Please bear with me while I share this with you.
Last year, we had been to Mussoorie during the Christmas vacation, and A had looked forward to meeting one of her favourite (OK, one of my favourite too) writers Ruskin Bond. She had made a booklet of a few of her own stories. We wanted to meet him and present him with this booklet, and get our favourite books ( The Blue Umbrella for A and A Flight of Pigeons for me) signed. Unfortunately, he was out of town, and was to return only after we left Mussoorie. So we requested Mr Arora, who owns a bookstore where Ruskin Bond regularly signed books for his readers, to hand over the booklet to him to sign, and gave him our address. We were extremely disappointed on not being able to meet him in person, but there was nothing we could do about that!
Imagine our delight when, after a few weeks, an envelope arrived at our home, containing the booklet, duly signed by Mr Bond, with a few encouraging words from him. Her book, (never mind that it was an unpublished, handwritten one) signed by Ruskin Bond!
So when I read about Tulika's 'Advaita The Writer', I had to pick it up for A.
Advaita The Writer
Written by Ken Spillman
Illustrated by Soumya Menon
Published by Tulika books
A 13 yr old, Advaita begins school at the prestigious Dunham Girls' School, a residential school in Dehradun, far away from her home and family in New Delhi. A shy person, she finds herself struggling to fit in. Her nearest room-mate is a gadget freak hooked to her ipod, who "could only listen to something if it came through earphones."
The school library is a haven, however. An avid reader, who dreams of becoming a writer one day, Advaita feasts on the books, especially those by her favourite writer, Ruskin Bond. She has no idea that he lives at a stone's throw, just half-an-hour away, at Mussoorie.
"Ruskin Bond was a name as large in her consciousness as Gandhiji, Lutyens and Enid Blyton, and she had assumed that all such names belonged to the dead."
Well, no. He was a living legend, and moreover, someone who she could easily get to meet. So Mrs Kendall, her teacher, and Advaita plan a visit to Cambridge Book Depot, owned by Mr Arora, where Ruskin Bond sat every Saturday afternoon to sign books for his readers.
Does Advaita meet Ruskin Bond? How does she become 'Advaita the writer'?
We get a peek into Advaita's delightful, if a bit sarcastic sense of humour through her letters, in which we see her school life through her eyes. "Apparently, most of the girls here have adapted to survival without breathing - it has something to do with the number of years they spend in cold rarified air. This makes them thoroughly cold, inside and out...You will be pleased to know that I have climbed steadily up the evolutionary scale and that I am striving to reduce my dependence on air."!!
A point to note- (pointed out by Ruskin Bond to Advaita) aloneness, sometimes loneliness, being different, as also the ability to look outwards from within an inner world is something that is necessary for creative expression. The ideas might come from outside, but the feelings have to come from within to really be able to create something worthwhile, and connect with others.
Black-and-white illustrations by Soumya Menon, who has illustrated many books by Tulika, are a treat - they stress on the fact that Advaita the writer is primarily a reader - she is never seen without a book in her hand, lost to the world, busy reading, and sometimes writing!
Ken Spillman has added an afterword in which he tells us about his inspiration for this book, and also introduces us to the delightful Ruskin Bond, a resource for those who have not encountered his work yet can see for themselves exactly what the pull is for Advaita and many others. There is a handy list of books for children by Mr Bond from which one may choose.
Pic courtesy tulikabooks.com. Crossposted here.