She created the lovable little girl from the books ‘Bela Misses Her Train’ and ‘The Wednesday Bazaar’. Karadi Tales catches up with talented author Neha Singh and finds out what inspired her to write these much-adored children’s books.To buy both books in the Bela series at a special discount of 40%, click here. http://karaditales.com/catalogue/july/bela-series-july-combo-offer/ Offer ends July 31, 2017.
Karadi Tales: What was your inspiration for The Wednesday Bazaar and Bela Misses Her Train?
Neha Singh: I wanted to write Indian stories for Indian children. Indian characters with Indian names and quirks, in spaces that are typically ours. Both books deal with getting lost in public spaces, which is something most children can relate with and it can be an emotionally overwhelming experience. I have also very strong memories of getting lost at a bus depot as a five-year-old, and the relief and emotions I felt when I finally spotted my family. I think that memory was the basis of the two books. I also remember being helped by strangers in such situations, people from varied classes. It is not always 'stranger-danger', many times the community comes together to help children out too. That is why in both the books strangers help Bela reunite with her family.
KT: Is Bela based on anyone you know?
NS: Yes, Bela is my niece, my sister's daughter. She will turn eight this year. The real Bela is smart, brave, mischievous and a problem solver, just like the character in the book.
KT: You are also a theatre artiste and the founder of Why Loiter. How does your activism come into play in your fiction writing?
NS: Why loiter? is a women's movement that I started in 2014 to reclaim public spaces. In my books too, the protagonists are invariably girls, who are in public spaces. They are not scared or timid, they are just having fun. When they get into trouble, they are proactive in finding solutions and take help of others. My characters are neither princesses nor witches, they are regular girls with a desire to engage with the world around them, with curiosity and amazement, not fear or suspicion.
KT: Do you find the process of writing for adults and children very different. If so, why?
NS: Yes, I maintain that children's books are far wiser than grown-ups' books, and one needs to have a knack of saying unique things in the minimum number of words to make a good children's book. Simplicity and imagination are the two key ingredients in a children's book. Having said that, writing a book for adults can be a very long and lonely process.
RAPID FIRE WITH KARADI TALES
When do you find it easiest to write?
When I can see the story from beginning to end in my head, like a film, animation film, preferably.
Your favourite children’s book?
So many! Roald Dahl's stories, R.K. Narayan's stories for children, Ruskin Bond's books for children. Enid Blyton remains an all time favourite.
An author you admire?
Padmashri Vijaydan Detha.
Your favourite encounter with a fan?
Shilpa Phadke (author of Why Loiter? the book) who I am a big fan of, her daughter Anamika, has come for my storytelling sessions and bought both Bela books. It’s a beautiful circle of fans.
If you could be a book character for a day who would it be?
I would be Swami from Malgudi days, and experience what it must have been like to be a schoolkid in pre-independence India.