Saturday, February 28, 2015

Chatting with Vaishali Shroff and Tapas Guha about 'The Missing Bat'

The World Cup has started and cricket is in the air. A perfect time to chat about our book which is funny tale from Kashmir. We caught up with Vaishali Shroff and Tapas Guha to talk about their book - 'The Missing Bat'. We asked them to send questions to each other and added a few of our own questions to the mix. Read on ....



What gave you the idea for this story?
Vaishali : Kashmir is such a place that it can make anyone a poet, a writer. So imagine if a poet, a writer visits Kashmir! I wrote a poetry or a story (non-fiction) every day of my stay there. Most of them can be read here
Kashmir gave me so much that I thought the only way I can give back something was a story. So I thought why not immortalize my trip with a book for children?
I was aware about the cricketing industry in Sangam. Though it was saddening to see the dwindling willow trees, it gave me a sense of pride; the game that has brought so much to this country has so much to do with Kashmir. So apart from reading about carpets and paper machè and Moghul gardens there was a thriving cricket industry not many have heard about.

How long did it take for the story to form in your mind and for you to write it?
Vaishali : I had been thinking about the story one night before going to bed but I didn't know how to end it. The next morning I started to write it on my phone as I cooked lunch. Before the food was ready, the story was saved in my memo. The end came like a flash of lightning. 

Did you see a kid like Ahmed in one of the factories? How did you think about the character of Rehman Chacha ?
Vaishali Rehman Chacha was born after we met the owner of a workshop we visited. He showed us all the possible qualities of bats they make including the one used by Tendulkar. He did not have a hunch back though :). Ahmed is a fictional character. A man who chiseled some bats there made me think of Aamir. He handed a bat to my son with a huge smile!





Did you have some visuals in mind when you wrote the book? And what was your reaction to seeing Tapas' illustrations for the final book?
Vaishali : Interestingly, I always visualize a story before I write it down. Like a movie playing in my head. Tapas's awesome work very much resonates with what I had in mind. I was curious as to how he would illustrate Rehman Chacha without disclosing his walking stick. Needless to say he has done so brilliantly!

Do you have any anecdotes to share regarding the book?
Vaishali : I can still hear my son laughing out loud after i read the book to him the first time. He told me he was proud of me and asked me what dentures mean. ☺
To sum it up, everyone who read it told me they had never heard about Sangam and that they found the book cute and funny!

Vaishali goes on to say "Though The Missing Bat came out after my first book, it was my first ever book contract. I had no prior experience in sending manuscripts to publishers. But I was lucky that Pratham liked my work enough to make me a PB Author. The Missing Bat will always be my first love!"

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What was your first thought when you read the story?
Tapas : I was very excited to read the story as I had just returned from Srinagar when I got the story in my hands.

How did you envision the characters?
Tapas : 
The characters came to my mind automatically as I read through the story. No sweat :)

The stacks of cricket bats, the willow trees, the ware house, characters, all look like they were straight out of Kashmir. Just like how I saw them! Did you do any research to create them?
Tapas : Yes, I did. I looked at photographs. Also I saw some workshops from outside and that helped.

Were there any challenges that you faced while illustrating? Tapas : Well, yes! My main challenge was the locations, as Kashmir is quite unique. I had to do some research. Also my memories of the place from my visit there were pretty fresh at that point of time.

Do you have a favourite spread from the book?
Tapas :
Yes - where the boy is looking at the pile of bats.

How long did it take you to illustrate the book?
Tapas :
I guess it took me about ten days to do the illustrations.

How would you describe your experience in illustrating The Missing Bat?
Tapas 
: It was great. This is the first book I've illustrated which had a Kashmiri backdrop.

What were your thoughts on seeing the book in its finished state?
Tapas :
Loved it :)
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We ended our chat by asking Tapas and Vaishali if they liked cricket at all? 
Though Tapas is a big football fan, he admitted that he does watch cricket sometimes. 
Pat came Vaishali's reply : "We luvvvvvvv cricket. So does my son!"

For all the cricket fans out there, get your copy of the book!

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