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Madhurima Vidyarthi

  • Writer's pictureMadhurima Vidyarthi

Why did I write this book?

The honest answer is I don’t know. Like so many other books, written by so many other writers, it came out of nowhere and demanded to be released, knocking louder and louder till I had to sit down and let the words flow. Strangely enough, it was the very first line that came into my head first. This is the story of how my grandmother became a famous artist. Even more strange is the fact that I was reading something at the time, not simply staring into space. It was a very engrossing story (of which I have absolutely no recollection!) and I should have been occupied, which I was. Till the first line floated into my mind.

This is the story of how my grandmother became a famous artist.

Well and good. But the trouble with opening lines is that they’re just that. One single line. The rest of the book must still be written. The plot and the storyline and the characters and the pace and the dialogue and all the other elements which go into making a story were still shrouded by mist. The ending was far far away.

The one thing I knew from the very beginning was that I wanted strong female characters. It wasn’t a deliberate decision. It was spontaneous, like the beginning and the title. And I was certain that the narrator should be a child, observing the world and the people around her from her own peculiar perspective. There would have to be a grandmother, of course. But what would the grandmother do? How would she draw a masterpiece? And why? And what would be the impetus to pick up a brush after so many years of ignoring the artist within?

Enter Female Character Number Three – a sympathetic no-nonsense daughter-in-law. Lurking quietly in the background and popping up at the right moments. Unobtrusive, not a prominent character like the granddaughter or the grandmother; not quirky like Minima, not given to moments of drama like Nini, but there. A silent catalyst, a mover.

The choice of the catalyst was deliberate – it had to be a woman, not an omnipotent, indulgent male. That was the easy bit. What was much more difficult was to confine the storytelling within a bland objective one-sided narrative and refrain from passing judgement. Nini, a self-absorbed seven-year-old who tells the story as she sees it and in her simple telling shows us so much more than a few months of her childhood in an ostensibly happy family home. The subtle prejudices and stereotypes that we take for granted, deeply ingrained assumptions and conditioning that have lost their negative connotations, aspirations that were easily brushed aside because of so-called domestic priorities.

The denouement was deliberate too. The climax had to be the translation of the dream into a ‘fat cheque with lots of zeros’, a rejoinder to society that acknowledges worth only when it comes with a price tag.

Other than that, the book wrote itself. Odd bits here and there, eccentricities, funny stories, family vignettes came together at the right moments, to my surprise and immense gratitude. The book, as it stands today, folded itself up into many many layers and became a children’s book, hopefully, meant for everyone to read.

So what are you waiting for? Happy reading!


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