From cartoons to books: Ajoy's journey to becoming an award-winning author

Ajoy Kumar M S, a railway official-turned-celebrated children’s author, speaks to TNIE about his humorous anecdotes and imaginative storytelling
 ‘Facebook Anweshana Pareekshanangal' book poster
‘Facebook Anweshana Pareekshanangal' book poster

KOCHI: joy Kumar M S only had one goal — to make people laugh. His jokes entertained many, but sometimes they struck a nerve. That’s when inspiration hit one sudden day when his cousin shared a short story in their family WhatsApp group to widespread appreciation. Ajoy confidently declared then and there that he could do that easily.

It marked the beginning of his writing journey, transitioning from a hobbyist cartoonist to a celebrated author. From then, anecdotes, satires, and children’s books became his repertoire. Soon, he grew into an award-winning author with accolades such as a state award for best children’s literature and the Indian Ruminations national award. In a conversation with TNIE, Ajoy speaks about how he, a former senior Southern Railways official, chose the path of writing.

Ajoy credits his childhood reading habits for his foray into professional writing. From scraps of paper used to wrap items, to books in the library, he read anything and everything. In fact, he says, reading levelled up his confidence.

“While growing up, reading was my escape and a gateway to new worlds. It was almost like an addiction. My grandmother had an extensive collection of books, and from a young age, I was exposed to works that were quite challenging for a child. But I was determined to read them. This early reading habit was crucial in my transition to writing,” he says.

In his early days, Ajoy developed a keen interest in detective novels and comics, with favourites like Indrajal Comics and the writings of Kottayam Pushpanath. He recalls the challenges of accessing these comics from libraries, where limited quotas often left shelves bare.

“During periods of book scarcity, I used to tear pages from math books to create a cartoon collection — ‘Aanamalayile Kolapathakam,’ starring detective Chandra Babu. I had also made a sequel titled, ‘Chandra Babu Tokyoyil,’ adopting the style of Indrajal Comics and creating a distinctive logo,” he smiles.

His journey into children’s books began with his own childhood memories. There was no other better source of reference than his own experiences. “Though the storyline is inspired by memories, I add imagination and creativity to make it more colourful.”

From his maiden work ‘Angane oru Mambazhakalam’ (which bagged multiple awards), to Guru Shiksha Kathakal, his writings, however, aren’t just meant for children. They are also for those who have a “childlike heart”, he proudly says. Even readers who are 90 have found joy and laughter in Ajoy’s writings.

“For me, age is not an issue, it is not a limitation. I have always ensured that readers of all ages can understand my words. So I have never used literature as a platform to showcase my knowledge or skills. I write simple, relatable stories. My goal is to make readers feel connected to the situation. What matters to me is conveying that feeling, not writing a complex literary work,” he adds.

However, his latest release, 'Samshayaluvaya Poochakkunju', is written exclusively for children. The book explores the world of ‘Poochakunju’ who is a little kitten filled with curiosity about everything around him, from ants, frogs, and turtles to puppies.

“The inspiration to write a book specifically for young readers came from the feedback to my earlier works. Several mothers told me their children would only fall asleep after hearing the stories from my first book, Angane Oru Mambazhakalam. This inspired me to write my recent work,” Ajoy explains.

The book is designed in the style of Russian folk stories. Colourful with many pictures that attract the tiny tots and large fonts, the book is readable even to those who have just begun to learn Malayalam.

Ajoy says the style of Samshayaluvaya Poochakkunju is heavily inspired by Children’s Stories and Pictures by Vladimir Suteev, a renowned Russian writer and cartoonist.

“Back in the day, books brought here from the former Soviet Union and printed on high-quality paper with interesting illustrations were an unforgettable reading experience for many. Vladimir Suteev’s books, in particular had a significant influence on me. His stories made me wish I could be among the animals in his tales, and I wanted children to feel the same with my book. That’s why I paid special attention to the illustrations,” he explains.

Ajoy also included some life lessons, though he says, it wasn’t exactly a necessity. “But I believe it adds value to the book. As a child, I viewed the world with curiosity and doubt, and I have tried to address some of those questions in this book,” says Ajoy.

Laughter as a coping mechanism

Ajoy’s humour is a key aspect of his writing, with many comparing his down-to-earth and simple writings of satire to Basheer. On Facebook, he writes anecdotes about himself, his family, neighbours, and colleagues.

“Some of my viral Facebook posts, chosen by my readers through votes, have been compiled into a book titled ‘Facebook Anweshana Pareekshanangal.’ Many people perceive my life as colourful, but like everyone else, my life, too, has its shades of black and white. I use my imagination to inject humour into it. If my writing brings a smile to even one person, it brings me genuine happiness. In a world often filled with negative news, spreading joy and laughter is important to me,” he says.

Challenging times

In his opinion, writing humour and satire in today’s environment that prefers political correctness poses challenges. However, he firmly believes that the role of satire in appropriate contexts is significant.

“As I mentioned earlier, amidst the negativity worldwide, sharing positive notes that bring laughter to people is a blessing. That said, I would be hesitant to use the same humour I used to write years ago. I’m fearful because people are critical and scrutinise humour for any hint of political incorrectness,” he says.

According to him, the influence of political correctness has greatly constrained humour. “Humour is not about insulting anyone, it arises from specific situations. Writers never intend to offend anyone. An approach I can think to overcome this situation is to ignore these pressures or to make ourselves and our families the subjects of humour,”concludes Ajoy. 

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