You’ve had a long and strong association with Pratham Books. You’ve been a translator, you’ve participated in our ‘Retell, Remix and Rejoice’ contest and now you’re a Weaver as well. Tell us a little about being part of the Pratham Books community.
To be frank, my original interest with Pratham Books started because your books were priced right. If I had only Rs 100 to buy books, I could buy four books from you, instead of one (or less) from others. Who wouldn’t like reading more stories for the same cost?
After buying few books purely for the price reason (and the quality was amazing!), I realised Pratham Books is much more than low cost books. I liked your dream of taking books and stories to every child. I wanted to contribute to this great cause and wrote to you in twitter, got a positive response and the association started. I translated many stories, story cards, reviewed translations, participated in contests and started weaving stories now. I loved every minute of this and hoping to continue this association forever!
I like working with Pratham Books mainly because I can see the passion in everything you do. Whether it is a social media event or a physical program, you are not doing anything simply for the sake of media publicity or brand building. I can see you care deeply for children and want to use stories as a medium to reach to them.
You wrote ‘துப்பறியும் துரை’ based on Megha Vishwanathan’s illustrations. What was your experience of weaving a story around these illustrations?
This is not the first time I wrote a story based on existing illustrations. You prepared us well with your earlier Remix, Retell and Rejoice contests
Coming to these illustrations, they were simple, yet detailed. They gave a small snapshot with two lovely characters, I had to just fill in the blanks. It was a great experience, and I am sure 100s of other stories can be built from the same illustrations. That’s the fun part.
You write in Tamil and also do a lot of translations. Evidently, you feel very strongly about Tamil and we admire your efforts. What inspires you to be a champion of the language, in a sense?
Again, a frank answer, I became a champion of Tamil among my friends because I couldn’t read/ write/ speak good English like them.
I was studying Engineering and all the lessons were taught in English. I studied in Tamil Medium till that time and couldn’t follow anything they say.
But, many of my friends were from English medium and they were quite comfortable with this. They even spoke to each other in English. They would tease us (Tamil medium students) by asking some questions to us, and laughing when we answer in Tamil.
It took me a while to adjust to this new reality. While doing so, I tried to hide my weakness by loudly expressing my love towards Tamil.
In this process, I started reading many Tamil books, all kinds of books, stories, novels, poems, ancient literature… just to protest against my friends who were reading English Best sellers at a rate of 2.5 novels a day. My hostel room had hundreds of (Tamil) books in different subjects. That collection is with me even now!
While I read these books, I realized the true greatness of this language. I could see this lifetime won’t be enough if I wanted to read all, digest all. That feeling of amazement also made me feel proud and happy about knowing this great language.
To put it short, I started “showing off” my love towards Tamil and that made me lock myself in a nectar ocean!
I am very proud of my language, I understand there are many other great languages too, but this bonding is very emotional and special.
You can read the original version of N. Chokkan and Megha Vishwanathan’s story here. And, the English version can be read here.
(October 2015. Originally Published in Pratham Books Blog)