Bhajju Shyam, 39, an award-winning Gond artist from Bhopal, was a little concerned when he was first approached to illustrate Flight of the Mermaid, an Indian retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen classic.
Shyam,a former night watchman, didn't know the story. But as he perused the copy of the book, sent to him by Tara Books, following Ariel as she stepped out of her ocean home into a strange world all for a prince she loved, losing her tongue as she did so, he knew he would actually be able to relate to the project.
And that is exactly how Shyam still feels when he travels across India and abroad for children's book festivals. Excited, yet awkward, for speaking through a translator, he says he often feels like someone has taken away his voice.
"The story also reminded me of our own traditional Gond creatures - half human and half beast," he says.
Flight of the Mermaid, published in 2007, turned out be one of Shyam's best works.
"But children in India are not very excited about my art," he says.
"At book fairs in other countries, children line up to see me sketch, pepper me with questions about my work and draw Gond-style art for me, but here the response is not the same."