Lockdowns saw all of us sitting for hours in front of our home- computers. And when I developed some kind of cervical spondylosis, I spent a lot of those hours with a neck brace on.
It was only when Barnalee my 2.5 year old foster grand-daughter put the neck brace on her stuffed ladybug toy, fitted my specs on to it, and called it ‘Deedu’ that I realized that for her, these two items were an essential part of me!
Her imagination was the inspiration for my lockdown children’s book. I started wondering if I could do a book based on her daily routine.
But children’s books need illustrations! They depend on that. I knew few illustrators who could help me. And the ones I knew were too busy or too expensive.
That is when I remembered that my neighbor, young Harini a communications student, was a talented photographer and very skilled designer. So we decided to work on this together and make it a photograph-based book.
The ladybug would of course star as Deedu (granny). Barnalee’s first stuffed toy, the dog Sheru, would star as Daadu (grandpa). And a stuffed mouse, which was her favourite, would star as Barnalee.
The mouse is almost 30 years old. I clearly remember buying it in a shop in Colombo, probably the equivalent of our state emporia, on my first visit to Sri Lanka, to attend a workshop on the use of Television for the Environment. It started life as a car-hanger, which was its original purpose. Then, when the string broke, it spent several years in the cupboard, till it was fished out for Barnalee to play with.
We built the story around the baby’s favorite activities, and used her toys and playthings as props. And things which were not supposed to be her playthings, but she played with anyway! We did all the shooting in and around the house and garden. Since both Harini and I were at home, we could capture the light at any time of the day or night that was needed. And we could do trial runs, pre-shoots and re-shoots to our hearts’ content. Another friend, Vidya Chandy, who is a very good photographer visited on a rare non-lockdown day and gave us valuable tips.
We thought we would be done in a few days—after all it was a book of about 20 pages, with maybe a total of 150 words! But of course these things are never so easy, are they? I would want to change one activity for another, or the flow of the activities, or to fine-tune the words and text. Harini would want to take the shot from a few more angles, want the shadows just this way or that. And together we wanted to change the fonts, the size, the page layouts. And sometimes, the baby would insist she wanted to play with just the prop we needed for the shoot, leading to postponements!
And then the final design and layout. We found we had to switch from a landscape format to a square format, as most publishers want that format. Thanks to Harini’s skill on the software, she managed to do that in a few hours. Watching her at work on the layouts opened my eyes to how easily and quickly software can accomplish what in the old days used to take us days and nights—whether it was layouts, change of fonts, re-positioning of pictures and text, changing backgrounds, etc. etc. And also brought home to me how skilled these young people are at working it.
And then we published! After a long, long time, the satisfaction of holding one’s book in one’s hand!
So all in all, a lovely lockdown project.
‘My Sunday with Deedu and Daadu’. Now available on Amazon, Flipkart and Kindle.