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The queen of Jhansi lashes out at the British

The rani embraced Damodar at the gates of the palace, with the British officers and soldiers looking on.

Then she turned to face Major Ellis. Her expression was grim, almost forbidding.

‘May I know the reason for your visit, Major Ellis?’ Her tone was casual, but her eyes were stormy.

Major Ellis bowed, feeling unusually nervous. ‘I bring a message from Lord Dalhousie, Your Majesty.’

‘Follow me, then.’ The rani strode into the palace and the soldiers hurried to keep pace with her.

In the main audience chamber, she seated herself on the throne and gestured to Major Ellis to speak.

The major cleared his throat several times before he felt able to utter a word. But speak he did because he had to. ‘Your adopted son, Damodar Rao’s right to rule has been rejected. So, by the Doctrine of Lapse, this kingdom now belongs to the British.’

‘Main apni Jhansi nahi doongi!’

The queen’s voice rang out, firm and true. It echoed all around the royal audience chamber and even along the corridors beyond. The Jhansi officers and guards who heard it sprang to attention and stiffened their backs with pride, almost without realizing it.

‘What did she say?’ the British officer behind Major Ellis muttered to his companion.

The other officer, who understood Hindustani well, translated quickly: ‘She said, I will not yield my Jhansi.’

Major Ellis was clearly uncomfortable, more so when Rani Lakshmibai turned her gaze on him. He had never seen the young queen look so angry. Her face was flushed, her eyes glittered with rage and her fists, partly hidden by her pearl bracelets, were clenched so tightly in her lap that her knuckles shone white.

She sat, proud and erect, on her throne, silently demanding a response from him. He turned his eyes away, unable to justify the decision made by the British.

Front cover of Queen of Fire
Queen of Fire || Devika Rangachari

 

She went on, her fury unabated. ‘Is this how the British repay loyalty? Generations of Jhansi rulers have supported them—have supported every step they have taken in this country, whatever our private feelings on the matter. So tell me, Major Ellis, what have we got for our pains?’

‘Your Majesty,’ he replied, his voice low so that those around had to strain to hear it. ‘I am a friend of Jhansi and a true supporter of your cause. But my hands are tied. I have no other option than to follow the orders of my superiors.’

‘You witnessed the adoption ceremony!’ she lashed out. ‘And you carried the news of it to your superiors. If they now doubt its validity, then it is clear that they don’t trust their own people. Don’t trust you. Yet you bend to their will and follow their unjust orders?’

Her words rankled but he had to answer. ‘I am sorry, Your Majesty,’ he said steadily, ‘but the British will now take over the governance of Jhansi. You will receive a monthly pension and may stay on here at the palace. I need to lock up the treasury and the military stores. Your money and weapons belong to the British from here on. All your soldiers will be dismissed, except a few that may remain for your personal safety.’

All eyes were on the queen; it was as if the very chamber was holding its breath. Sounds drifted in from the soldiers amassed outside the building—the murmur of voices, the clearing of throats, the shifting of feet—harmless in themselves, but indicative of the British military might mere steps away. It gave the rani no option but to obey.

To Major Ellis, the rani’s silence was more ominous than her words.

Her face was white and her hands trembled slightly as she signalled to her elderly prime minister, Dewan Rao Bande, to hand over the keys to Major Ellis.

This was a terrible blow, indeed. The British had been sniffing around various kingdoms, hoping to pounce at the first sign of weakness, which is why it had been so crucial to adopt Damodar and have it ratified. And all had seemed to be well for a while. Now her anger was directed equally at the British and herself. How could she have let her guard down and been so complacent! She should have known that the British would not give up so easily. Yet anger would not get her anywhere, she quickly realized. She would have to think fast and on her feet. She would not give up, she vowed to herself. Somehow, she would get her throne back and ensure Damodar’s succession.

Right now, Jhansi was like an ant before an elephant. But ants could bite and she would make sure this one bit hard . . .

 

Magnificent reads for young readers for the month of April

As days get longer and warmer, we find ourselves cooped up in our homes, avoiding the scorching heat and that deadly virus no one should name. But time indoors doesn’t have to feel like a chore necessarily, thanks to our age-old friends—books.

Here’s a list of refreshing reads to keep you engrossed and entertained through the long, sunny days of April.

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Queen of Fire

Devika Rangachari

front cover of Queen of Fire
Queen of Fire || Devika Rangachari

 

Lakshmibai, the widowed queen of Jhansi, is determined to protect her son’s right to his father’s throne and safeguard the welfare of her kingdom. Faced with machinations to take over Jhansi, at a time when all of India is rising up against the British, she has to prove her valour and sagacity time and again. But will this be enough to save all that she values?

In this gripping novel, award-winning historical novelist Devika Rangachari brings to vivid life the interior life of this nineteenth-century queen, thrust into a position she does not desire but must assume, and of her son, who is cowed by the challenges he has to face but determined to live up to his mother’s courage.

 

Satyajit Ray in 100 Anecdotes

Arthy Muthanna Singh, Mamta Nainy

front cover of Satyajit Ray in 100 Anecdotes
Satyajit Ray in 100 Anecdotes || Arthy Muthanna Singh, Mamta Nainy

 

Tracing his magnificent life with 100 little-known and inspiring incidents as well as unusual trivia, this collectible edition pays homage to the maestro on his 100th birth anniversary.

A master filmmaker, a remarkable auteur, a writer par excellence and an artist of immense reach and range, Satyajit Ray was an indefinable genius. This book is a classic tribute that celebrates his many accomplishments across literature, music, art and more.

 

Satyajit Ray
front cover of Another Dozen Stories
Another Dozen Stories || Satyajit Ray

 

Another Dozen Stories brings to you the magical, bizarre, spooky and sometimes astonishing worlds created by Satyajit Ray, featuring an extraordinary bunch of characters!

While ‘The McKenzie Fruit’ trails a humble man trying to leave his mark in history, ‘Worthless’ is a moving story about a seemingly hapless character not quite able to win the confidence of his family. Meet Professor Hijibijbij, the eccentric scientist bent on creating living replicas of peculiar creatures and follow Master Angshuman into a nail-biting and unexpected adventure on the sets of his very first film. This collection includes twelve hair-raising stories that will leave you asking for more!

 

Jamlo Walks

Samina Mishra

front cover of Jamlo Walks
Jamlo Walks || Samina Mishra

 

It is day 7 of the lockdown and everyone says the skies are blue again.
Jamlo walks. She looks straight at the road ahead. It is long.

The world has stood still. The streets lie empty and schools are closed. All work has dried up and people keep whispering the word ‘corona’ all the time. Jamlo walks down a long and hot road, alongside hundreds of other men and women and children whom Tara sees on TV. Jamlo walks as Rahul watches the streets turn quiet.

Jamlo walks and walks in a world that needs to be kind and just and equal. A world where all lives are seen as important.

 

Sita’s Chitwan

Vaishali Shroff

front cover of Sita's Chitwan
Sita’s Chitwan || Vaishali Shroff

 

As big as 1,78,000 football fields, Nepal’s first protected national park is home to over 550 species of birds; awe-inspiring animals, such as greater one-horned rhinoceroses, Bengal tigers, clouded leopards; and a confident, brave girl called Sita.

Sita dreams of being a nature guide like her baba. With a spring in her step and a group of eager tourists, she unravels the secrets of the forest. But when she wanders astray and comes face to face with a mamma rhino, will this eight-year-old be able to listen to the stillness of the jungle?

 

The Astoundingly True Adventures of Daydreamer Dev

Ken Spillman

front cover of The Astoundingly True Adventures of Daydreamer Dev
The Astoundingly True Adventures of Daydreamer Dev || Ken Spillman

 

Forever daydreaming-that’s Dev. Sitting in class or watching the clouds from the roof of Kwality Carpets, he floats off to places all over the world and has wonderful, bizarre adventures.

Mild-mannered schoolboy Dev is no stranger to survival in extreme environments. Classroom trances and home-made flights of fancy take him all over the place-what other kid could have visited Amazon rainforests, summited Mount Everest and crossed the Sahara? Along with the challenges of all this, he also needs to avoid the wrath of teachers and make Amma and Baba proud . . . Not so easy when your brain lives elsewhere!

 

The Bournvita Quiz Contest Quiz Collector’s Edition, Vol. 1

Derek O’Brien

front cover of The Bournvita Quiz Contest Quiz Collector's Edition
The Bournvita Quiz Contest Quiz Collector’s Edition || Derek O’Brien

 

The award-winning Bournvita Quiz Contest started as a radio programme in 1972, then shifted to television in the 1990s. Since 1994, it has been hosted by Asia’s best-known quizmaster, Derek O’Brien, in his inimitable style, and it holds the record for being the longest-running knowledge game show on Indian television.
This definitive edition comprises a selection of the best Q & As from this iconic children’s show. Featuring 1000 questions, carefully curated from the exhaustive twenty-year-old archives, this book is dotted with heartening anecdotes, fun trivia and thoughtful essays by people who worked on this much-loved show.

 

The Bournvita Quiz Contest Quiz Collector’s Edition, Vol. 2

Derek O’Brien

front cover of The Bournvita Quiz Contest Quiz Collector's Edition
The Bournvita Quiz Contest Quiz Collector’s Edition || Derek O’Brien

 

Which Nobel laureate wrote articles under the name Gul Makai?
Hilsa is the national fish of which neighbouring country of India?
In which organ of the human body would you find the aqueous humour?

With fun Q&As carefully curated from the exhaustive twenty-year-old archives, this definitive book is a treat for all quiz aficionados who can choose from an array of fifty sections including:

Art and Culture
Science
Politics
Mythology
Books and Authors

**

A Women’s Day reading list for boys and girls

It isn’t always easy to be a woman. As our little girls grow up, we’d love to have them mentored by some of the strong women, with strong voices who aren’t always brought to the limelight. There is so much the women before us have done to bring us where we are – and it’s important we teach our girls – and boys – that women are as strong as men….if not stronger.
Here is a list of books for children to celebrate women, this Women’s Day
The Girl Who Chose by Devdutt Pattnaik

‘You are bound by rules, but not I. I am free to choose.’
Two thousand years ago, the poet-sage Valmiki wrote the Ramayana. It is the tale of Ram, the sun-prince of Ayodhya, who is obliged to follow family rules and so makes no choices.

India’s favourite mythologist brings you this charmingly illustrated retelling of the Ramayana that is sure to empower and entertain a new generation readers.

The Daughter from a Wishing Tree
The Daughter from a Wishing Tree by Sudha Murty 

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.

I Need to Pee
I Need to Pee by Neha Singh

 

Rahi simply loves slurping refreshing drinks, and so she always needs to pee. But boy, does she hate public loos! Travel with the cheeky Rahi and read all about her yucky, icky, sticky adventures in this quirky and vibrant book about the ever-relevant worry of having a safe and clean toilet experience.

Manya Learns To Roar by Shruthi Rao

Manya badly, badly wants to be Shere Khan in her school play. The Jungle Book is her favourite film and she knows all the lines. She’s sure she’ll be a superb Shere Khan.

But not everyone thinks so. Her classmate Rajat is always making fun of her stammer. Her English teacher thinks its risky to let her get on stage and her principal seems to agree.

The more anxious Manya gets, the worse her stammer becomes. Will Manya lose her dream role? Can she overcome her fears and learn to roar?

Fun new reads for your shelves, this Children’s Day

Not that we need an occasion to buy books, but Children’s Day is the perfect time to add some fascinating and wonderful reads to your young readers’ shelves! From magical adventures in forests, to exciting stories about monarchs, and a glimpse into the constitution of India, we have you covered on all fronts.

 

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front cover of A Box of Stories
A Box of Stories||Ruskin Bond

 

A Box of Stories: A Collector’s Edition

by Ruskin Bond

 

A collector’s edition featuring the best of Ruskin Bond’s works

Featuring some of Ruskin Bond’s finest stories, poetry and selected non-fiction pieces, this special collector’s edition brings together the best works of India’s best-loved author for all his fans. Included in the collection are the two treasuries The Room of Many Colours and Uncles, Aunts and Elephants. Featuring illustrations and a rich cast of characters, this box set is a    perfect collection for fans of the master storyteller.

 

 

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

The Magic Of The Lost Temple

by Sudha Murty

 

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 Moin and the Monster
Moin and The Monster||Anushka Ravishankar, Anitha Balachandran

 

 

Moin and the monster

by Anushka Ravishankar

Illustrated by Anitha Balachandran

 

One night, in the dim darkness of his room, Moin heard something shuffling and sniffling under his bed …’

It is a monster. Moin has to learn to live with the monster, which does nothing but eat bananas, sing silly songs and try out new hairstyles.

However, keeping the monster a secret from his parents and teachers is a tough task and finally Moin decides that the only thing to do is send the monster back where it came from…

 

 

front cover Book of Beasts
Book of Beasts||M Krishnan

 

 

Book of Beasts: An A to Z Rhyming Bestiary

by M Krishnan

 

The hispid hare is rather rare in fact, outside north-eastern east it lives nowhere and even there it is a most uncommon beast.
With scientific facts, quirky verse and gorgeous illustrations, this is a most unusual alphabet book!
A writer and an artist, M Krishnan was one of India’s best-known naturalists.

 

 

 

front cover 10 Indian Monarchs
10 Indian Monarchs Whose Amazing Stories You May Not Know||Devika Rangachari

10 Indian Monarchs Whose Amazing Stories You May Not Know

by Devika Rangachari

 

This book tells the stories of ten Indian monarchs who find, at best, passing mention in the history textbooks we read, though their lives were exciting and their achievements considerable:
Ajatashatru
Bindusara
Rudradaman
Pulakeshin II
Jayapida
Didda
Ramapala
Abbakka
Chand Bibi
Ahilyabai Holkar

Historian and award-winning novelist, Devika Rangachari writes absorbing tales of the men and women who shaped lives and kingdoms in their times.

 

 

front cover of The Curious Case of the Sweet and Spicy Sweetshop
The Curious Case of The Sweet and Spicy Sweetshop||Nandini Nayar

The Curious Case of The Sweet and Spicy Sweetshop

by Nandini Nayar

 

Making and selling sweets day after day is the life of Vishnudas Mithaiwala, the owner of The Sweet and Spicy Sweetshop. However, when Laddoo appears at his doorstep one night, claiming to be his estranged sister Revati’s son, Vishnu’s life is thrown into confusion. More craziness ensues when Anu turns up, also insisting that she’s Revati’s child! With no idea how to discern the real Mithaiwala, life is full of chaos for Vishnu, as the two children compete to prove their identity.

And Laddoo, worried about his parents, who have suddenly disappeared, is thrown another curveball-he senses a ghostly presence in the house! When a plot to steal the Mithaiwala family’s valuable recipe book is hatched, Laddoo tries to use this new psychic ability to save the day.

 

front cover Akbar and The Tricky Traitor
Akbar and the Tricky Traitor||Natasha Sharma

 

 

Akbar and the Tricky Traitor

by Natasha Sharma

 

The mighty Mughal emperor Akbar is angry. Someone is leaking secrets of his court to his enemies. What’s worse, his enemies are now laughing at Akbar. Who can help the emperor   solve this mystery?

Mysteries you’ll never find in history books

 

 

 

front cover of Timmi in Tangles
Timmi in Tangles||Shals Mahajan

 

 

Timmi in Tangles

by Shals Mahajan

 

Timmi’s life is full of tangles. Her mother expects her to go to school even though she’s a raja; Idliamma eats up all her idlis and everyone thinks Timmi ate them … and why can’t people understand that if you have a giant for a friend you can lift the roof to let the rain in?

 

 

 

 

front cover of Simply Nanju
Simply Nanju||Zainab Sulaiman

 

Simply Nanju

by Zainab Sulaiman

 

Nothing worries Nanju too much; not the fact that he walks funny or that he’s known as the class copy cat or that the cleverest (and prettiest) girl in class barely knows he’s alive.

But when books start disappearing from the classroom, the needle of suspicion begins to point at Nanju. Aided by his beloved best friend, the fragile but brainy Mahesh, Nanju has to find out who the real thief is. Otherwise, his father might pack him off to Unni Mama’s all-boys Hostel from Hell, and Nanju might lose all that’s dear to him.

Set in a school for children who are differently abled, this funny, fast-paced whodunit will keep you guessing till the very end.

 

 

front cover Discover India
Discover India: The Complete Collection||Sonia Mehta

Discover India: The Complete Collection

by Sonia Mehta

 

The Discover India series will take you on a grand tour of every single one of our country’s states. Join the adorable Pushka and Mishki and the wise and witty Daadu Dolma as they traverse the length and breadth of India. Meet nawabs in Andhra Pradesh, roam the highways of Haryana, learn the history of Odisha, study the culture of Bihar, explore the snow-laden valleys of Uttarakhand and pick up a new dance in Sikkim.

 

 

 

 

The Jungle Radio

front cover The Jungle Radio
The Jungle Radio||Devangana Dash

by Devangana Dash

 

Come, listen to the sweet jungle orchestra, featuring the Woodpecker’s drums, the Hornbill’s trumpet and the Kingfisher’s blues

When curious little Gul hears some strange sounds coming from her radio, she follows the musical clues into . . . an Indian jungle! On her walk, she finds feathered friends who TWEET, TAPP and TALK. There are some who howl and hoot, and others who play the flute. With a KEE here and a KAW there, Gul discovers songs everywhere!

Brought to life by painterly illustrations, The Jungle Radio is a little story about the language of birds-their songs and sounds-with a loud and clear call to listen to the world around us.

 

 

front cover of We the Children of India
We, The Children Of India||Leila Seth

We, The Children Of India

by Leila Seth

Illustrated by Bindia Thapar

Former Chief Justice Leila Seth makes the words of the Preamble to the Constitution understandable to even the youngest reader. What is a democratic republic, why are we secular, what is sovereignty? Believing that it is never too early for young people to learn about the Constitution, she tackles these concepts and explains them in a manner everyone can grasp and enjoy. Accompanied by numerous photographs, captivating and inspiring illustrations by acclaimed illustrator Bindia Thapar, and delightful bits of trivia, We, the Children of India is essential reading for every young citizen.

 

 

 

The Incredible History of India’s Geography

front cover The Incredible History of India's Geography
The Incredible History Of India’s Geography||Sanjeev Sanyal

by Sanjeev Sanyal

 

Could you be related to a blonde Lithuanian?

Did you know that India is the only country that has both lions and tigers?

Who found out how tall Mt Everest is?

If you’ve ever wanted to know the answers to questions like these, this is the book for you. In here you will find various things you never expected, such as the fact that we still greet each other like the Harappans did and that people used to think India was full of one-eyed giants. And, sneakily, you’ll also know more about India’s history and geography by the end of it. Full of quirky pictures and crazy trivia, this book takes you on a fantastic journey through the incredible history of India’s geography.

 

 

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Pack your young reader’s day with this varied collection!

 

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.

Devika Rangachari: On research, favourite books and potatoes

It is not for nothing that Devika Rangachari’s new book is called Queen of Earth; we have been conquered completely by this wonderful historical narrative. Rangachari’s research is urgent and important, and has given us a book that is poignant and inspiring in equal parts. We had a chat with the author and it was delightful.

 

Since you are a historian by training, was there something specific that led you to choose Prithvimahadevi as the protagonist for Queen of Earth?

 

Prithvimahadevi and her rule over the Bhaumakara dynasty in the ninth century CE formed part of my post-doctoral research on gender in early medieval Odisha. It was an extension of my doctoral research whose underlying essence was the manner in which women have been made practically invisible in the historical record due to an existing gender bias. The silences pertaining to Prithvimahadevi in the annals of the Bhaumakaras were intriguing given that the records of her family, the Somavamshis, indicate that she held her own over this rival dynasty for a period of time. The content of the inscriptions that she issued also contains clues to her political sagacity and shrewdness.

Most historians, on the other hand, in keeping with the ubiquitous gender bias that governs the writing of history, tend to ignore Prithvimahadevi’s rule or dismiss it in a few grudging sentences, implying that her rule precipitated the downfall of the Bhaumakaras. Her story and the manner in which she has been viewed in later ages formed an immediate and striking parallel with Didda, the protagonist of my earlier work, Queen of Ice, who has been similarly vilified for being a strong and ambitious woman. It was for these reasons that I chose Prithvimahadevi as the protagonist of Queen of Earth. The story of this remarkable woman deserves to be more widely-known.

 

Gender-sensitivity is such an important qualifier for a genre like historical fiction for instance. What drove you to write these books for children?

 

The manner in which history is taught in schools only serves to deepen the gender bias that exists in the writing of past narratives. Textbooks continually underline the apparent irrelevance of women to the historical record by only focusing on what clothes or jewellery they wore and being arbitrary in their selection of names to include in the historical sequence. As a result, the overwhelming impression conveyed is of the men always being at the centre-stage of the polity, society and economy in the past, driving all the action and doing the things that mattered, while the women stayed indoors obsessing over what to wear.

This, as a gender historian like me knows, flies in the face of actual evidence. Original sources, such as texts, inscriptions and coins, reveal the palpable—and often powerful— presence that women had in all stages of history and it is very important to acknowledge this if we are to understand the past at all. Gender-sensitive historical fiction would go a long way in correcting this lopsided historical record—and this is the reason I wrote Queen of Ice and Queen of Earth, featuring strong women characters who left a mark on history but who have been virtually erased from it, legitimate parts of their collective past that children would probably never get to know about.

front cover of Queen of Earth
Queen of Earth || Devika Rangachari
Who were your favourite writers growing up?

 

That is a rather tough question to answer! I read voraciously—anything and everything I could lay my hands on—so I had a very long list of favourite writers when I was growing up. To add to that, my school librarian realised that I was an advanced reader at a very early stage and challenged me with books that were way beyond my age range, so I discovered some wonderful writers through her, too. I loved Enid Blyton, of course, but not her most popular stories, such as her Famous Five series. Instead, I preferred her standalone books, such as The Six Bad Boys, The Family at Red-roofs and The Put-em-rights. I also loved Elinor M. Brent-Dyer’s riveting Chalet School series about a school that started in the Austrian Tyrol and then moved to Guernsey and, subsequently, Switzerland. As I grew older, I added P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart and A.J. Cronin to my list of favourites.

 

What are your 3 desert island reads?

 

Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart, Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman and The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse. And a million others that I want to mention!

 

Do any of your characters resemble people you know in real life?

 

My early school stories regularly featured characters based on me and my friends. However, as my focus is on historical fiction now, my acquaintance with my characters is only through research. It must be noted, though, that Didda and Prithvimahadevi, the protagonists of my latest books, are very relatable people whose dreams, motives and actions have familiar resonances.

 

We hear you’re a potato fan. What is your favourite way to eat potatoes– fried, mashed, roasted, something completely different?

 

Fried, mashed, roasted, boiled, baked—all forms of the potato are delicious—and eminently welcome. Wondering about potato ice-cream but not sure it’s a good idea!

 

Picture of Devika Rangachari
Devika Rangachari

 

We also hear you’re fond of libraries. Do you have a favourite one, or is there a library you haven’t yet visited and want to?

 

The British Council Library in Delhi and the Dr. B.C. Roy Memorial Children’s Reading Room and Library, also in Delhi, are my favourites. The place I most want to visit, though, isn’t a library but a museum and visitor centre dedicated to children’s literature—Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Not only does it curate its own exhibitions of the best children’s books, including original manuscripts and illustrations, but it also hosts workshops, seminars and author and illustrator visits throughout the year. I think I could live there perfectly well!

Do you have a writing routine? Is there a specific time of the day for example when you are most productive or get the most writing done? Or is your work pattern more flexible?

 

I am more a reader than a writer, so I could spend the entire day quite happily between the pages of a book. However, deadlines have an unnerving habit of looming, so that is when I write and then usually in the morning for a couple of hours. I do it fairly fast with very few drafts, so the entire process doesn’t take too long. Mine is a rather flexible work pattern!

 

If you could meet one author, dead or alive, who would you meet and why?

 

I can’t really choose! I would probably keep an entire day for meeting my favourite authors, scheduling different time slots for them and being in a joyous trance all through. There is so much I want to know from them—their motives for writing particular stories, the manner in which they honed their craft, their favourite writers and so on. If I had to choose, though, I would like to meet P.G. Wodehouse for his masterful blending of humour and language, and Hilary Mantel for her exquisite retellings of history.

~ We agree with you 100% Devika. Especially about the potatoes. ~

Champions of mindfulness: September reads for the young minds!

Another month has rolled around and we hope that like us, the young minds are excited for some new stories!

Our list for this month will make them champions of mythology, nature, mindfulness and even of the Indian Ocean!

Time to flip through!

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Incredible History of the Indian Ocean
Sanjeev Sanyal (author), Jit Chowdhury (Illustrator)
The Incredible History of the Indian Ocean || Sanjeev Sanyal

 

When did the first humans arrive in India and how did they get here? What are Roman artefacts from hundreds of years ago doing in a town near Puducherry? How did merchants from Arabia end up near Kochi?

Read on to learn about the fearless travellers and sailors, pirates and conquerors who set out to cross the ocean in search of gold and glory!

 

The Very, Extremely, Most Naughty Asura Tales For Kids!
Anand Neelakantan

 

The Very, Extremely, Most Naughty Asura Tales for Kids || Anand Neelakantan

Aren’t we chubby, aren’t we cute?

Aren’t we lovely, as sweet as fruit?

Give us a bear hug, give us a kiss

Regret not later for giving it a miss.

Indulge in some very, extremely, most funny naughty tales of asura twins Kundakka and Mandakka, who hate going to school; clumsy Bhasma and pet pig Nakura, who create trouble in the village; brothers Atapi and Vatapi, who like to eat ninety-six cartfuls of fruits as dessert; the great Bana who claps with his thousand hands and so many more!

 

 

Mindfulness with Moksha
Ira Trivedi

 

Mindfulness with Moksha || Ira Trivedi

The practice of mindfulness at any age can have profound effect on your life. So why not get your young one to start early? In this fast-paced world, with so many distractions, it is important to stay grounded and not lose sight of what’s important. Being mindful brings clarity, mental strength, focus and inner peace.

With this calming read-along book, parents and guardians can help their children work through fun exercises-a great way to spend quality family time!

 

10 Indian Champions Who Are Trying To Save The Planet
Bijal Vaccharajani, Radha Rangarajan

 

10 Indian Champions || Bijal Vachharajani, Radha Rangarajan

This book tells the stories of ten Indian conservationists working in diverse ways to save the world from human destructiveness, often facing seemingly insurmountable odds.

Get the young readers to learn about the inspiring lives of people who are striving to solve the most pressing problems on this planet—from climate change to habitat degradation, from food insecurity to species loss.

 

A Vikram–Aditya Story: Ranthambore Adventure
Deepak Dalal
Ranthambore Adventure || Deepak Dalal

 

 

This is the story of a tiger.

Once a helpless ball of fur, Genghis emerges as a mighty predator, the king of the forest. But the jungle isn’t just his kingdom. Soon, Genghis finds himself fighting for his skin against equally powerful predators of a different kind–humans.

The very same ones that Vikram and Aditya get embroiled with when they attempt to lay their hands on a diary that belongs to a ruthless tiger poacher.

 

 

Queen of Earth  
Devika Rangachari

 

Queen of Earth || Devika Rangachari

Prithvimahadevi is the daughter of the powerful Somavamshi king of Kosala. Her life is circumscribed by the rules that govern the existence of women of her royal family.

She is married to her father’s enemy, the Bhaumakara ruler, Shubhakaradeva, who worships strange gods. There seems to be some hope for her to fulfil her dreams of becoming a great queen…But is she willing to play the game of sacrifice and betrayal that this will entail?