Monday, August 29, 2016

Interview with Subhash Kommuru, author of 'Shabdon Ki Holi'

Subhash and Sujata hail from India. They migrated to the United States along with their memories of childhood and youth. Now that they are parents, just like every immigrant they crave to introduce their child to the culture and values of their upbringing. Yet it is challenging to teach something while you are in the midst of adjusting to a different culture yourself.

Subhash and Sujata both work in different disciplines and have different styles and backgrounds, but it is the upbringing of their son that brings them on the same page. That exact place where they meet is captured and reflected in their stories, where Subhash can express in words, and Sujata can illustrate them beautifully. Where he puts it in black and white, she adds color to it. You get the idea!

These stories are their attempt to share a glimpse of their childhood days with their son. He is their inspiration to write short stories that have meaning to them and provide teaching in some shape or form.

Shobhan’s latest book is the children’s book, Shabdon Ki Holi.

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About the Book:

Title: Shabdon Ki Holi
Author: Subhash Kommuru
Publisher: Kommura Books
Pages: 34
Genre: Children’s
Shabdon Ki Holi is a funny story with bright illustrations and lively cartoon written in Hindi.
Ramesh and Suresh are two siblings who love to blabber and find it very funny. But this holi they experience a adventure like never before and meet entertaining creatures/jeevs who are lot of fun but their vocabulary is very limited. See how both siblings go from blabbering to teaching Bandhu, Pratham and his fellow creatures the usage of words - featuring bright and fun illustrations in the backdrop of holi festival.

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What first inspired you to write or who inspired you?

Thank you for the opportunity to present myself on your distinctive blog and exceptional readers. I migrated to US from India and brought with me memories of land rich in culture and beliefs. For as long as me and my wife were by ourselves we never took a moment to think about our cultural heritage and our values. But once we had Arya, our son, our perspective changed. He was growing up fast and seeing American culture all around him. That’s when we realized that there is a treasure called “India” which he is not exposed to and will never get to know unless we do something about this. Sure we can take him to local gatherings, temples, celebrate one or two festivals but that simply is not enough. Kids learn a lot from many different channels, One of those most effective channel is books. For Arya any time is story time, no matter how sad or how mad he is a book can always come to rescue.
So that got me into making up stories and morals that we have learned as kids and narrate those stories to him. But I had to pick up a pen when he started to demand that I tell the same stories over and over again and use same immersive words every single time. So I decided to pick up a pen and start writing something with cultural significance, something that he cannot learn anywhere else and put it on paper so every time I read it will be exactly the same.
So in many ways with both my kids a writer was born in me and an illustrator was born in my wife.
As part of my most recent release “Shabdon Ki Holi” we bring a festival “Holi” aka Festival of colors and mix it with a very important lesson of using your words. It’s that interesting combination of festival and words that colors this story fun. This is a pain that every mother out there feels and every child growing up practices, bar none.

Can you name three writing tips to pass on to aspiring authors?

Writing tips for authors, that is an interesting topic that I feel compelled to pass on, not just because I want to see fellow authors succeed but also because of my singular objective of getting more quality material for kids out there. When you pick children’s book most of them are very good, but you will see a common theme, they are built for commercial perspective to please the audience and generalize them into one category. There is no diversity in books. There is no culture, no tradition and biggest concern is that not many of them challenge children’s intellect.

I would strongly encourage aspiring authors to plan out your simple story. Remember life is complicated but you learn about life one simple story at a time so don’t rush into doing too many things at once. Say if your topic is festivals try to focus on one festival at a time and don’t get immersed in every single detail unless you are writing a text book on them.
For instance our book Bargad, talks about Vat Savitri rather than getting into details of festival, its origin and other details we surround our story around this important festival and bring home the fact the reason behind observance of such festival.

Secondly I would advise you to write something about you care, your story has to bring some value to the table and sky is the limit there don’t have to stick to the populous theme don’t have to restrict yourself to what “cool kids” are thinking today. Who knows your story would be what “cool kids” will be thinking tomorrow.
A prime example of this effort is our title “Chatur(Hindi)”. This story is very straight forward and flow is very simple complimented by colorful illustrations which brings home simple message speaking against greed.

Third piece of advice comes from a writer who rewrites stories numerous times, read your own story over and over again see what needs refinement and polishing.
For instance our book “The Magic of Friendship (Anokhi Dosti-Hindi edition)” talks about a story where two diverse personalities meet and their friendship brings about a change to their environment that completely turns the events from scary to happiness. This story when I first wrote it was simply just that with two diverse personalities sharing their talents. When I was done with the story it turned out to be very good, funny and entertaining, my son would laugh from beginning to the end but I felt that there was something missing in the story, so rewrote the flow where I start the story with a flock of geese migrating and observing the whole story unfold, so the story is being told from a third person perspective and I also take help from geese’s seasonal migration to bring in generations where this story is passed from grandfather-father-son. It tied up so nicely that the book has earned rave reviews from distinguished outlets and very well received by every single reader.

Do you let unimportant things get in the way of your writing?

This is a very interesting topic to talk about what are the things that are important and critical and this question always begs for context. Many would say ohh yeah watching TV, doing some chore around the house, browsing but I have a different aspect to offer.

Say you sit back and watch a movie then you ask a question how was your day, based on who you ask answer changes, one would say, “You know nothing much just sat in and watched something”, if you ask my son he would say “Best day ever”, my wife would say “Finally was able to rest and relax” so the perspective changes based on where you are what you did. I really don’t believe that there is really any unimportant thing a person can possibly do, everything has a purpose and carries some weight to it. If you had the worst possible thing to do then it would serve two purposes one it will teach you a valuable lesson and second it will make you appreciate when you do turn around and do something “important”.  

In fact my book “Shabdon ki Holi” came about in one such time, when all my son was doing was blabbering and he picked it up from one of his friends. It sounded very funny to him and he won’t let it go. It continued on with time there was no stopping.

Are you an avid reader?

During my childhood days I used to love reading books in Hindi. They were very entertaining and meaningful. Hind poems also caught my fancy, language is so rich and articulation is so precise of the feeling that it just touches you.
But as I grew up and with 24X7 televisions, I slowly started to move away from reading and or I should say away from diverse reading. My reading got limited to Non-Fiction. And I was slowly joining the herd who would claim that watching a movie is more fun than reading a book. But that had its own life, this days I pick up atleast 2-3 books a month and when it comes to children’s books I often spot myself reading some even when kids are not around J

Now with this attempt of writing stories for children I am hoping that children get that exposure same entertaining story which have traditional values albeit fitting our modern living. But still, same values, meaningful and entertaining story that reflects my culture, my tradition and from my memories of India.

What are you currently working on?

My current project is diversifying my interest even beyond writing. I am divulging into illustration and again inspiration comes from my son who is very good at drawing and always is challenging me to a new level. In fact this untitled project that I am working, we both are working side by side where I draw something and he comes up with his own version and then we discuss what the scene and character really implies so I am relishing this engagement and enthused to work towards completion. Story is around a superhero, given my son’s age this really catches his interest and this story elevates that interest level but brings home the basic idea of superhero.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to speak about myself and story behind Shabdon Ki Holi.
    Warm Regards,