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Who is Chatur Chanakya and Why Should Children Meet Him? Radhakrishnan Pillai Answers

Radhakrishnan Pillai now writes for your young ones! Little Chanakya goes to school, standing up to bullies and maneuvering his way through tricky situations we all may have found ourselves in sometimes. But what inspired this journey? Let’s find out!   

From Corporate Chanakya to Chatur Chanakya, what inspired this transition in writing for a different audience?

It was a new dimension for me. Even though the common connect between Corporate Chanakya and Chatur Chanakya is the same – Chanakya, it is very differently presented. Corporate Chanakya was meant as a management book especially for those who are in management and leadership positions. The audience was educated and already decision makers. While Chatur Chanakya was a different aspect. Reaching out to children who are 10 years old. The challenge was to make the profound knowledge of Chanakya from the Arthashastra, to be presented in a simple format.  When the puffin team approached me with this concept to write for kids, it was a challenge. But I got inspired to try a new way of writing. And thanks – the book has really come out well. Much better than what was expected.

Is the character of young Chatur inspired by anyone from your life?

Yes and No. Chatur Chanakya is an imaginary character. Just like Superman, Batman and Chota Bheem. These characters are imaginary but have a message to give to kids. Through Chatur Chanakya we are going to bring out the best of wisdom of Chanakya (who lived nearly 2400 years ago) and his Kautilya’s Arthashastra. He was a leadership guru and a king maker. Chatur Chanakya will teach children how to think and become a leader. The other children in the book are inspired by real children. Arjun is the name of my son, who is the friend of Chatur Chanakya. Lakshmi is inspired by my daughter (her real name is Aanvikshiki). While Datta, Aditya and Milee are their friends. All of them become part of the book.

What is so special about Chatur and why should children befriend him?

Though a comic character. He is very real. Because he is a school going kid like any child of our generation. He has all the challenges that is faced by kids today. Be it bullying in schools, exam fever, being compared to other kids (even parents do that). So any one can associate with Chatur Chanakya. He is cute and nice. But he is also a fiend, philosopher and guide to his other classmates and friends. He is your friendly neighbour and ‘best friend’. He has got a choti on his head and a trick up his sleeve. You will love him. Not only children, but parents, grandparents and even teachers in schools will love Chatur Chanakya. He is what everyone wants in an ideal child – Intelligent and dynamic.

Tell us that one thing in Chatur Chanakya and the Himalayan Problem that one should look out for.

How to think out of the box. Chatur Chanakya faces a huge problem. Himalaya is a class mate of his, who is huge and bullies everyone. While Chatur Chanakya is not physically as strong Himalaya, he uses his intelligence to defeat Himalaya. So through this book we are giving a message to children, teachers and parents that – If you are mentally strong you can defeat any Himalayan (huge) problem.

Revisit school and relive all the memories with your little one in Radhakrishnan Pillai’s Chatur Chanakya and the Himalayan Problem!

When Young Chintamani Woke Up in a Place He Had Only Read About: ‘Lost in Time: Ghatotkacha and the Game of Illusions’ — An Excerpt

Chintamani Dev Gupta is on a trip to a bird camp near Lake Sat Tal! Away from the drudgery of urban life in Gurgaon, Chintamani finds himself near the cool, blue water of the lake and dives in for a swim. But when he emerges out of it, things look different. Where is he?
Find out with Namita Gokhale’s beautiful new novel for your little one, ‘Lost in Time: Ghatotkacha and the Game of Illusions’.
Here’s an excerpt from the book telling you where it all started.
A figure was approaching. He, she, it, was holding a burning branch of wood and breathing deeply. I had slouched down, suddenly tired and drowsy, in a bed of dry leaves. An enormous face came into view a long way above me. I wondered if I was dreaming, but the warmth from the flaming torch seeped into my bones, as did the long, careful breaths of this giant. I sat up bolt upright.
He was sniffing me, and I could smell him too. The tang of leaves and the forest, with a whiff of animal and the scent of human.
‘Who are you?’ he asked in a language I didn’t understand. And yet, strangely enough, I did. Was this telepathy?
‘And who are you?!’ I asked back, the question was put forward in sheer panic mixed with some cunning. I was still trying to take in the awesome size of this Godzilla, and figured my question might help establish a bond with this primeval creature. But then, how would he understand my question, which probably sounded more like a squeal?
‘I am Ghatotkacha,’ he replied. ‘I am the rakshasa Ghatotkacha, born of the lord Bhimasena and the lady Hidimbi. I rule over hill and vale, forest and stream to protect the spirit of the forest and all who live in it.’
I understood this too, through some sort of teleprompter that seemed to have lodged itself somewhere in the left lobe of my brain like a Google Translate implant.
‘I am Chintamani Dev Gupta,’ I replied tentatively. But it wasn’t me speaking at all, perhaps some sort of decoder that seemed to be picking up on signals from my brain. Take control, I told myself, take control, or you will lose this mind game.
‘I am speaking Paisachi, but I am fluent in Prakrit and Sanskrit too,’ the giant replied.
He had huge red eyes that were lit up by the burning torch he held in his hand. But they were kind eyes . . . there was not even a hint of cruelty in them.
‘And don’t worry, I am not trying to take control of your mind!’
Weird, weirder, weirdest. He could actually read my mind! Holy cow! This situation was just impossible. I pinched myself even harder this time, so that I might now wake up from this fast-accelerating nightmare.
It only gets “weird, weirder, weirdest” from here on! You wouldn’t want to miss it! Grab your copy and dive right into the charming world of Ghatotkacha!

Let’s Revisit the Golden Temple with Amma and Her Boys!

Remember when Bhakti Mathur and her boys took you and your little one on an enchanting journey to Amritsar’s Golden Temple? The beautiful architecture of one of the holiest places for Sikhs, the delectable langar served after prayers, a dip in the holy sarovar — Amma and her boys take you through an experience that stays with you forever.
Let’s take you through the Golden Temple once again through the pages of Amma, Take Me to the Golden Temple.
The rich history of the Golden Temple that stands tall for decades

The yummy taste of the karah prasad!

The peace and calm of the glorious inner sanctum

Taking a dip in the holy water facing Harmandir Sahib

The exquisite, golden palanquin carrying the Guru Granth Sahib

The history of the Golden Temple comes alive with the stunning illustrations in Bhakti Mathur’s Amma, Take Me to the Golden Temple.
Now get ready to join Amma and her boys on an exciting trip to the famous Tirupati! Pre-order your copy today!

Meet the Characters from ‘Bheem’

Jyotin Goel in Bheem has created a fascinating amalgamation of mythology and adventure in the modern setting. The plot of the book revolves around a deadly threat which has arisen from the ancient battlefields of Lanka and Kurukshetra. Ripping through the vortex of time, Bheem arrives in the twenty-first century to combat this crisis. But to make sure of his failure, a sworn enemy from the past-Ashvatthama-has also journeyed to the present.
Here are some of the characters from the riveting novel:

Don’t wait anymore, pick up Jyotin Goel’s Bheem now!

How Did the Don Become the Master Baker?

Raja Sen’s The Best Baker in the World opens up the world of cult (and sometimes controversial) films to children and their parents, as Sen’s tribute to Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, comes visually alive with the stunning illustrations done by Vishal K. Bharadwaj. But what is the secret recipe that went into the making of this amazing, one-of-a-kind book?
Raja Sen and Vishal Bharadwaj spill the beans!
Where did the thought of adapting a cult-film into a book for children come from?

Raja: Great stories transcend boundaries. Children routinely read adaptations of classic novels and Shakespeare plays, and I strongly believe cinematic masterpieces are as fundamentally strong as those texts. I thought it would be fascinating to see if a mature, R-rated film can retain its narrative appeal without the ‘adult’ elements — the blood and violence and sex — and if we could still pay tribute to the iconic and memorable aspects of the original film. The characters, the moments, the drama, all of that still remains even if the stakes aren’t fundamentally tied to violence and war. The thing we must remember is that if told right, the popping of a water balloon can feel as momentous in a story as the assassination of a character.

Vishal: When Raja approached me to illustrate the project, two things were set in stone: that these would be ‘adult’ films i.e. ones that only they should watch, as opposed to all-ages classics or PG-13 level movies that a child might be exposed to with the right guidance; and second, that we wouldn’t do a shot-for-shot, beat-by-beat representation of the films. This transformative quality is what really intrigued me about the project.
Why a baker, and not any other profession, for your protagonist who happened to be the head of a mafia in the original?
Raja: More than anything, The Godfather is a film about family — a family business, if you will. It is also a specifically Italian family film, which means food features heavily. Thus I wanted to adapt it around a family business about food, and a bakery seemed both appropriate for the task and appropriately inviting for a children’s setting. As a bonus, my illustrator Vishal Bhardwaj loves cooking and photographing food, and I knew he’d draw mouthwatering pastry.

Vishal: Fairly early on I asked Raja if we could concentrate the setting of the book down to a single street or neighbourhood (the movie takes place across multiple countries and cities), since we were telling an intimate story of families. The term ‘godfather’ denotes a certain protector status, someone you turn to for guidance & comfort. So we thought of similar pillars of a community, the kind who would always be there for you and make you feel better. Also, since I have a penchant for food, a bakery, with all its warmth and the aromas of its fresh baked goods filling the neighbourhood, was the perfect fit.
How difficult was it to dress up The Godfather as a bird who’s a baker?
Vishal: The process took a couple of weeks to go from Brando to bird. Plenty of exploratory sketches, starting with straight renditions of Brando himself, then trying on different animal ‘skins.’ During the research phase I read that Brando thought of Don Corleone as an old bulldog, so he added in the now-famous jowly look to the character. A bulldog version of our Don was tried, but he didn’t vibe with our baker’s character. Finally, after hogs & lions and other beasts, he took the form of a bird, a wise owl. There was the right gentleness to him now, but when Raja saw me draw his wings as delicate arms that manipulated pastry, he asked me to change them to more formidable, warmly enveloping wings almost as huge as the rest of him, and the physical character was complete.
As far as actually dressing him, we moved away from the iconic tuxedo. He is a baker after all, so an apron was appropriate, and  rolled up sleeves with a bowtie (he’s still dapper, not sloppy!). I put in a subtle nod to a contemporary chef I like, Mario Batali, who is known for wearing shorts and Crocs sandals under his apron. But because our Don is more old-school (and Raja, like myself, appreciates a good pun), did away with the Crocs and instead gave our big bird a pair of classic wing-tip brogues.
What are the other cinematic masterpieces being retold for children in this series?
Raja: We’re looking at taking on several mature, memorable films and recreating what made them special while setting them in an entirely different (and wholly innocent) world. Next up is a homage to Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, a highly explicit and wild film about addiction, and one of my favourite films of the 90s. Others on the list include some of the most quotable films of all time, as well as a particularly scandalous one by Stanley Kubrick.
Vishal: I hadn’t seen The Godfather before saying yes to The Best Baker in the World (as it came to be called. For a long time we referred to it as ‘Project Cannoli’). The running joke of-late has been that whatever we end up doing, if it’s a film I haven’t seen before taking the adaptation on, we must be on the right track! Raja has dropped some intriguing names into the hat, from sprawling epic classics to mind-bending modern gems. I’m excited to visually interpret any of these.
Fascinating, isn’t it? Do you still need any more convincing to pick up this marvellous book not just for your little one, but yourself too!

"Where are the words I wrote yesterday?"

Do you remember the last time you took a moment from your busy life to celebrate its little joys?
Ruskin Bond gives us a solution with ‘Words From the Hills’ — a journal that urges you to stop, take a breath, and appreciate the gift of life.
Here’s a short snippet from the book and a prompt for you to pick it up, if you haven’t already!
When I opened my window, the wind came in and snatched my words away. And perhaps that’s where all words go in the end—over the hills and far away, to be lost forever.
A few stray words found their way to the desks of Penguin’s editor Premanka Goswami and design head
Ahlawat Gunjan, and these good souls decided to preserve them for no special reason other than that they were words of love and joy (if not wisdom), and had emanated from my abode in the hills and lent themselves to lyrical watercolours from Ahlawat’s favourite paintbox.
Among other favourite things, he has depicted the rubber plant that flourishes on my bedroom wall. I am not
sure if it wants to make love to me, or simply strangle me. When I returned from a trip to Delhi (or rather Gurgaon,
where everything seems to happen now), I found the rubber plant had spread its tentacles across my pillow, almost as though it was lying in wait for me.
As this is a book of a few words and many colours, I must make this introduction a brief one. The book is really intended for your words, dear reader, and you will find that we have given you the freedom of every page, with space for you to put down your thoughts, feelings and observations before they are carried away by the wind.
This is your book, and the words and decorations are simply there to persuade you to use it.
Ruskin Bond
Ivy Cottage, Landour
August 2017

Inspiring, isn’t it? So grab a pen and get started, because every memory is worth remembering.

6 Quotes You Must Read on Gender and Sexuality

While many use religion to justify why they are being unfair to a person’s gender and sexuality, Devdutt Pattanaik in his books The Pregnant King and Shikhandi And Other Queer Tales They Don’t Tell You shows how mythologies across the world appreciate what we deem as queer.
Here are 6 quotes on what it means to be a man, a woman, or a queer.
What it feels to be a woman
Repercussion of Patriarchy
The meaning of queer in different mythologies
Should the queer hide or be heard like the thunderous clap of the hijra?
The functions of the forms
Traces of feminism in Hindu mythology
Read Devdutt Pattanaik’s The Pregnant King and Shikhandi And Other Queer Tales They Don’t Tell You and make sense of queerness and the diversity in society.

The Great Animal Kingdom of Hindu Mythology: ‘Pashu’ — An Excerpt

Hindu mythology not only has some of the most interesting human characters ever, but a huge kingdom of animals too. From fish that save the world to horses that fly higher than birds, every animal in Hindu mythology has a story to tell and a lesson to teach.
Devdutt Pattanaik’s ‘Pashu’ dives into this bizarre, wonderful world of mythological animals and unravels a secret or two about it.
Here’s a snippet from ‘Pashu’ that is sure to make you want to find out more!
Brahma, the creator, had a son called Kashyapa. Kashyapa had many wives who bore him different types of children. Aditi gave birth to the devas—gods who live in the sky. Diti gave birth to the asuras— demons who live under the earth. Kadru gave birth to the nagas, slithering serpents and worms that crawl on trees and on earth. Vinata gave birth to garudas, birds and insects that fly in the air. Sarama gave birth to all the wild creatures with claws and Surabhi gave birth to all the gentle animals with hooves. Timi gave birth to all the fishes and Surasa gave birth to monsters. Thus, all gods, demons, animals and even humans have a common ancestor in Kashyapa. They call him Prajapati, father of all creatures. His story is found in the Puranas, books that are at least two thousand years old.
There are also other theories of how animals came into being. Some can be found in earlier books, while some have never been written but passed down orally by stargazers and storytellers.
Brahma and Shatarupa: The first man, Brahma, saw the first woman, Shatarupa, and fell in love with her. He tried to touch her. She laughed and ran away. He followed her. To avoid getting caught, she turned into a doe. To catch up with her, he turned into a stag. She then became a mare. He became a stallion. She transformed into a cow. He turned into a bull. She became a goose and flew up into the air. He followed her, taking the form of a gander. Every time she took a female form, he took the corresponding male form. This went on for millions of years. Thus, over time, all kinds of beasts came into being, from ants and elephants to dogs and cats. So say the Upanishads, conversations that took place nearly three thousand years ago.
Yogasanas: Shiva, the great yogi, was at peace with himself. In his joy, he assumed many poses, known as asanas. Many of these poses resembled animals. For example, the ustra-asana resembled a camel. When Shiva took this pose, camels came into being. From the matsya-asana, fishes came into being. From the bhujang-asana, snakes came into being. From the salabh-asana, locusts came into being. From the go-mukha-asana, cows came into being. Shiva thus stood in millions of poses, giving rise to millions of different kinds of animals. So says the lore of yogis.
Avatars: From time to time, Vishnu, who resides on the ocean of milk, descends to walk on the earth. He takes the form, or avatar, of different animals when he does so. Sometimes he is a fish, sometimes a turtle, sometimes a wild boar, sometimes a swan . . . In memory of the many forms he took, various animals came into being. So the next time you see a fish, remember that it was once a form of Vishnu. And when you see a swan, remember that, too, was once a form of Vishnu.
Rashi: A cluster of stars is known as a constellation. Ancient rishis divided the sky into twelve equal parts, each occupied by a constellation. The constellations are called zodiacs in English and rashis in Sanskrit. Some of the rashis take the form of animals. There is the Mesha or ram constellation that the sun passes through in early summer. Then there is Mina, the fish; Vrishchika, the scorpion; Simha, the lion; and Vrishabha, the bull. After the sun passes the Makara constellation, whose tail is like a fish and head is like an elephant, the days grow longer and warmer, heralding the approach of summer. After the sun passes the Karka or crab constellation, the days become shorter and colder, indicating the approach of winter. This information comes from Jyotisha Shastra, or the books of astrology. Poets often wonder what came first: the constellations or the animals. Did the design of the stars inspire the gods to create the animals?
Yoni: Many Hindus believe that a being gets a human life only after passing through 84,00,000 animal wombs. Astrologers say that one can find out which was the last animal’s womb or yoni one was born in from one’s time of birth. That yoni determines an aspect of one’s personality. Some of the yonis are: elephant, cow, mare, snake, cat, dog, rat, monkey, tiger, goat, buffalo and deer. Which yoni came first—that of man or that of an animal? Are humans the ancestors of animals or is it the other way around? There is no escaping the fact that we are related to the birds and beasts of the forest. They may be our ancestors or they may be our descendants.
Have more questions on the origins of the mythological animal kingdom? Get your copy of ‘Pashu’ now!
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‘The Story of Ravana, Ram or Sita?’: ‘The Girl Who Chose’ — An Excerpt

India’s favourite mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik’s ‘The Girl Who Chose’ brings a fresh perspective to what we have commonly known of the Ramayana — the story of Ram.
However, it has largely gone unnoticed that it was the choices that Sita had made which becomes the pivot for the Ramayana.
Here’s an excerpt from Devdutt Pattanaik’s book telling us why the story of Sita is at the heart of all that happens in the epic.

“Once upon a time, there was a man called Ravana, also known as Paulatsya—being the descendent of Rishi Pulatsya from his mother’s side. He was king of Lanka and ruler of the rakshasas, who tricked a princess called Sita, dragged her out of her house in the forest and made her prisoner in his palace. He was killed by Sita’s husband, Ram, the sun-prince. This story is called the Pulatsya Vadham, or the killing of the descendent of Pulatsya.
The story of Ravana’s killing is part of a longer tale called the Ramayana, which tells the story of Ram from his birth to his death. However, in the din of Ravana’s cruelty and Ram’s valour, something is often overlooked—the story of Sita, the girl who chose.
Valmiki, author of the Ramayana, written over 2000 years ago, tells us how Sita is different from Ram and Ravana. Ravana does not care for other people’s choices, while Ram never makes a choice as, being the eldest son of a royal family, he is always expected to follow the rules. But Sita—she makes five choices. And had Sita not made these choices, the story of Ram would have been very different indeed. That is why Valmiki sometimes refers to the Ramayana as the Sita Charitam, the story of Sita.

Do you know what were the choices that Sita had made? Grab a copy and find out now!

Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Vyasa’ Illustrator Sankha Banerjee

The first in the series that retells the story of the epic Mahabharata, Vyasa sets the stage for the battle of Kurukshetra. This brilliantly illustrated graphic novel is authored by Sibaji Bandopadhyay.
Bringing this epic to life is artist Sankha Banerjee, who enthralls the readers with the many illustrations in the graphic novel.
Here’s taking a sneak peek into the interesting life of Sankha Banerjee.

We bet you’re as dazzled by his art work as we are!
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