Cartoons- Greystroke ( Shyam Madhavan Sarada)
Illustrations- Sony Bhaskaran
The book is enlivened by witty and fun comic strip style observations by Greystroke.
Photos have been gathered from various sources to lend colour
Here we are in conversation with Vidya, the co-author of the book:
ST- After very factual, serious books on India, this was a refreshing take on facts- how did the idea come about?
Vidya- The idea was Puffin's. The Puffin editor Sohini Mitra said they wanted a buzzy and bright fact book on India that was done alphabetically. What we agreed upon mutually was that we would not stick to doing mere facts. Since we had a page or two to every topic we were writing on, facts have been fleshed out into stories, trivia tidbits and incredible info segments, all of which offer the reader a good perspective of the topic being written about. The idea to lighten up the book and give readers lots of 'haa haa's' was ours and that was because we have a wonderful cartoonist inhouse. Also, we've always believed that there's nothing like a good laugh to make gyan more appealing and accessible!
Would you like to nominate a companion book to this one ?
I think Puffin's 'Let's Go Time Travelling through India' and Tulika's 'Little Indians' would come closer primarily because ours is not a mere fact book.
The comics, the titles- how did they evolve?
There is a mix of India and generic alphabet related stuff - how did you prune and arrive at which ones to take forward?
Did you travel more to see any of these places, did you meet /speak to interesting people while adding info?
However, facts have a marvellous way of popping up out of somewhere, anywhere unexpectedly. In fact, wherever I travelled personally during that period, I could only see facts in front of my eyes! I mean it, I would read inscriptions at monuments and museums, craft catalogues, highway signs at toll plazas, tourist brochures and even application forms with such attention that my family started to joke that it was better we added an extra day or two to every holiday plan! For someone who rarely takes photos on a mobile phone, mine soon ran out of space because it was filled with photographs of plaques, inscriptions, signages and book extracts which I thought would be helpful in the writing. So yes, our personal travels did contribute many interesting facts to the book.
Since all of us have been putting together children's magazines for many years now, we also had access to people we had interviewed across the years - environmentalists, scientists, historians, travel writers - and it was possible to call them to verify whether some information was right or wrong.
How were facts verified- what kind of research went into the book?
Right through the time we were working on the book, we'd keep track of which segment each one of us was working on. And since we were so steeped in what we were researching or writing or illustrating, after a while, it became common for to say, "I am in Varanasi today. Where are you?" And this, while we were sitting in adjacent rooms in our office in Bangalore!
What do you think is the relevance of the book in the era of wikipedia and google baba?
And going by the 8 year old at home, it is likely to be a sure hit with kids!