Writers are often asked where their stories come from. It truly is the most important question in the world, right up there with how to make a perfect idli. Unfortunately, unlike the idli question, the question about stories is more or less unanswerable. “A story comes from,” begins the author, and then proceeds to tell a story. Thank you, the obstinate reader might say, but where did that story come from? So what is one to do? You could change the topic, maybe discuss something easier, say, Egyptian multiplication. Or you could stuff a rasgulla into the reader’s mouth. Or you could distract the wretch with Sandhya Rao’s entertaining new story Dream Writer. It offers an entirely sincere, thoroughly facile and completely satisfying answer.
Its heroine is young Shobha who rolls in and out of some very strange situations. Hers is a world of kindly parents, understanding teachers and good friends. There is a folktale feel to the story. Perhaps Shobha has her epiphany a bit too early. It made me worry about her writerly prospects. I have met writers, stories fluttering like coruscant butterflies all around their ruined alcoholic husks, and they tell me they’re just as puzzled at sixty as they were at twenty where all these winged wonders come from.
This is one of those picture books where the illustrations are very much part of the story. In fact, from one particular illustration, we suddenly learn a lot of things about Shobha, about where she comes from. The illustration took me by surprise and gave a certain poignancy to Shobha’s quest. Where did that idea come from, I wanted to ask Sandhya Rao and Tanvi Bhat. But I will wait for their next story.
By Anil Menon
Author: Sandhya Rao
Illustrator: Tanvi Bhat
Tulika Books, 2016
Subject Category: Contemporary/Fiction/Picture Book