Nandana Dev Sen to author a book on nature with a French illustrator | books$author-interview | Hindustan Times
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Nandana Dev Sen to author a book on nature with a French illustrator

Actor-author Nandana Dev Sen is collaborating with French illustrator Kris Di Giacomo to create Earth Song — a colouring book on nature for young and adults.

books Updated: Dec 11, 2017 19:08 IST
Henna Rakheja
(L-R) French illustrator Kris Di Giacomo, publisher Chiki Sarkar and actor-author Nandana Dev Sen in a discussion on the work-in-progress book Earth Song.
(L-R) French illustrator Kris Di Giacomo, publisher Chiki Sarkar and actor-author Nandana Dev Sen in a discussion on the work-in-progress book Earth Song.

Talks of pollution and the need to fight against it are rampant in Delhi where almost every other minute the pollutants in the air are rising. But, one age group that is mostly left out of such discussions are the children. “Children are well aware of pollution, and hugely affected by it. As we know, in Delhi schools often get shut because the smog in the atmosphere is too dangerous. They know that clean water is precious, that we need more trees in the world; they know that certain animal species are almost extinct,” says actor-writer Nandana Dev Sen.

As part of the ongoing Bonjour India festival, Sen is collaborating with French illustrator Kris Di Giacomo for a colouring book, tentatively titled Earth Song. “Because it’s one of the most urgent crises in the world, and an area in which children can make a huge difference. I feel that it’s very important to inculcate environment-sensitive habits at a young age that will help make the world a cleaner, healthier and safer place for all. Different children’s writers approach their material differently, of course, but I have never been of the opinion that we must only write about matters that are 100% sweet and not troubling in any way. That said, it’s very important to discuss potentially disturbing issues with children in a safe, reassuring, empowering, and illuminating way. Kids need to deal with all kinds of disturbing realities; whether it’s the death of their pets, the illness of their grandparents, or conflict between communities. There’s so much violence in the world now, and while it would be great to shield our children from it all if we could, that’s just not feasible. Nor is it healthy, I feel, for kids to live in a bubble, which is why overprotecting them is not the choice I would make — neither as a parent nor as a children’s writer.”

Sen, whose last film was Rang Rasiya (2014) in Hindi, thinks it’s important to “talk about it in a way that it’s not too scary or painful. You need to find a safe and positive way, a softer approach but not an untruthful one,” and Giacomo confesses that “it’s extremely challenging, and is the main issue we are facing now. We are thinking what kind of language to use that it isn’t too frightening. And, this is the hardest part of dealing with this topic.”

A page from the work-in-progress book, Earth Song.

The book is coming up as a long poem about Earth, and Sen who is daughter of popular economist and philosopher Amartya Sen, recollects her tryst with poems: “I’ve always loved poetry and been fascinated by rhyme. I was thrilled when my first poem was chosen by Satyajit Ray to be published in Sandesh magazine. Poetry is a kind of family tradition within our home — instead of making birthday cards, we would write each other birthday poems.”

Meanwhile, Giacomo is excited to create visuals for a lyrical work. “I have never worked with rhyming text. In France, we often don’t use rhymes, so this is really new to me… to have a sing-song way of expressing ideas. It’s gonna influence the illustrations, too.”

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