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This picture book gives rare peek into ‘paw’some strays of Mumbai

Bogie prefers to travel in the ladies’ compartment; Periappa’s favourite foods are idli and dosa; Captain from Shivaji Park loves racing

mumbai Updated: Apr 12, 2018 01:27 IST
Jayati Bhola
Jayati Bhola
Hindsutan Times
Periappa dreams about his favourite foods idli and dosa.(PRATHAM BOOKS)

Bogie prefers to travel in the ladies’ compartment; Periappa’s favourite foods are idli and dosa; Captain from Shivaji Park loves racing. These are some of the strays you’ll be introduced to in My City, My Dogs, a homage to Mumbai’s community canines.

The picture book targeted at children and released last month by Pratham Books stands out for its evocative and whimsical illustrations by Sumedha Sah, combined with and based on photographs by Hashim Badani. The text, mainly about the characteristics and idiosyncrasies of each stray, is by animal lover and activist Abodh Aras, who also heads the NGO Welfare of Stray Dogs.

“I loved the idea from the moment I first heard it,” says Sah, who has four dogs herself, back home in Nainital. She was approached by Bijal Vachharajani, consultant editor at Pratham. “Bijal saw my work on Instagram and wanted someone who also loves dogs, someone who could capture the emotions well.”

The cover of the book.

Those emotions are exactly what make My City… a treat for adults and little ones alike — the expression in the eyes, which ranges from confused to loving to doleful; the eager faces; the lazy stretching and cosy curled-up naps.

“Abodh had already written the book. For the book, he took me and Hashim on a walk around the city so we could meet the dogs,” Sah says. “We went to Matunga and met Periappa. He sits outside Anand Bhavan and is truly a foodie. Captain is blind in one eye but always prancing around. These details were very helpful when it came time to draw.”

Each illustration is part cityscape, part painting. “We wanted the city to serve as the backdrop of the story, to make it more relatable,” Badani says.

There’s a touch of the humorous and the surreal to the book too, in the sense of scale and the distinct mood of each page.

“I’ve always wanted to write about the street dogs of Mumbai. In the past 22 years, I’ve gotten attached to many of them and know their stories,” says Aras. “From the Azaad Maidan dog looked after by a sugarcane seller to the one at Fort who always stands ‘on duty’ with the traffic policemen, I wanted others to get to know them too.”

My City, My Dogs is part of Pratham’s Storyweaver series launched in 2015 to host tales in multiple languages and build a community of storytellers and readers who would read, create, translate and download content via the website.

“The initial response to this book has been very positive,” says Vachharajani. “We wanted the book to also be a city book,” she says. “For a city child, their early animal interactions are generally with crows, cats or dogs. We want this book to help kids look at Mumbai with a fresh eye, as a city not just of people but of animals too.”

It’s been a journey of discovery for Sah and Badani already.

“Mumbai’s dogs are its nicest, smartest and the friendliest occupants,” Badani says.

The book is available for free download on storyweaver.org.in. A first print run is scheduled for the end of the year.

First Published: Apr 12, 2018 01:27 IST