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Growing up with books

Reading should be viewed as pure fun and a stress buster, writer and historian Devika Rangachari tells Vimal Chander Joshi

education Updated: Jun 02, 2010 09:20 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi

After topping her BA (history) from St Stephen's College, Delhi University, Devika Rangachari’s aim to become a historian received a fillip. (No prize for guessing that!) I followed it up with an MA (history) in the same college. My ascent in history continued with a doctorate from DU. While I was studying for my doctoral studies, I saw an advertisement of the Children's Book Trust announcing a competition for first-time authors. The first two winners were to be awarded in the form of publication of their submitted work.

That was the time when my first book Company for Manisha got published. I was only 24 years then. So far, I have written 12 books and three more are in the pipeline.

I am a historian as well as a writer of children's books. Though some would argue against this, but I believe history and writing are quite similar. History is the study of stories which took place years ago and story writing is telling anecdotes that you imagine to have happened in the past. Besides realism, I also write historical fiction, which symbolises the perfect marriage between my knowledge of history and knack of writing.

Currently, I am pursuing Post Doctorate research in history and work on several individual projects. I do a balancing act of research and writing. I love both tasks. If one bores me, I can turn to the other, which I love equally. But, I can never imagine leaving one for another.

For most of my stories, I get inspiration from my own life and people around me. When Amma Went Away is a story of a Tamil girl raised in Delhi. Just like me, she speaks two languages — Tamil at home and Hindi with friends.

I strongly feel that the problems faced by my generation are similar to those of today's youth. That's what my book Growing up is all about.

Reading is very pertinent to the development of children. Having said that, kids should read only what they get drawn to. Some parents insist that their kids should read primarily to improve their vocabulary and knowledge. To my mind, these are boring aims to achieve. Reading fiction ought to be viewed as pure fun and a stress buster. While taking pleasure out of it, the “boring” aims are achieved automatically.

It's not true that today's kids don't want to read. Surprisingly, the response is positive. In fact, there are several distractions that keep students away from extensive reading, such as Internet, TV and video games.

I, along with fellow author Deepa Aggarwal, jointly run a forum known as Habitat Children's Book Forum (HCBF) in Delhi, where we organise authors' meets with children and make them aware of new books and trends in the publishing world.

I never want to be an adult writer. In some ways, I am still a kid (albeit at the age of 40). I look at things from a child's perspective and understand their problems very well.

Devika Rangachari is the author, who won several awards given by Hindu Newspaper, Children's Book Trust and IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) for her writing