Sowmya Rajendran portrays determination through words and illustrations
Little Malathi wants to catch ripe mangoes as they fall and chase hens like the other kids. How can she do so, being bound to a wheelchair? But with strength and determination, she beats all odds and proves that where there’s a will, there’s a way. And that isn’t just Sowmya Rajendran’s plot for her book Wings to Fly, but the real story of paralympian Malathi Holla. Releasing today, to celebrate International Day of Sport, Rajendran says that she couldn’t say no to writing this one. “Tulika approached me to do this book. I’ve worked with them on many books previously and the idea seemed interesting, so I had no hesitation,” begins the Pune-based writer. Adding a vibrant angle to the book, about the Arjuna awardee who now has more than 300 gold medals, Arun Kaushik illustrates for the 28 pages, making it ideal for children. “The story is based on a race that Malathi participated in; something all children can relate to. The tension before the event starts, the sizing up of the competition, the joy of winning a medal and so on,” explains the author.
Telling us more about the process of writing it, Rajendran says that while she never met Holla, her biography (A Different Spirit) was the inspiration. “I never viewed Malathi as disabled because being an able-bodied person myself, I would probably never be able to do the same things she has,” she says, adding, “I admire spirited people who don’t wallow in self-pity but get on with life. Malathi sounded like that.”
The one challenging aspect for the writer who enjoys creating quirky characters and imaginative worlds, was writing a non-fiction story for children. “I had to be careful about getting the details right. Malathi has achieved so much but I had to choose only few episodes to bring to life,” the author reveals. What she enjoyed most was ‘the challenge of keeping the narrative short and crisp’, states Rajendran, who has always shown her ability to handle strong themes with sensitivity and lightness. She now has a few children’s books in the pipeline with various publishers and is working on her second book for adults. Details: tulikabooks.com
— Ahana Appiah