Writing for children

Ambika Shaligram
Saturday, 8 July 2017

Author-publisher L M Kadu and author-poet-publisher Nazir Fatehpuri have made the city proud by winning the Sahitya Akademi Award in Bal Sahitya category. Ambika Shaligram catches up with the two and learns more about their creative instincts and perspectives on life

Author-publisher L M Kadu and author-poet-publisher Nazir Fatehpuri have made the city proud by winning the Sahitya Akademi Award in Bal Sahitya category. Ambika Shaligram catches up with the two and learns more about their creative instincts and perspectives on life

Into their world
He finds today’s kids ‘smart’ and ‘curious’. But he finds their disconnect with nature and the eco-system, ‘disturbing.’ He believed and advocated ‘experiential learning’ much before it became commonplace, and introduced kids to farming, through his project ‘Vidya Vihar’. It’s this constant interaction with children, which stimulated L M Kadu’s literary and artistic works. His award-winning Kharicha Vaata revolves around the habitat of a squirrel, human encroachment and displacement because of the construction of a dam.

“All my literary and artistic works were unplanned. They just happened out of my interactions with my kids, their friends and the children I meet at large. I started bringing out an annual calendar, filled with drawings, doodles and scribbles by kids under Ga Ma Bha Na Prakashan. I thought kids should get a chance to express themselves through their drawings. And, as adults, we should try to understand them. The idea was to understand what the kids are trying to say and not looking at it critically — whether the line is straight or crooked,” answers Kadu, when asked about his association with children.

As a child, Kadu didn’t have too many amenities. He moved to Pune in Std V and learnt about the bigger world through his window — books.
“In those days, Gokhale Hall on Laxmi Road was a public library. You could go pick up any book, sit there and read. The librarian too was helpful. I read Tamhankar’s Gotya Sane Guruji’s books, Acharya Atre’s works etc,” explains Kadu.

When asked if he could relate to the world created by Sane Guruji and Atre’s writings, Kadu nods in affirmation. “That world was familiar. I could find my kaku (aunt) in there. I knew the words, I knew the language,” he says.

Sharing his thoughts on writing for the kids, the painter-writer, says, “We should create their world — a world which they recognise. You don’t have to be childish. The children are wise beyond their years. So, I don’t believe in ‘writing or talking down to them’. Children have their opinions and as adults, we should try to hear them out.”

His recent writing is all fuelled by his interaction with his five-year-old granddaughter Raavi. “There is a hillock in the neighbourhood. A couple of years ago, an industrial unit came up there. When this transition was taking place, Raavi asked me, ‘What will happen to the peacocks living there?’. I tried to provide a solution. Next day, she came up with more questions, I would search for more answers. All this came out in the form of a picture book, Raavicha Mor (Raavi’s Peacock),” adds Kadu. And, the apple of his eyes, immediately starts reading out from the picture book.

Filled with vivid pencil sketches and illustrations, Raavicha Mor and Kharicha Vaata immediately urge you to pick up and read them.
One wonders whether Kadu dreamt of the pictures, or the words first. He laughs and says, “There are no ‘firsts’. Sometimes I come up with the visuals, sometimes I come up with different words so as to convey the image better.”

We are one
Seventy-year-old Nazir Fatehpuri stands for old school ‘secularism’. His idea about Hindustan is that all the quams or communities should live in peace and harmony. He has written short stories like ‘Dahshatgard’, ‘Sukhiram ka Rajya’, ‘Akkha Hindustan’, ‘Reshma’ and ‘Dosti’ in his book for children — Mera Desh Mahan.

A shayar, who is equally at ease writing ghazals, doha, geet, and scripts for films, why did Fatehpuri decide to write for kids? “There is not much written material for children in Urdu literature. My daughter, Zeenat, when she was a child, requested me to write a book for her. So I wrote one book, containing poems and short stories. And, this book, Mera Desh Mahan, comes at a time, when I wanted to educate my kids and grandkids, about the idea of our nation. We all are one entity,” says he.

Born in Shekhawati, Rajasthan, Nazir Fatehpuri has studied till Std V. He moved to Pune at the age of 15 and worked on construction sites as a mason. At night, he taught himself Urdu, learnt to read, write and compose  shayri, nazm, geet, dohe, ghazal.  

He is as old as independent India, and is privy to earlier flourishing exchange and the contribution of Hindus to Urdu language. That’s Fatehpuri’s project — putting together a book/ bibliography of renowned and lesser known Hindu writers and poets who contributed to Urdu language. For three years now, Fatehpuri is trying to put together — Urdu Ke Hindu Shayar: Chandar Bhan Brehman Se Chandar Bhan Khayal Tak. “Chandar Bhan ‘Khayal’ is a present generation Urdu writer, while Chandar Bhan Brehman was a Mir Munshi in Shah Jehan’s court.

Urdu wouldn’t have flourished if it weren’t for writers like Munshi Premchand. Punjab produced great many Urdu writers. My own guru, Kalidas Gupta ‘Riza’ was a Punjabi Agarwal. He died one day before he was to be conferred with Padmashree,” explains Fatehpuri.

A quiet optimist, Fatehpuri, in his own way, has tried to keep the script and the language alive. He has been publishing Asabaque, a tri-monthly Urdu magazine from Pune. “Writers and poets send their works to me via mail or snail mail. I put together the magazine, write for it, edit other people’s writing, proof read and get it published. My children help me in couriering the magazine to its subscribed readership. Other writers assume that I have an ‘office’, but I work from home,” he laughs and says.

It’s rather unbelievable to learn that Fatehpuri, except for his stint with ‘Riza’ is by and large a self-taught poet-writer. “I think it’s god’s will. My parents were illiterate. I didn’t get much of a schooling, but words found a way to connect with me. I don’t know how though,” he says.

Is that due to the surroundings he was brought up in, we ask. “Not really. My daadiji, used to tell us stories when we were young. That’s the only connection I had with art, so to say,” adds Fatehpuri.

And, it’s nothing less than a miracle that Fatehpuri has published 80 works including — shayri, afsana, safarnama, tanqueeq and tahqeeq. He has also been bestowed with several awards like Pandit Brajnarayan Chak Bast award, Kavi Atal Bihari Vajpayee award and Aftab-e-Shekawati award. He is honoured to receive these awards, but two students choosing him for their PhD thesis, pleases him, like nothing else would. “I have received honorary doctorate too,” says the man, who admires the works of Kishanchand, Munshi Premchand, Ismsat Chughtai and Saddat Hassan Manto.

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