When author Jaishree Misra met the students of Kendriya Vidyalaya Pattom, she was slightly taken aback to learn that such young readers had read her works. “When I write, I generally write for grown-ups and don’t think of children as my audience,” she said while interacting with around a hundred members of the school’s Reader’s Club on Tuesday.
The interaction, arranged as part of World Book and Copyright Day celebrations which fall on Wednesday, saw the author answering some very technical questions from the young audience on the craft of writing - how do those in the writing profession present instances, do they tell them as it is or do they keep an audience in mind? Where do the characters come from? What happens to the bits of writing that may have been edited out?
“Ideally, when you write, you’re told not to keep anyone in mind so that you can be completely committed to the material. But this is easier said than done,” said Misra, who has written seven novels to date and has edited an anthology of stories and poems on motherhood. “In the end, I think it is only your first novel that you can write this way because you don’t know what it’s like to have an audience. My work that was written for myself, keeping no audience in mind is therefore my first, ‘Ancient Promises’,” she added, referring to her semi-autobiographical work. When asked about the influences on her to take to writing, she mentioned her slightly ‘tightfisted’ Thakazhi ‘ammavan’, referring to Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai.
“He was such a normal human being that you would forget he was such a great writer,” said Misra. “He made me feel that writing was something I could do. When I got a story published for the first time when I was 13, he wrote me a letter, a feedback pointing out what he liked in my writing.”
Questions also turned to the issue of censorship and banning of books, Misra herself having been at the receiving end when the Uttar Pradesh government banned her historical romance ‘Rani’, on the Rani of Jhansi, in 2008.
“No, absolutely not,” was Misra’s reply when asked by a student whether books should be banned. “Not a single book should be banned. On the other hand, having worked with the British Board of Film Classification, I cannot rule out censorship altogether. There will always be something that is just too much. But books, unlike DVDs or films where the danger of underage viewing is very real, may not be understood by very young readers.”
Misra also spoke to the young readers about the importance of reading books in the digital age where reading has come down to 140 characters.
“If you leave school with a love for reading, then you have an excellent start in life,” she said.
Misra inaugurated a three-day book fair, a collaboration with Scholastic books, on the school premises. The fair is open to the public as well. It is on till April 24 during school hours. Present at the inauguration were S Neerada, principal, Mathew Abraham vice principal and librarian S L Faisal.