The Best House of All

The Best House of All

When the editors at Pratham Books wrote in for a STEM book about houses, it brought back a flood of memories. My childhood spent tying sheets to chairs, propped up with sticks and cushions dragged in from various corners to create my own “house”. I recall a perfect grass-free muddy park that allowed me to create layouts for houses with a stick dragged through mud and stones to line my boundary wall. I’ve relived all those memories with my own children creating “houses” within our home. Clothes pegs holding up various corners of sheets requisitioned from the linen cupboard, torchlit talks within, stuffed-toy mattresses, collapsing houses, food passed in through the ‘door’, passwords, giggles and laughter – free play at its best. I knew I had to bring this into my book even as I wrote a book for a STEM series. And so while I wrote about the different kinds of houses around the world, my little architect in the book sets about building her house within a house. And just as climate, space, terrain and materials at hand are crucial factors in the shape and form that homes take, so do these influence her creation. Add to this, my childhood plan to become an architect. A plan that got side-tracked onto a different journey with math and an MBA but doesn’t it all work out for the best? I now get to put all that into a book – The Best House of All! A book that I hope will, in addition to giving children know-how on houses, also inspire little minds inclined to this to be architects someday. A story that reminds...
A Crouching Tiger Hidden Zebra cake sort of year-end

A Crouching Tiger Hidden Zebra cake sort of year-end

With two books out in quick successions – Vikram and the Vampire and Princess Easy Pleasy (to reach bookstores soon), the baking bug has been buzzing around. And while I have been baking every now and then over the last few months, my Facebook page has seen evidence of it, this time cookies and cupcakes wouldn’t be enough. I was just back from Bookaroo in Pune after sessions with these books and with the latest History Mystery from earlier in 2015, Razia and the Pesky Presents. A cake was definitely called for. A cake that had never been attempted by me before. I settled down before the telly with my lunch, switched channels scouting for a cooking program that would make me look even more sorrowfully at my simple bowl of yogurt and pomegranate and chanced upon Lorraine Pascale. There she was with her brilliant smile, just starting off on a new recipe – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Zebra cake. I was sold at the name. THIS! This is what I would bake! Something that lived up to the joy of new books. A fitting nod to my husband’s love for martial art movies and his multi-prowess, kung-fu like support at my readings. A nod also to Princess Easy Pleasy’s travels through much of South East Asia in the new picture book. And a sure winner with the kids if it actually turned out stripy when cut. Woo hoo! Take a look! Not bad, I say. As I set off for my winter break, tremendously pleased with how the past year turned out, here’s a wish for you: May 2016...
What happens when an author visits the setting of her book, Fatehpur Sikri

What happens when an author visits the setting of her book, Fatehpur Sikri

In a recent visit with family to Fatehpur Sikri, our excellent guide was rather befuddled by an over-excited woman, screeching with joy when she saw the Durbar hall, the Anup Talab, Akbar’s bed and the Buland Darwaza. “Yes, yes madam. Would you like a photograph? There as well? And there? And here again? Yes, it is all quite exciting.” As we entered the first garden and space where Akbar would hold his durbar, the guide pointed to a plain, flat platform raised two feet off the ground, against the backdrop of a columned corridor. “That’s where the king and Prince Salim were weighed on their birthday against gold, silver and other items.” “AAAAAHHH!” screeched the woman, madly flipping through a yellow-covered book with a gilded title, Akbar and the Tricky Traitor, to an image of Akbar being weighed against the very items mentioned, beautifully detailed by the illustrator of the book, Vandana Bist. Whipping out trusty phone, she stretched her arm out with book, framing the scene with the platform in the backdrop, and clicked. “And over there is the Darbar-i-Aam where the king held court…” “EEEEHHHH!” yelled the woman, flipping to another page in the book in which Akbar stands holding court while searching for his Super Six amidst the lot. Hand outstretched… click! “That was Akbar’s gigantic bed…” “OOOOH!” Flip flip flip… click! The ten-year-old and the eight-year-old offspring of the woman were soon influenced by the fervor of discovering new facts about the place and of photographing every nook and cranny of Fatehpur Sikri that echoed in the book, having read it multiple times themselves. “What’s...

Superglued fingers, travel and a new season of MasterChef Australia; reasons for hitting pause on my writing.

Summer break begins in ten days. The kids’ school calendar for these last few days looks ready to burst, packed as it is with project submissions, PTMs, book-day preparations and global perspectives day amongst others. I have glue in my hair, superglued fingers and am snipping paper in my sleep. There’s the travel planning, packing and repacking amidst growing anticipation of cooler climes and lovely beaches. Baking urges are back despite the terrible heat resulting, fittingly, in chocolate lava cakes (that turned out awesome). It’s utterly distracting. To add to it all, MasterChef Australia has begun a new season that really seals the deal on giving up on plots and characters and simply putting away my writing tools until my return to routine in August. My ten and eight-year-olds sit glued to MasterChef, drawn in not just by the astounding delicacies that the amateur cooks seem capable of but also by the thrilling rounds of winning and elimination. Weekend re-runs of the show result in hectic, chaotic bouts of cooking by the kids. This weekend, the eight-year-old was yelling out for basil and pepper as the didi rushed about as sous-chef. I was banned from the kitchen. Delicious and healthy plates of bruschetta emerged for evening snack, much to my delight. The ten-year-old (TYO) has his observations and bits of wisdom. As I whipped batter for the lava cakes, he nodded approvingly. TYO: “What are you making?” Me: “Chocolate lava cakes, though this is the first attempt and I’m not sure we’ll have dessert for the guests tonight.” TYO: “We’re making white chocolate and cornflake rocks with bits of gooey marshmallow as well...

NPS: New Plot Syndrome

As of last night, I’ve moved past my Post Manuscript Syndrome stage with Squiggle, part 2 – yes, it is a GO and I couldn’t be more thrilled and excited about moving a step closer to the crucial design stage for this book. Meanwhile, I’ve plunged headlong into writing the next History Mystery. Well, not quite plunged and not quite headlong and not quite writing as yet… it’s more like gasping, wheezing and choking as I attempt to come up with a plot and characters. I’m calling it NPS: New Plot Syndrome (I’m less daunted by character creation). My head is swimming with the research I’ve done on Aryabhata. Theorems float like fishes blowing bubbles at me and spheres have developed scary faces, inhabiting my every waking hour, through day and night, since insomnia is here to haunt me, yet again. I’m back in college before my final exam (I majored in Math). Sheafs of paper that have been scribbled upon litter my table. I have flowcharts of plot-progression and what-ifs. I have sheets with possible riddles, post-its in a multitude of colours, highlighter pens that have run out of ink and possible plots that are weaving around and going… nowhere! Aargh! It’s scary. It’s frustrating. It gives me an upset tummy. Strangely, it’s also immensely, phenomenally exciting. It’s a new beginning, a whole new world, a new adventure and a new challenge to myself. It’s thoughts flowing fast, often faster than I can pen them down. I’m crying out in pain when I bang into walls. Somewhere, I have to believe that whatever story gods exist will come to my aid and fill my...