“The most important is a library at the village level where good children’s books are available. The level will also increase when children demand good reading.”
What inspired you to write for children?
‘Challenge’ inspired me to write for children. I used to try, but I could not write stories for children. Then I took it as a challenge. When I wrote the first story (for children), I got a lot of joy out of it. A new area of creativity opened up for me. I started writing. I wrote historical things as a social responsibility. I also wrote them with the aim of providing children a humanitarian perspective to look at and understand the ‘truth’ of history.
Have you noticed any change in the nature and trend in Hindi children’s literature, since the time you’ve been reading children’s books?
There has been a lot of changes. When we used to read, there were Raja, Bhaiya, Baalak, Chandamama and Parag and then Nandan magazines. A separate world was created in these for children. This world had fairies, kings, queens and ghosts and spirits. There would be animals, flowers, morals or rhyming language/ poems. Today everything has changed. A child’s world in literature is the same as her/his real world. A world in which they are living and in which they have to continue to live. How will we present this world, it’s black and white-ness to them is the concern today? On these lines, we can see the work of Ektara, and their magazine ‘Cycle’. Printing, production, illustration have totally changed.
What is writing for a writer like you who writes for both children and adults?
The world of children and adults are not two separate worlds; both are in and out of each other’s. From a very young age, children start understanding the adult world. I do not differentiate while writing for the two, except in the language. While writing for children, I keep the language simple, sentences short and rhythmic. This is a fundamental difference. Besides this, I try to write about mystery, philosophy, values of life for both. For children, I do not portray reality as harsh, bitter or fearsome; do not write about the complexities of society, state and law. Maintain a distance from religion, obscenity and immorality. That’s it. That’s the difference I maintain while writing.
Which is your favorite book? Please tell us briefly about it.
Mahabharat. In this, life is present in its completeness. It has all basic elements of literature. It has imagination, experiment, language, structure, imagery, duality, character. It has questions on society, state, morality, religion, right self-conduct and war.
Who is your favorite author and why?
I have no one-favourite writer. Actually, one loves one or many books of a writer. That is why a writer becomes favourite. Even so, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Kafka, Marquez, Nirmal Verma, Renu, Nirala, Meer, Ghalib, Nazeer Akbarabadi, Ravindranath, Tarashankar, Vimal Mitr, Shankar. And many historians too.
Which experience, till date, has been the most vital in your writing career?
My first three stories got published in Hindi magazines and then my stories started being rejected. My mother noticed I was sad, so one day she asked me ‘what is the matter’; I told her. She said just one thing. ‘You have become egoistic’. That and that only, was the reality. Ego in writing means carelessness, less hard work. This was exactly what I was doing. I never ever forgot what she said. After that none of my stories were returned. To be egoistic or vain about his/her writing, means a certain kind of death for the writer.
According to you, what is the role of awards in encouraging or promoting children’s literature?
Awards make the writer responsible. Awards are a social acceptance of the writer’s work. This acceptance instills self-confidence. It builds a sense of responsibility. These things motivate/force the writer to write better and better. This way children’s literature improves. It moves forward.
What can be done to strengthen children’s literature in our society?
Do not differentiate too much between adult literature and children’s literature. Ask the senior and the best writers to write for children – not fictional stories, but stories from their own real world. It is the responsibility of the parents to read and look for good literature and give it to their children. Most importantly, there should be a library at the village and town level where children get access to good books. When children read good books, they will ask for more, then the level (of literature) will also go up.
How can we encourage young writers to write children’s literature?
Their writings should be published well, on a big scale. They should get a good remuneration. They should get so much enthusiasm and profit by writing for children that they make this their livelihood and the goal of their lives. There should be seminars, forums, discussions. They should get awards.