Aug 23, 2014 was one of those.
Not one but two of our most beloved authors got the Bal Sahitya Puraskar for their contribution to children’s literature!
Subhadra Sen Gupta was awarded this recognition for English and Madhuri Purandare for Marathi by the Sahitya Akademi.
Many congratulations to both these amazing writers! Their work has sparkled with creativity and has tickled the creative gene in millions of beautiful little minds and hearts( and truth be told, in an equal number of not so little ones).
Our joy as a multilingual publisher knows no bounds. It is our fervent hope that authors in all Indian languages write brilliant books for children and are inspired by Subhadra and Madhuri.
In the midst of all the buzz and excitement, Subhadra took time out to share some of it with us:
Did you ever think you would be a children’s author when you were a child?
~~ I just knew I wanted to be a writer. It was also because I sort of sensed I’d be a disaster at any other profession!
When did you write your first story for children?
~~ I began freelancing in college for youth magazines, doing small articles and news reports but the first story… I don’t remember the exact date. It was sometime in the early 1980’s. Clearly the memory is going 🙂
Where was it published and who had the honour of publishing your first book?
~~ Ah this I remember! The first book was ‘Good Times at Islamgunj’ published in 1982 by India Book House.
Describe your journey as an author?
~~ In the beginning it was tough because I had to find time to write while working as a copywriter but once I broke free, ah! it was heaven and it got much easier. Also the real joy is in the process of writing itself and as long as you are in love with the work, life becomes richer and much more enjoyable.
One of the joys of my life today is that I get up thinking of what I’ll write that day and I don’t have to go to office clutching my lunchbox. The freedom is worth the sacrifices.
How have you combined your background as a historian and your love for stories in your work?
~~ That’s easy because history is about people and their stories (something that some of our historians forget). All I do is bring back the human details and the stories come with them. Everything about how people lived, why they build temples, fought wars, cooked with chillies or went off to trade along the Silk Route has a story in it.
Why do you think it is important for children to ‘know’ history?
~~ History is not just about Akbar or Shivaji, it is also the story of how your grandparents migrated from their village to a city or your father practicing as a doctor. It is our roots, what makes us a person. Also we as a human race are evolving all the time and by knowing history we can at least try to stay away from the mistakes we made in the past.
History is also about great people and without history we would not know about the Buddha, Gandhi or Mandela and that would be a great loss to us.
How hard is it to stay away from being didactic as a children’s author? Your writing never talks down to children yet it gives them much to chew on.
~~ I write to a child’s face and if my writing is getting solemn or moralistic the face spits at me. Seriously, if you listen to children, which I do all the time, they’ll tell you what they like or dislike and they can be brutally honest, thank god. Kids never say a book is ‘nice’, they have opinions.
The Bal Sahitya Puraskar acknowledges your work of many years. How does it feel to get it?
~~ Winning an award feels good but when a child runs up to me waving one my booksand treats me like a long lost friend, that’s when it feels really great.
What are you working on next? Your favourite genre?
~~ I just finished a teen novel and am taking a breather. My favourite genre? That’s a no-brainer – historical fiction.
Are you ready to mentor new writers, young and old?
~~ I mentor every chance I get. My inbox often has stuff new writers send me. I couldn’t have got this far without editors and writers taking me in hand and whipping me into shape. I’m a tough mentor but when I notice talent it makes my day.
~ Written by the Manisha Chaudhry, head of content team at Pratham Books.