Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy Birthday, Tulika!


Tulika is now 15 years old. Why is that so important? Well, I don't know about you, but to me, the Tulika story is like one of those marvelous movies on sport where you watch the last match with a lump in your throat, knowing that the underdogs are going to win. Nobody expected them to win but they did. And inside your heart, a tiny voice says that it's okay to believe in corny things like dreams coming true.

For those who don't know yet, Tulika Publishers is a publishing house that brings out children's books. They are located in Chennai and no, they haven't hired me to be their PR person (though I wish they would hire me in some way....maybe a face-making tea girl). I've written for them, so this is going to be a terribly biased post. But then, I'm a terribly biased person in the most charming way in real life too. So I'm not going to insert any more disclaimers.

Tulika started off in 1996 at a time when Indian children's literature was synonymous with reams and reams of mythology. Not that there is anything wrong with mythology, but after a point, it becomes tiresome when the kings keep performing yagnas for sons and the sages keep cursing apsaras for disturbing them. Okay, I'm being unfair. Mythology is a great genre...but it's EVERYWHERE. As a child, I preferred reading Malory Towers and pretending that I was Darrell Rivers who played lacrosse though I had no idea what the hell that was. There was hardly any Indian children's literature that captured my imagination. I instinctively turned away from anything preachy and thankfully, my Marxist parents applauded my tastes.

When Tulika started off, I was in Class VI. I was already past the picture books stage and I never bumped into their books till I reached college. And met N (who is now a fancy Tulika publisher herself). She introduced me to their books and I was super envious of the under-5 population of the country. Why, they had such remarkable books to read, the snotty Pogo-watchers! I spent many a happy hour in Landmark reading Tulika books and I suddenly realized how much fun an Indian childhood actually is. Because I'd never read anything where children have fun in an Indian context without them painfully arriving at a Moral in the end, this moment of epiphany blew me away. I looked up their website and found many essays on children's literature and why Tulika was started. And the story of their struggle. I felt inspired in a very flag-hoisting way. Here was a bunch of people who dared to start off small with sound convictions and managed to pull the rabbit out of the hat!

By this time, N had joined Tulika as an intern and she suggested that I write for them. I wrote a small story called Aana and Chena and couriered it to them with a self-important cover letter and all. I didn't hear from them for a long, long time and I assumed that this meant they didn't like my story. But that's the thing about email. You can always appear cool and shoot off an enquiry without sounding desperate. And so, I did some bombarding while retaining my chilled out personality and everything.

I still remember that night. I was feverishly checking my email and I saw Tulika Publishers in my inbox. I opened the mail. It was an acceptance letter. I was so joyous, I ran to my parents' bedroom, woke my mum up and told her the news. She sleepily said, "Oh! Good!" I grinned and ran back and read the mail a hundred times to make sure that I hadn't somehow misunderstood the three-line mail. Tulika was publishing me!

I cannot express enough the joy of holding a book you have written in your hands and looking at it, page by page. It's a lot like falling in love. The day the package with copies of my book came home, I was delirious. I showed the book to everyone I knew. I didn't care if they thought I was boasting. Heck, I was a Tulika author! Aana and Chena was also the book I gave M when we first met and he still has it (ok, it hasn't been ten years or something, but it's still special and all).

Why is the Tulika story important for writers like me? Writers who have no literary contacts, agents, awards, and age to come to their aid? It is important because if you have nothing but your craft to fall back on, the publishing industry can ignore you. It often does. It can make you believe that you are no good and convince you to give up. I was twenty two when Tulika accepted my first book. For every small edit that was made on my story, I was duly consulted and informed. With due respect. At no stage did they make me feel like an amateur who ought to feel grateful that they were giving me any attention at all. They were extremely approachable and I felt very comfortable agreeing and disagreeing with the suggestions and decisions made. The attention to detail, the painstaking efforts that go into the production of a book, the love with which it finally comes hot off the press...happiness is a warm picture book, to misquote Peanuts.

So far, I've published four picture books with Tulika. Each has been a delight to bring out. Each has put a smile on my face when I've felt down in life. It also feels darned good to sign your own book and give it to children who can't believe they know a real-life writer. Though I can only half-believe that myself.

Happy Birthday, Tulika people. Here's to many more.

@N- I hope you will lobby for that face-making tea girl job I want.


N said...

@GB - :D Addi polli,Mole.Of course, I will.

Srinivas said...

:) :) :)

There's a sense of unadulterated joy - and unspoken gratitude - that pervades through the post :) (And I am frankly bored of saying you write very well (I mean I will have to find words)! So in the mean time... :D)

Best Wishes to Tulika as well as Children's Literature in general! :)

Jasper said...

Even if the comment to the post is published ,I felt pure joy and if it was recognized by the author, I felt thinking of him with gratitude and if thoughts coincide, I feel friendly towards the author.
I wrote letters on that day to my friend who is my soul-mate (though she departed from me due to her family pressure) from the age of 14.
I narrated the incidents and my pure affection sometimes to understand how she has been a pillar to my life to share my feelings in the family and society with her.
I usually wouldn't speak to any one to share my joys and sorrows and wouldn't even express my love towards any one except her. But I would be kinder than necessary to any one.
Later, she told me that my thinking was nice towards any happening and induced me to write at least for women's magazines many times.
Though many happenings in my life physically and emotionally were there, she is the one person to listen all my conversations and accepted with me with my + and -.Many quarrels had come in imposing our thoughts to one another.
But whenever I respond to the posts of the blogs ,I think of her with gratitude and I know that she was following the blogs which I followed and seeing the comments.
I had the phone number of her husband . But no use for us to be friendly after 2009.
Any how, she will come to my daughter's marriage.
Due to that depressed feeling ,I entered FB and got nice sons in my daughter's age.
So, I understood love cannot be confined with one person. There will be a substitute for anything and I have a substitute to my show special feelings to one person of my daughter's age and I considered him as my son and friend to replace my childhood friend though my affection towards her is as fresh and pure till now as her.As my daughter and friend quarrel with me, this one also do though we have not seen each other so far.
So learning computer and using in a proper way will be the best solution for loneliness and the first article in how your father and me learned computer also can change the destiny of our normal life and it can be narrated in the previous comment of mine with humor and here with sentiment.

The Visitor said...

:) Nothing much to say GB. My comment would be I concur with Srini.

Happy Birthday Tulika.

PS: I've done my bit for promoting Tulika. When I went to Madurai about a month ago, I asked for your books at a popular bookshop - specifically The Snow King's Daughter.

Anonymous said...

Grinning on the inside, pure infectious joy! go ahead and scatter with aplomb1
Marxists have no problem enjoying mythologies.In fact atheists read more on religion than the said believers.According to Marx, Art is always and everywhere the secret confession, and at the same time the immortal movement of its time.children who lack fake morality should not be introduced to it in a haste.No Indian woman would want a Rama or Krishna as her husband or son with or without Halo!

vishesh said...

Happy Birthday to Tulika :)

And are you sure they prefer tea over coffee?

GB said...

@N- :D

@Srini- Thangyou!

@Jasper- I think you should start a blog :D

@The Visitor- Hurrah!! Do bulk-orders and I'll invite you for my 25th birthday. Really.

@Anon- Ammaji, the point about Marx was about the 'preachy', not about the 'religious'.

@Vishesh- Yes, they do, men.

Jasper said...

Will you guide me to start a blog and also how to type in Tamil if you wish?