Children’s Day is a part of every Indian kid’s childhood. Do you have any fond memories of it, from back in school?
As any child, I lived from one holiday to the next. For Children’s Day, the school put up a skit about Chacha Nehru, while we waited for our box of sweets with a particularly sticky pink barfi that I adored. Ever since, when I see a picture of Pundit Nehru, I think fondly of the pink barfi, which I’d convinced myself for years, he’d sent specially for us.
What kind of stories did you enjoy as a kid?
My favourite stories were those around animals. The Call of the Wild, The Black Stallion, Jago, Lassie, Black Beauty. Somewhere in those pages, a lifelong compassion was born. And this is what I wish adults today would understand. You don’t have to stuff a non-fiction book or a science manual into your child’s hands. All stories leave behind a footprint, they leave behind values that waft over a lifetime.
Did these stories influence the kind of stories you write? Or, do you draw from your own childhood adventures when writing?
I was a daydreaming tomboyish kid, who loved animals, books, outdoor sports like gilli-danda…I found myself in The William series by Richmal Crompton, in the antics of a rough, diplomatically incorrect school boy. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the outsiders, the untamed children. These characters unerringly find their way to star in my books. From my first books for kids, the SuperZero series with its funny, brave, bumbling hero to the latest Flyaway Boy, a strong testimony to the imperfect among us. And I’m happy to see so many readers find their own echoes in this book.
Since Children’s Day is around the corner, what message would you like to give to your young readers?
Read the fun, wild books you want to. Books are like people. You hang out with those you love to spend time with. And when you get that buzz for reading – congratulations! You’d be making sure you have friends for life, for whenever you’re sad or exhausted or alone. In fact, if you love books, you’ll never be alone again.