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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Author Interview : Chhimi Tenduf-La, author of ‘Panther' (Part 2)

Chhimi Tenduf-La
Read Up, the much awaited Second Part to Chhimi Tenduf-La’s Interview. Now, you can find out, the most challenging part of writing a book, like ‘Panther’, the character he felt most close to. 

It also contains how he felt the socio-political background of Sri Lanka affected his writing, and the next book, he has planned, Folks...

Which particular character did you feel most close to? Why?

Indika in some ways because, like him, I was prone to taking some friends a little for granted when I was at school. For example, I had friends like Prabu who would do everything I said, which was convenient for me, but I probably didn’t realise this at the time.

Now the same friends do absolutely nothing that I say!

What was the most challenging part about writing ‘Panther’?

Because I was touching upon very sensitive themes – like war – I had to be very careful not to offend either side of the divide. I wanted to make it clear that I was not taking sides, but I am pretty sure I will get criticised somewhere along the line. I have been asked a few times already why I needed to write about the war because it should now be forgotten. That’s one school of thought.

The other is that these things can never be brushed under the carpet because we cannot let the past repeat itself. Yet, to try to avoid all of this I wrote of a fictional terrorist group so that I am critical of war itself, not any particular faction.

I noticed that the political and social backgrounds along with the war had a deep influence on your writing, more so than they did in you first book. How did all these three affect your writing?

Sri Lanka is going through a very important part of its history. The war only ended 6 years ago, and it is critical that efforts are made to bring communities together.

I see the younger generation as being less affected by differences and thus, more likely to be able to unite the country. In fact, there are a number of youth based initiatives that are being put in place to help this. Thus, Panther is a story that reflects this and was why I wanted to base it around young protagonists.

What is the most fulfilling part, now that you have written your book?

I am not sure I feel a great deal of fulfilment. I always think I could have done something better. Also, after I complete one challenge, I start thinking about the next one. So I think more about what I will write next rather than what I have written.

Who was it that told you that you could become the author, you are today?

If someone told me I could have been the author I am today I would never have written. I had to believe I could become a much better author than I am. One day that might happen. People have always told me I should write a book, but I am sure everyone has heard that from someone.

I think when people say that they think it is easier than it is to get published. (If not for my agent, Kanishka Gupta, I would never have been published).

What is the next book that you have planned?

I started writing about a Sri Lankan who was adopted at birth, returning to reunite with her slightly odd birth mother. The idea is that this exposed some dark family secrets. I have put this on hold for now, because I have some pretty big things happening in my life.

More than that, I want to take a little longer over my next book as it has to be much better than anything I have written before. If it isn’t, I’ll trash it.

Which book are you currently reading?

'Me, Mia, Multiple' by Debashish Irengbam. This was just released by the same publisher as 'Panther' (HarperCollins India). 

I have only just started reading it, but I love it so far. A very original and quirky story told by an exceptionally gifted writer. I could not be more jealous!   

Monday, July 20, 2015

Book Review : ‘Land Where I Flee' by Prajwal Parajuly

{Prajwal Parajuly's 'Land Where I Flee' is a book, which did not take too long to figure out. The best thing was that, it does not taken any time to figure it all out. It is about an 83 old lady’s birthday reunion. And all her grandchildren are getting together to celebrate it.

That’s it, or so you thought. Okay, let us start right at the beginning. The old woman is a Nepali-speaking widow, who would turn 84, and she lives with her live in help, Prasanti. Prasanti is a transgender individual, who has a tongue in cheek retort for most people, except for the old lady, whose replies would shut anyone up.

Now, this old lady or Chitralekha Nepauney is all set to receive her grandchildren. She, unfortunately has qualms with each and every one of them.  She managed to take care of them when their parents died in a car accident when they were very young and the children, now live in various parts of the world.

The oldest is Bhagwati, who had eloped at 19 to marry a low caste, untouchable person and today, is a refugee in the US. The second is Manasa, who was married off to a man from one of Nepal’s most prominent political families. She was a good student with an Oxford degree, and an excellent job in the UK. The third is a boy, Agastaya, who is an oncologist, and also in the US. He does have a secret and manages to ward off all family talk of marriage till 34. We also have two additional guests, who make an appearance, a little later in the novel.

Okay, now that the party is set, let’s have a look at the characters and what they bring to the dining table, which turned out to be a major role player :). Now, for the background. The Gorkhaland agitation of Darjeeling plays an important role in the story. In 2013, a demand for a separate state by a few Gorkhaland agitators took on a stronger note, but it did not really go anywhere.

The foreground has Bhagawati who is still a little out of place at the table, since she has married out of her caste, followed by Manasa, who has given her grandmother the discredit, for all is, was and would  be wrong in her life. The grandson, who seems to have everything going for him except, his love life! The two guests are the ones who come in, with enough baggage but leave with enough and more. One, with a surprise, too.

The language used in this book, has enough guts to strike chords, left, right and centre. The dialogues stay on with the readers, and the way they are said is what makes the book truly arresting. There are a couple of times, I felt that the book was dragging, but thankfully that was only at the beginning. I liked the parts where Chitralekha and Prasanti make an appearance too. They brought on in enough fun to last the whole book. 

Everybody’s problems have been faced by most of us, in bits and pieces. The book is not extraordinary, yet has the touch of an author who wants to make his presence felt. The story does not go and on, which it was quite capable of doing. It seems to stop at the correct points and make it really worthy of a definite read.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Author Interview : Chhimi Tenduf-La, author of ‘Panther' (Part 1)

Chhimi Tenduf-La
Read up, ‘I had said in my Book Review for ‘Panther’, about what I see in this author, Chhimi Tenduf-La.’ There are some authors, who I just read, and believe in. There are still others, who I believe in and then I start to read. This particular author is a bit of both. 

The first book, ‘The Amazing Racist’,  I just read and began to believe in him, I thought that he would write and teach too with his words. I must say, that this book has proved me right.

I guess that says it all, but here is Part 1 of the Interview for ‘Panther’, where he tells us how the book began, details about the book and its characters and what is different about this book. There is more in Part 2, Folks…

How did ‘Panther’ happen? Could you describe the journey?

In May, last year after my agent, Kanishka Gupta sold my first book, 'The Amazing Racist'. Then he asked me if I had anything else, I had written. I had a book called 'The Papadum King', which was a 40,000 word high school story of friendship and betrayal set in Colombo. 

Kanishka and his team liked this story, but just wanted me to expand on it, so I gave the lead character, Prabu, a backstory in which he was a child soldier for a fictional terrorist group. Thus, Panther was born.

What kind of research did you put into ‘Panther’?

I work at a school so I was able to draw upon real life for the setting and for the behaviour of students and teachers (although the students in my school are much more innocent than in 'Panther'). Since I have never been a child soldier, I had to research that. 

Yet, more than researching them in any particular war, I wanted to read about the psychological impact on child soldiers in the aftermath of war. This formed the basis of my story, because it explains Prabu’s difficulties with fitting in and his reactions to being taunted.

How did the two main characters, Prabu and Indika come about?

I wrote a book, a few years ago where the overall story was a little bit ridiculous but out of it came these two characters. I liked their friendship, their swagger and their innocence, so I used them as the starting point for a new story. Their relationship is similar to one, I had when I was 16 with a friend who came to my school, having never been to Colombo before. 

Hence, everything was new to him and he was always optimistic even if he seemed a little out of place at times.  

How would you relate the lives of Prabu and Indika to the lives today? Any similarities?

Yes, indeed. Indika is your standard school hunk whereas Prabu reminds me of any number of students, I have seen who have come from out of town to take up scholarships at international schools in Colombo. They are so grateful for the opportunity that their enthusiasm becomes infectious. 

In 'Panther', some take advantage of Prabu’s enthusiasm and that can happen in bigger schools, but where I work the children are too kind for that kind of thing.

How would you relate the book and its characters, besides the two mentioned earlier, to the lives today?

There are sinister people in this book, who take advantage of children because they hold positions of responsibility. This is the case in this book. 

I took inspiration for such characters from real life stories I read, be it of warlords or sports coaches.

What according to you is different about your book?

I have used a different narrative style in some threads of the book, where I write in the second person. The reason for this was to create some mystery about who the narrator is.  This book is very different to my first, in that I try to create more suspense, yet I have also tried to release tension through humour at times, because I am dealing with tough themes.

It is also a book that I think could appeal to teenagers and adults of all ages. That was my intention at least.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Another day of Story Telling @ 'Easy Library, Hyderabad'

It wasn’t going to be just any day for me at 'Easy Library, Hyderabad'. Actually, it just wasn’t any ‘day’ for any of the kids, either. The story telling session this time was not about days, but about nights.

The session was known as ‘Good Night Stories’. But, thankfully, none of the kids seemed too sleepy. So, they came in looking all cheerful and I was all set to read ‘Goodnight Moon’, ‘I Won’t Go To Bed’ and ‘Bernstein Bears : In The Dark’.  

The first one, ‘Goodnight Moon’, is a children’s picture book, written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd. Its main protagonist is a tiny rabbit, who lives in a big green room. He has toys, two of which are a boy and a girl, among the others. He bids everyone and everything in the room and on the outside, a ‘good night’. I liked it probably because it reminded me of a small rabbit, which I had when I was six years old.

The next one was ‘I Won’t Go To Bed’ by Harriet Ziefert with illustrations by Andrea Baruffi. This talks of a slightly older kid who says that he would not go to sleep, that night. The father does not want to argue and retires for the night. So, the book talks of how he doesn’t go to bed, but instead tries to watch TV and have a party, all by himself. There are an owl and a mouse to keep him company. Does he curl up and go to sleep and does his dad help him upstairs to bed?  

The third one was ‘Bernstain Bears : In The Dark’ written by Stan and Jan Berenstain. In this story, Brother Bear and Sister Bear are at the library, picking up books. Sister, who is the younger of the two, picks up storybooks, books on nature and poems, while Brother picks up a mystery book. The brother offers to read the book to his sister, and sister who is bored with her own collection, agrees.

Brother manages to scare the sister with his creepy book, and she cannot sleep at night. So, she turns on the light and keeps everyone awake through the night. Father Bear has an idea for the next night and he puts his plan into action. So, what is the plan and does it become successful and does Sister Bear go to sleep?

I enjoyed telling the stories to the kids. All the stories were good fun, especially the second one, ‘I Won’t Go To Bed’. I liked seeing the kids having fun and I noticed that nobody was yawning :). And all the kids were quite enthusiastic with everybody, quite ready to reply to any questions posed.
The kids seemed to enjoy it, if I could, say that. Wish  us ‘All the best’ for another day’s set of stories, both to me and the kids, who sit around smiling. ‘Much yawning and snoring to all of us’. :)  And then I made my way out, 'yawning' all the way home… 

Just Click on the Links and Buy the Books below:

Goodnight Moon 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Book Review : ‘Panther' by Chhimi Tenduf-La

There are some authors, who you just read, and believe in. There are still others, who I believe in and then I start to read. This particular author is a bit of both. The first book, I just read and began to believe in him, I thought that he would write and teach too, with his words. I must say, that this book has proved me right. 

Out with ‘Panther’, Chhimi Tenduf-La’s latest, is a tale of a Sri Lankan child solider, Prabu, whose main talent is cricket. He is therefore sent with a sports scholarship, with the express purpose of blowing up his Sinhalese classmates at the school dance.

Prabu, who belongs to ‘Panther’, a (fictional) group of rebels, could not have picked a more sensitive young man. People of Panther, Colonel Thisera, Indika’s parents, Scorpion Five, and characters like Indika, Indika’s father, Achala, Principal Uncle and Coach Silva are only a few of the main characters who have an influence on Prabu’s life. Note his impressionableness through these parts of the story.

Prabu’s lives and stories are many and are brought together wonderfully, whether it is his life in the military camp or at the Colombo’s elite secondary school. Prabu’s poor command of English is one of great fun and his awkwardness with girls, really had me holding onto my ribs.

As Prabu tries to gain a foothold at school, he meets some good and bad characters. Indika’s father, who is a Tamil supporter and Indika himself, who tries to do his best for Prabu and joins him in creating some excellent fun, while trying to save him as best he can are some of good people Prabu meets.

There are of course, people on the other side, the ‘Supreme Leader’ a chilling 
trainer at the military camp, Coach Silva, whose exploits are there for us to see and an ominous Principal.

Prabu is someone who reacts to most things with a kind of sensibility and thoughtfulness; he has imbibed from his circumstances and surroundings.  He is also ever forgiving but never without a touch of rebelliousness. What happens towards the end, whether Prabu manages to get out and find his place in the ever changing circumstances, what happens to some of the more important characters are all there for us to read and see.
Chhimi Tenduf-La

Read on, as Chhimi Tenduf-La figures it all out, as he tries to blend beautiful Sri Lanka’s fear and tragic years of war with its routine life and its daily activities.

‘If you have never been before, it’s time to visit’ says Tenduf-La of Sri Lanka.