I grew up and went to school in Chennai, a coastal city in India. I must have been different (my childhood friends say so) because I was both shy and talkative. I loved reading a lot and I enjoyed spelling tests.
I could read and write three languages by the time I was eight. Can you guess which three? English, of course; Tamil, which is my mother tongue; and Hindi, which is the national language of India.
I always loved stories as far back as I can remember. But we weren’t very rich, so we couldn’t buy books. And there weren’t (and still aren’t) many libraries in India. So my grandmother and her sister told me a lot of stories. My mum made up stories just for me. The storytelling bug had caught me, and when I was seven, I won the first prize in storytelling. Remind me to tell you that story when I come to your school.
I love making up stuff for fun. I think a doormat can become a magic carpet and that pencil you’re holding can be an alien spaceship. So look around you and see things not with your eyes but with your imagination. It will take you places! Oh, the places you’ll go!
I’ve a huge weakness for untold folktales and legends, especially from India. The ones that hide in old archives, in a grandparent’s memory, and those that evoke pictures in my mind. Pattan’s Pumpkin was a journey into Western Ghats, one of India’s amazing mountain ranges, older than the Himalayas. It reinforced my belief that ancient people knew how to cherish this environment. It brought to the forefront the suffering of the Irular people as forests are destroyed today and how such ancient tribes are displaced. An elderly tribal villager told this story to a researcher, who encapsulated it in a few sentences: “Long, long ago there lived a man named Pattan. . . . The pumpkin was so huge to accommodate Pattan and his family.”
As a storyteller, my inspiration came from these few lines. The rest came from the research of the mountain ranges, the history of the tribe, and the ethos of all ancient people who live in harmony with nature.
The illustrations by Frané Lessac bring to life the mountains, the bountiful valley, and Pattan’s pumpkin that grows and grows and grows.
My hope is that Pattan’s Pumpkin inspires a young reader to grow a plant, feed a bird, and look after the nature around them.
Three Things You Didn’t Know About Me
1. I'm scared of dogs, cats, and basically any animal. Even little puppies.
2. As s a kid, I used to lose stuff all the time and upset my mum.
3. I love making up jokes and riddles. Here is one for you:
What hides between the pages of a book but never get squashed?
A story, of course!