Our guest reviewer Rachna Dhir is happy to share with you all an interview with author of Raindrops, Ari and The Missing Bat, Vaishali Shroff.
Vaishali, your son Arinjay is the inspiration behind your latest book - Ari. Please share the story behind the story
I always try to write stories that parents and children alike can relate to. Stories that drive home less talked about problems that many kids face.
As a child I was just like Ari. I remember coming home from school and sitting before the mirror after being rejected in school concert shows. I could never run to the teacher and confess that I think I can do it. I preferred to hide. But I still used to wonder why not me. Till I accepted the cruel fact that may be I wasn't as good as the others.
My son decided to do something about his ordeal. That's when I realised it needs to be told. Ari needs to stand up and be heard by parents and teachers who may have failed to see the true potential so called introvert children bring to the table. The real fireflies with an inner glow vs the butterflies that everyone loves to chase. The trauma that comes along with being labeled as an introvert and constantly told that you're someone who cannot perform as well as the outspoken kids can dent young minds for life
Having said this, I am not trying to say that extroverts lack potential. This is only about the other half that can do it but lack the opportunity.
You are a writer, editor, columnist, and story teller-
Tell us how it all started?
I have been writing ever since I can remember. I started off with poetry. My first publication was a poem in The Indian Express during the 1993 Mumbai riots. I cannot ever forget how it felt!
Those were the days of fan mails and receiving letters from places far and wide, from people young and old including soldiers posted in Sikkim! . The encouragement to write more made me think I am destined to write. Thus began this amazing journey that happened alongside my corporate life.
Subsequently I also started a storytelling club for children in 2009 in Pune and now continue the same in Mumbai as well.
Your first book was Raindrops, also with Tulika. It was very different from Ari - both story and look and feel wise. What was the inspiration behind Raindrops? Please include your other works too.
I've always drawn inspiration from real life events for my stories. My second book 'The Missing Bat' by Pratham Books was based on my travels in Kashmir. Raindrops, too, was a result of a personal experience with children. It's important that children are sensitive to the environment. That they think about things they see and experience around them. I like to bring that out in my stories.
Tell us about your childhood, your inspirations - what attracted you to writing? Who were your role models and mentors?
My mother always made me write. She used to keep throwing topics at me and I used to write. She used the Wren and Martin as a guide for she herself did not have a flair for the language. Writing became a huge part of me and slowly I realised how I felt better every time I wrote. The pieces were like highly guarded secrets tucked away under a pile of books so no one ever laid hands on them. Writing, in those days was never talked about as a profession like they spoke about engineering and medicine. So I secretly nurtured my passion thinking some day... May be....
You work across many media - magazines, CBSE readers, anthologies. Please share some favourites?
Any media only helps to take your story to a wider audience. With magazines it's interesting because you can talk about current issues and trends in the reading and writing industry. It felt incredibly proud and humbling to be recognised by the CBSE board as someone whose stories needed to be read by thousands and thousands a of children across the country. That feeling is simply indescribable. Yes, they will also give exams with my stories being part of the curriculum. Ha ha.
Anthologies are special because your story proudly sits next to works of some famous authors who you've always dreamt of being! :-
You have had memorable travel adventures with your son. May we hear some juicy details, please?
Ha ha ha. My son has this interesting knack of observing details about surroundings that one would never dare to imagine. To cite, we love going for wildlife safaris with him. At the end of one such safari he said, "I never thought tigers can be so scared. We enter the animal's house without asking them, chase poor tigers to take pictures, and some bad people even make noise. Who is the wild one? I always thought it was the animal."
Needless to say it's now a story :-)
Would you like to give aspiring story tellers and authors some guidance?
A good story needs to be told. While some stories make us fantasise and others make us realise... They all make us think about how we can make this world a better place. I cannot imagine growing up without Roald Dahl and Ruskin Bond and Enid Blyton and Dr. Seuss who I discovered along with my son (I'm still growing up!).
While people say that a writer is about their writing style I say Nay! A writer is all about the story and how long it stays with you after you've closed the book and put it back in the shelf along with many others.
My only advice to writers is to be honest to who you are and write only about what you strongly feel. Not what the industry demands and the reader reads. It's important to tell the story in a way that makes people think and say, "why didn't I think of this before!"
Please share details of some more projects you have done for children?
I've had many other publications for children which include pop-up story books, readers, various fiction and non - fiction articles for children's magazines, parenting columns, and so on.
Thank you Vaishali!
Life's got a little more beautiful with a five year old next to me and an infant nestled in my arms. It's tough but now I can only imagine how many stories I get to tell through it all :-)
Thank you for reviewing Ari. It's a book very close to my heart for a multitude of reasons. I secretly dream of Ari being staged as a play so that people can actually experience every word in the story and more. :-)