Published back in 1991, Vikram Seth‘s grinning collection of animal fable-poems, Beastly Tales from Here and There, was first illustrated by Ravi Shankar (whose pompous Hindustani fatfrog and sleek celebrity hare are most unforgettable). Now it has been reprinted by Puffin as a special big colourful book for kids, which I got to illustrate.
Vikram Seth’s cleverly crafted poems retell the old fables with a charming, slightly dark and very revealing perspective on things that happen to most of us. A lot of love and detail and numerous eraser rubbings were poured into the book’s illustrations, over a large part of last year. The book was released on a pretty purple and white evening at Penguin’s Spring Festival this March, with an enthralling series of readings by the author.
So, after a long refreshing cup of tea, the tragopan and the elephant pulled out some of the illustrations that I think, define this edition of the book best of all. First – of course, the tea scene – tea for decision-making, for procrastination, for calming down ruffled feathers, for just being.
And then, the first illustration done for the book – where the hare and her psychedelic mushroom minefield decided what the other animals and people in the book were going to do. The hare is the most important one, after all.
Then there was Grandpa Monkay, him of the levitating mangoes – who the tragopan and the elephant would have gone to for help if only they could bear to disturb him, really. The elephant sighed, drank some more tea and tried to talk sense in the showdown at Bingle Valley.
There were the shy black bears who crept out of the mists – slightly costumed, silent guardians who made sure everything would be alright in the end.