, till a few decades ago. But research and studies suggest that there was indeed a beginning. A point. Before that point, there was nothing. And after that point, the universe came into existence.

Scientists think that the universe came out of a singularity—an infinitely small, infinitely dense, infinitely hot point. What exactly is this, though? If the universe was born from this singularity, where did the singularity come from? Why did it appear?

We don’t know that. Yet.
But how do we know that this is what happened?
The story began about a 100 years ago, with Georges Lemaître of Belgium. Though he was an officer of the church, he was fascinated by physics and he studied Albert Einstein’s theories of space and time and gravitation. He concluded that if Einstein’s theories were right, it meant that the galaxies in the universe are moving away from each other. Lemaître said this proved that the universe is not just static and unmoving, as everybody previously thought. It was expanding.

cover How We Know What We Know
How We Know What We Know||Shruthi Rao

It was a theory, and though Lemaître had come up with it on the basis of an established theory, scientists needed other proof before they could accept it. But Lemaître didn’t have any data to support this idea.

Meanwhile, American astronomer Henrietta Leavitt came up with a way to calculate how far away stars are from Earth. Using her work, astronomer Edwin Hubble looked through his telescope and calculated the distances of various stars from Earth. He concluded that things in the universe were moving away from Earth. Not just that, things that were farther away from Earth were moving away faster than things close to Earth. This could only mean one thing. The universe is indeed expanding. Georges Lemaître was right.

Okay. The universe is expanding. But how does that prove there was a Big Bang?

If the universe is expanding, it must have expanded from some point. Think of the expanding universe as a movie. The galaxies are moving outwards, away from each other. Now run that movie backwards. You can imagine it as the galaxies rushing towards each other. So then, all the galaxies must meet at some point. At this point, all the matter of the universe must have been contained in a very small space, that is, the singularity.

The moment at which this singularity started expanding is the Big Bang.

But where was the proof?

Decades later, in 1965, two scientists, Arno Allan Penzias and Robert Woodrow Wilson, were trying to measure radio signals in the empty space between galaxies. They used a giant horn-shaped antenna, called the Holmdel Horn Antenna, in their observatory at Bell Labs in New Jersey, USA. But as they tried to take measurements, an annoying noise kept interfering, like static on a radio.

Where was this noise coming from?

They pointed the antenna towards New York City. No, it wasn’t city noise.

They took measurements of the noise all through the year. No, it didn’t change with the seasons.

Could the noise be from a nuclear test that had taken place a while ago? It couldn’t be. If it was, the noise should have decreased year by year.

Then what was it?

Perhaps it was just the pigeons roosting in the antenna? They chased away the pigeons, and scooped up and cleaned the droppings. But the noise still remained.

Then they learnt about the scientist Robert Dicke, a professor at Princeton University. Dicke had been thinking about the Big Bang. His opinion was that if the Big Bang was true, there should be some kind of matter remaining from the explosion. And most probably, he said, this would be a kind of low-level background radiation throughout the universe.

Dicke wanted to try and find it. But it turned out that it was exactly what Penzias and Wilson had already found! The hum they had encountered was this very radiation resulting from the Big Bang!

Penzias and Wilson got the Nobel Prize for this discovery, because it proved that the Big Bang Theory was true.

Researchers all over the world are still taking better measurements of this noise, and are finding more things to think about.

~

Exciting trivia awaits you in How We Know What We Know.

 

Timeless classics from your favourite storyteller

Sudha Murty’s stories are eternal. We finish the books, we keep them back in the shelves, but we can never forget the wonder inspired by her stories and the fascinating characters she crafts. Here are some of her timeless classics that we keep returning to:

 

front cover How The Onion Got Its Layers
How The Onion Got Its Layers||Sudha Murty

 

 

How the Onion Got Its Layers

 

Have you noticed how the onion has so many layers? And have you seen your mother’s eyes water when she cuts an onion? Here is a remarkable story to tell you why.

India’s favourite storyteller brings alive this timeless tale with her inimitable wit and simplicity. Dotted with charming illustrations, this gorgeous chapter book is the ideal introduction for beginners to the world of Sudha Murty.

 

 

 

front cover Grandma's Bag of Stories
Grandma’s Bag of Stories||Sudha Murty

 

Grandma’s Bag Of Stories

 

Who can resist a good story, especially when it’s being told by Grandma? From her bag emerges tales of kings and cheats, monkeys and mice, bears and gods. Here comes the bear who ate some really bad dessert and got very angry; a lazy man who would not put out a fire till it reached his beard; a princess who got turned into an onion; a queen who discovered silk, and many more weird and wonderful people and animals.

Grandma tells the stories over long summer days and nights, as seven children enjoy life in her little town. The stories entertain, educate and provide hours of enjoyment to them. So come, why don’t you too join in the fun?

 

front cover The Daughter From A Wishing Tree
The Daughter From A Wishing Tree||Sudha Murty

 

The Daughter from a Wishing Tree

 

Did you know that the Trinity often turned to goddesses to defeat the asuras?

Did you know that the first clone in the world was created by a woman?

The women in Indian mythology might be fewer in number, but their stories of strength and mystery in the pages of ancient texts and epics are many. They slayed demons and protected their devotees fiercely. From Parvati to Ashokasundari and from Bhamati to Mandodari, this collection features enchanting and fearless women who frequently led wars on behalf of the gods, were the backbone of their families and makers of their own destinies.

India’s much-loved and bestselling author Sudha Murty takes you on an empowering journey -through the yarns forgotten in time-abounding with remarkable women who will remind you of the strong female influences in your life.

 

front cover The Magic of the Lost Temple
The Magic of the Lost Temple||Sudha Murty

 

The Magic Of The Lost Temple

 

City girl Nooni is surprised at the pace of life in her grandparents’ village in Karnataka. But she quickly gets used to the gentle routine there and involves herself in a flurry of activities, including papad making, organizing picnics and learning to ride a cycle, with her new-found friends.

Things get exciting when Nooni stumbles upon an ancient fabled stepwell right in the middle of a forest.

Join the intrepid Nooni on an adventure of a lifetime in this much-awaited book by Sudha Murty that is heart-warming, charming and absolutely unputdownable.

 

 

front cover Grandparents' Bag of Stories
Grandparents’ Bag of Stories||Sudha Murty

Grandparents’ Bag of Stories

 

It’s 2020 and children are stuck indoors as the novel coronavirus finds its way into India. A nationwide lockdown is announced and amidst the growing crisis, Ajja and Ajji welcome their grandchildren and Kamlu Ajji into their house in Shiggaon.

From stitching masks, sharing household chores, preparing food for workers to losing themselves in timeless tales, the lockdown turns into a memorable time for the children as they enter the enchanting world of goddesses, kings, princesses, serpents, magical beanstalks, thieves, kingdoms and palaces, among others. The myriad stories told by their grandparents become the biggest source of joy, making the children compassionate, worldly-wise and more resilient than ever.

Following the trail of the best-selling Grandma’s Bag of Stories, India’s favourite author Sudha Murty brings to you this collection of immortal tales that she fondly created during the lockdown period for readers to seek comfort and find the magic in sharing and caring for others. Wonderfully woven in her inimitable style, this book is unputdownable and perfect for every child’s bookshelf!

~

Our bookshelves have an entire section dedicated to Sudha Murty. That’s just how our young readers like it! What about you?

How to convert an idea into a venture; Become A Junior Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs are bringing education online, connecting families at the touch of a button and revolutionizing the shopping experience-in short, they’re changing the way we live.

Following the success of Become a Junior Inventor, Vrunda Bansode gives every kid a hands-on crash course in entrepreneurship in her new book, Become a Junior Entrepreneur. Here is a checklist on how you can convert an idea into a venture, from the book.


Think of all the things that you can build on to develop your business as an entrepreneur and note them down. Right now, do not think of constraints. Just think of all that you would like to do. Innovate. Invent. Dream big! Now comes the reality check. Let us think of what you can actually work towards and have a good chance of succeeding at. How does one figure that out? Try to answer these questions for each of the businesses you have listed:

  • Do I myself have the skill of making this product or delivering this service?

(Hint: If you want to start a baking business but do not know how to bake, the answer would be No. If you want to start a web design service and are good at using design softwares yourself, your answer is Yes.)

  • Do I know who might be the customers for my business and can I reach them easily?

(Hint: If you are developing a book-trading app and know that many of your friends will use the service, your answer is Yes. But let’s say you are considering starting a garden clean-up service and don’t have any houses with gardens around you, the answer is No.)

  • Do many people need this product or service?

(Hint: Everybody needs and buys toothbrushes regularly, so the market is large. But not everyone needs dental braces, so the market is much smaller.)

  • Roughly how much money is needed to start this business and will I be able to get it through my savings, allowances and borrowings from family and friends?
  • Can I start working towards this right away – at least within a few months?

For any idea that you end up with more No-s than Yes-es, mark it as a passion to be pursued later. Where your Yes-es are more than the No-s, get going! If you have a Yes for all five questions, that’s a great place to start. But if you had to scrap all of your ideas, don’t be hassled. Just start again or see if you can modify an idea you like even a little until you get all five Yes-es.

Another great way to start is to team up with your friends. You will have more helping hands and great ideas on board, and there’s nothing wrong with having a little bit of fun on the side. Many great start-ups started with a team of founders rather than a single founder.

If it is not just you, but you and a group of friends who want to start a business together, then do the above as a group exercise. The group together will then have the skill of ideation, knowledge, access to prospective customers and the ability to get the money or seed capital—as it is called in the business world—to start your new business.

From sifting through ideas to running a business, Become a Junior Entrepreneur accompanies the reader through every stage of turning a nascent dream into a commercially viable start-up.

 

The arrival of rice and the children


Following the trail of the best-selling Grandma’s Bag of Stories, India’s favourite author Sudha Murty brings to you this collection of immortal tales that she fondly created during the lockdown period for readers to seek comfort and find the magic in sharing and caring for others. Wonderfully woven in her inimitable style, this book is unputdownable and perfect for every child’s bookshelf!

 

It was a pleasant afternoon in March. Ajji and Ajja were glued to the television. The worry on their faces deepened as they heard increasingly distressing news about the coronavirus situation. Ajja turned to Ajji, ‘The virus started in China, but look at what has happened. It has spread all over the world, becoming a pandemic!’ The anchor on the television announced, ‘The government is asking people to isolate themselves and follow social distancing protocols. All schools will be closed until further notice.’ Ajji’s thoughts turned to her grandchildren in Bangalore and Mumbai. The sound of an autorickshaw coming to a stop outside the house interrupted her thoughts and the bell rang. Ding-dong! Ajji opened the door and saw Kamlu, Ajja’s sister, and her granddaughter Aditi. Ajji was delighted and surprised to see them. ‘Come inside,’ she said. Kamlu Ajji smiled as she took the bags out of the autorickshaw. ‘Why didn’t you tell us you were coming?’ asked Ajji. ‘We would have picked you up from the railway station. Kamlu Ajji and Aditi entered the house. ‘Kamlu, why did you make this trip with the deadly virus around?’ Ajja demanded, concerned. ‘Oh, I didn’t know coronavirus had reached here too. Isn’t it time for the cart festival now? I haven’t seen it in so long! Aditi has her holidays now and her mother is working from home, so it is hard to keep her engaged. I thought she might enjoy the festival and brought her with me. Besides, I wanted to give you a surprise!’ Nine-year-old Aditi stood shyly behind Kamlu Ajji. ‘Come, child. Sit,’ said Ajji, inviting her with love. They all went to sit in the living room, and just then, the phone rang.

Ajji picked it up. It was her daughter, Sumati, from Mumbai. ‘Amma,’ she said, ‘I am sending both the kids to you in Shiggaon.’ ‘I’d be happy to have Raghu and Meenu, but what happened?’ ‘With Covid-19 spreading like wildfire, the schools are closing down for some time and no one knows when they will reopen. Most people live in small apartments in Mumbai and it is almost impossible to keep children from going outside. Moreover, we are working from home and can’t tend to their needs all the time. So we thought about it and spoke to Subhadra to see if I could send Raghu and Meenu to her, and she said yes . . .’ ‘All the children can come here, Sumati!’ Ajji interrupted her. ‘I knew you would say that and that’s why I called. Subhadra has also agreed to send her children to Shiggaon to be with you. You have a large compound around the house and there’s plenty of fresh air and space to move around. This way, the kids can be with you all and not get bored since they will be able toplay with each other. Now, don’t hesitate to be frank. Tell me, will it be a problem for you to handle the four of them without sending them outside the house?’

Front Cover Grandparents' Bag of Stories
Granparents’ Bag of Stories

‘No, Sumati, that is not a problem at all! My worry is—how will they come here?’ ‘We will take care of that, Amma! Raghu and Meenu have already taken a flight from Mumbai to Bangalore today and are about to reach Subhadra’s home,’ said Sumati. ‘They can come to Shiggaon tomorrow and stay for a few weeks.’ Ajja, who had been listening to Ajji’s side of the call, took the phone from her and spoke to Sumati, ‘Don’t worry, child. Kamlu and her granddaughter Aditi are also here. Send the children.’ Almost immediately, there was another call from Bangalore. Subhadra was on the line. She said the same thing. ‘My parents have already taken Anand with them, but Krishna and Anoushka want to see you and stay in Shiggaon. I have spoken to Sumati already and the four children will reach your home tomorrow. Our office manager has offered to drive them from Bangalore to Shiggaon, but he will come back immediately because there is a lot of work to be taken care of before things get worse, as is expected,’ said Subhadra.Ajji ended the call and looked at Ajja. ‘I am happy to hear that our grandchildren are coming, but I am concerned about the coronavirus situation. Will you call the temple and check if the cart festival is still going ahead as planned?’

Ajja nodded and dialled the temple’s number. While calling, he remarked, ‘It is unlikely that they’ll go ahead with the festival. We had a committee meeting yesterday and I suggested that we skip the cart festival this year, but others rejected my opinion. They felt that we shouldn’t worry because the coronavirus hasn’t reached us yet. I disagreed. Conducting the festival will be akin to giving coronavirus an invitation to come here.’ Kamlu Ajji’s face fell. ‘Instead of surprising you, I am the one who is surprised and disappointed. I think I will go back after a few days.’ Kamlu Ajji and Ajji were close friends. Ajji was pleased that her friend was with her. ‘You are not going anywhere,’ she said emphatically. ‘Cart festival or not, you are staying here with us.’ Ajja turned out to be right. The festival had been cancelled. Kamlu Ajji turned to Ajji and announced, ‘I am going to take charge of your kitchen. I love cooking. You can rest for a few days.’ Ajja added, ‘If the situation with respect to the coronavirus gets worse and a lockdown is announced, then we should not bring any outside help for the workaround the house. Let’s share the work. ‘Yes, I agree. We can’t call anyone,’ said Ajji. ‘Once the children arrive tomorrow, I will assign household chores to all of them. They will also help us.’

Ajji went to the storeroom to check if she needed to get more groceries. Ajja followed her and remarked, ‘Some places have already announced lockdowns. If we have a lockdown here too, there will be many people who will not get enough food. We must help and lend a hand when the time comes. Please order extra rations and keep them in the storeroom. We may need them to feed other people.’ Ajji began to make a grocery list, and Ajja dialled the number of the local grocery shop for a home delivery. Meanwhile, Aditi sat nearby, reading a book. She was happy to hear that four of her cousins were coming. The next evening, Raghu, Meenu, Krishna and Anoushka arrived with great excitement. They loved visiting their grandparents’ large and spacious home where they were pampered and allowed their freedom. The office manager dropped the kids and promptly left.

As soon as they entered the house, Aditi squealed and joined them immediately. Anoushka had grown tall. Ajji announced, ‘Anoushka, you are the tallest of the girls now!’ The children had brought their schoolbooks, and many bottles of sanitizer and handwash refill packs. They seemed happy to be away from their parents with no classes or teachers to worry about. They told their grandparents how sanitizers were being used everywhere in their schools before they had closed and in their apartment blocks in Mumbai and Bangalore, including even the lift. ‘Have things become that difficult there?’ Ajji asked, concerned. ‘Yes,’ said Raghu. ‘The government is taking many precautions and has become quite strict.’ ‘Children, what would you like to eat for dinner?’ ‘Something light, Ajji, as we had heavy snacks a short time ago,’ said Krishna. ‘Then I’ll make some special rice today—perhaps methi rice,’ said Kamlu Ajji. ‘It is easy to digest, delicious and good for supper.’ The children agreed and Kamlu Ajji headed to the kitchen.

Ajja switched on the television. Discussions about quarantine and social isolation continued on all news channels. The prime minister was going to address the nation shortly. Ajja looked outside the window. The evening was turning into night. He sighed, ‘Children, this is serious now and we all must stay inside the walls of the house. You can only go as far as the wall of the compound. We must not go out for any reason.’ In less than an hour, Kamlu Ajji had made an excellent dish of methi rice with cucumber raita. Proudly, Ajja said, ‘All these vegetables are from our vegetable garden. We use natural fertilizers and grow organic vegetables that taste much better than what you get outside.’ After dinner, the children helped Ajji in laying down five mattresses next to each other. Each of them chose the bed they wanted. Once it was done, Raghu turned to Ajji, ‘You have not completed your daily routine.’ Ajji smiled. She knew what he was referring to. ‘A story, Ajji,’ pleaded Anoushka. ‘A story a day keeps alldifficulties away . . .’Everyone chuckled. ‘Okay, I will tell you a story. It is a tale of what you ate for dinner—about rice. Rice is part of our daily diet and we can’t imagine living without rice or wheat today.’ The children gathered around both the Ajjis. Ajja sat on a chair nearby, watching the television. The prime minister announced, ‘A lockdown will be imposed starting midnight. Everyone must stay home for the next few weeks.’ It was evening and already dark outside. The children began listening to the story earnestly, just as the quarantine period was formally declared. Ajja muted the volume on the television, but continued watching. ‘Let us all listen to the story of how rice came to earth,’ said Ajji.

Ashta Siddhis and the extraordinary powers of Goddess Durga

Do you know what the Ashta Siddhis, or the eight kinds of supernatural powers are? Read an excerpt to find out more about Nalini Ramachandran’s Nava Durga and the extraordinary powers that Goddess Durga can bestow on other gods!

 

~

 

The goddess, in each of her forms, grants different kinds of blessings to her devotees. But Siddhidatri, the goddess worshipped on the ninth day of Navaratri, is special. In Sanskrit, ‘siddhi’ means ‘supernatural power’ and datri means ‘giver’. So, Siddhidatri is ‘the giver of supernatural powers’.

After Adi Shakti, in the form of Kushmanda, had created the universe and the new gods and goddesses, Shiva prayed to her, ‘O Supreme Goddess, grant me all the siddhis to make me a perfect god.’

He meditated for thousands of years so that Adi Shakti would listen to him. Impressed by Shiva’s devotion, the goddess appeared in the avatar of Siddhidatri from Kushmanda’s japa mala, which the smiling goddess used to bless people with the ashta siddhis and the nava niddhis. Almost immediately, Siddhidatri also emerged from the left side of Shiva’s body. So the right half of Shiva’s body was his own, and the left half was in the form of Siddhidatri. This half-man, half-woman form of Shiva is known as Ardhanarishwara, ‘the lord who is half woman’.

Just as she lives within humans, she began living within Shiva too as his shakti. And in this unique way, she bestowed supernatural powers on him and made him a perfect god.

…Those who truly worship Siddhidatri can get some or all of these abilities (but it’s easier said than done!):

 

 

Mahima

To make your body huge in size
(It can help when you suddenly come face to face with a mighty asura.)

 

 

Anima

Front cover Nava Durga
Nava Durga||Nalini Ramachandran

To make your body as tiny as an atom
(It can help when you play hide-and-seek with friends.)

 

Garima

To become very, very heavy
(You can face a storm like a mountain.)

 

 

Laghima

To be nearly weightless
(You can levitate or even float in the air.)

 

 

Prapti

To travel to or be present in any place you wish
(You can time-travel, whenever and wherever you want.)

 

 

Prakamya

To get or be able to give whatever one desires
(You can gift your mother the very thing she has been secretly wishing for!)

 

 

Ishitva

To be in control of nature, like a god
(You can make the sun listen to you in summer and make the rain obey you in monsoon.)

 

 

Vashitva

To be able to control other beings.
(You can turn bullies into friends.)

 

~

Nalini Ramachandran’s Nava Durga tells us about the rich mythology of Durga Puja and what makes each day special!

A queen in an unfamiliar kingdom

Prithvimahadevi’s journey is uphill. Having been married off to her father’s enemy in a peace-making gesture, she finds herself betrayed by those closest to her, and ends up alone in an unknown kingdom, alienated among people who are disdainful towards her. Yet her resolve only strengthens. Read an excerpt for a glimpse into Devika Rangachari’s powerful protagonist:

 

A carriage sent by the Bhaumakara king waits for me in the palace courtyard. It is plain and square with none of the embellishments that my father’s royal carriages routinely bear. Its horses, too, have clearly been selected more for their hardiness than their beauty.

It is hot and bright, and the entire court has assembled to see me off. The silence all around deafens me—this is a parting that signifies defeat and submission. And this is the silence of anger and grief.

The Bhaumakara attendants wait by the carriage, impassive.

I have already bid farewell in private to my father and brother. Yayati does not say much but clings to me as if he is remembering a time when we meant so much more to each other. The ties of blood are the strongest of all bonds, after all, and who are we to gainsay it?

‘Will you come to see me soon?’ I ask, my voice rough with unspilled tears.

front cover of Queen of Earth
Queen of Earth||Devika Rangachari

He nods but glances towards our father as if seeking permission from him. He is increasingly afraid to hold a single original thought or opinion in his head—and this is what has driven a wedge between us.

My father holds me close. ‘Be well. And do not lose hope. I will make it worth your while.’

I am puzzled. What can he possibly mean? I search his face for an answer and open my mouth to frame a question. He silences me with a look.

I am drawn away into a round of weeping goodbyes with my attendants.

His words will eventually make sense to me but for now, I let them slip and walk towards the carriage, resolute. Whatever happens, I will face the future with courage and fortitude. I will be true to my name.

The journey is a nightmare. The carriage has been built more for service than comfort. The wood is hard and digs into my body and the entire frame jolts unbearably. I am repeatedly sick and seem incapable of holding down the smallest morsel of food or even a sip of water.

Both sets of attendants are distressed, mine and the ones that the Bhaumakaras have sent. They can do little to alleviate my discomfort.

I see nothing of the landscape we pass; my eyes are shut tight. I finally huddle down on the hard bench, insensible to the hours that pass, floating in and out of a state of consciousness.

I am dimly aware of someone—my aunt, by
the sound of her voice—coaxing me to suck a slice
of lemon that makes me retch all the more and of someone—her again—stroking my forehead and murmuring soothing words that ultimately lull me into a spell of blessed sleep.

When I eventually wake, it is with the knowledge that the worst has passed. I am weak but whole, and it is a relief to know this. My aunt is by my side, her face full of travel weariness and deep concern in the dim light of approaching darkness.

‘Two days,’ she says in response to my unspoken query. She shakes her head. ‘You have never been this ill before. Perhaps you are not used to the rigours of travel. Or perhaps you have worried yourself into this state.’

A Bhaumakara soldier hastens by to tell us that we are nearing journey’s end.

I look out at the unfamiliar landscape. I have seen nothing of the forests that we have travelled through to reach the coast, but we seem to have emerged from them into an area of tall trees brushing against the sky, palm and coconut by the look of them. A cool breeze blows in, reminding me that we are near the water. A river shimmers by and I can see the dim outlines of boats
on it. This must be the Vaitarani, I think. I know that Viraja nestles between the Mahanadi and the Vaitarani, and that the latter runs closer to the city. My spirits lift slightly and the wind eases the ache in my head.

I see the pallor on my face in the small jewelled mirror that my aunt hands me. There are lines of exhaustion around my eyes and I can taste the sour tang of sickness in my mouth. This is not a propitious time for my new family to view me, but it is not in my hands. Let them know how arduous the journey has been and how much I have endured just to meet their peremptory demands.

When the carriage eventually stops, my head swims. I close my eyes to steady myself.

***

 

Queen of Earth is a complex and beautiful story of a young woman who holds her own in the most hostile of circumstances.