Parvathi Ramkumar is a writer and book reviewer based in Bengaluru. One of her published works is Circus, a translation of her grandfather V. Madhavan Nair, Mali’s novel for children from Malayalam to English. She also has written a high fantasy novel titled The Grove of the Sun. Ambu’s Wish is her latest novel for children published by Mango Books.
1. To begin with, wishes do have an old-world charm. At least one of the stories which we have read as a child would have ‘wish’ as an element. Is it that old world charm that inspired you to write Ambu’s Wish?
Definitely. So many tales weave themselves around a wish. I am fascinated by the concept itself – what kind of wish would you ask for? And how would a wish come true, if it came true at all? A wish is intrinsically mysterious and I find that very intriguing.
2. Though Ambu’s Wish revolves around a wish which itself is magical, what’s interesting is the controlled mechanism in using the wish. Ambu doesn’t always get what he wishes for and there is a reason for it. How did you arrive at that concept?
Ambu is a little boy, and sometimes he gets a little brazen – he wants something out of reach or just beyond the horizon. It’s okay to wish for something like that, but then again, everything around Ambu follows a pattern, a system. He has his wishes, but they’re not toys. I’ve always felt that magic works because it is controlled and set within a framework of rules, however whimsical.
3. You are not new to writing and the publishing industry. As the granddaughter of the renowned writer Mali, we imagine the childhood of yours amidst stories and books. Could you share with us the memories with your grandfather?
I remember him as a fascinating, cheerful, extraordinarily imaginative, and good-natured man. He would drop me off at the school bus stop! That was thrilling. He also came for a storytelling session at my school when I was little. I was way too curious about his collection of books and I probably scattered them all over the place. Those were fun times.
4. Could you tell us a few books that were suggested by him as a young reader?
I have heard from family members that he was very fond of fairy tales and adventure stories and classics…he was very fond of Hans Christian Andersen.
5. Which are your favourite stories written by him?
I’m really fond of the novels Circus and Porattam and Kishkindha. I also especially love his short stories, ones like ‘Suryalokam.’ His books on Indian mythology – Mali Bhagavatham, Mali Ramayanam, and Mali Bharatham. But to be perfectly honest – all his works are a source of fascination and inspiration for me. It’s like there’s always something new to discover each time I read (or reread) his work.
6. Issac Bashevis Singer said, “Unknown words won’t stop the child; boring story will.” What are the things you generally keep in mind when you write for children?
I like adding a touch of magic and a dash of hope in my stories for children. I always try to keep my sentences concise and easy to understand without making things too simple. And of course, I would like my stories to read as logically as possible, no matter how fantastical, or non-linear, the storyline might be.
7. What are your current reads? What is your reading pattern?
I’m reading The Riddle-Master’s Game by Patricia Mckillip and Agamemnon by Aeschylus translated by Richard Lattimore. I do most of my reading in the early mornings and late evenings, and I enjoy reading more than one book at a time.