By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 25 Nov: Gillian Wright is a journalist, translator and an author. Born and brought up in UK, her body of works includes authoring two very famous books, namely ‘India in Slow Motion’ and ‘No Full Stops in India’ with her more famous partner Mark Tully, the English translation of the Hindi classic of the eighties, ‘Rag Darbari’ by Shrilal Shukla, English translation of ‘Adha Gaon’ written by Rahi Masoom Reza, and also the English translation of Bhisma Sahni’s ‘Middle India’ (which is Sahni’s own selection of his short stories in Hindi) and a famous book on the Hill Stations of India.
Her latest book, ‘Mishti the Mirzapuri Labrador’, is of entirely different genre, written especially for children and is the story of a female Labrador dog named Mishti. Describing her book at the Valley of Words, Wright claimed that the book was a mostly true account of the life of her dog, Mishti. In response to a question by Ashali Verma, who was one of the discussants at the conversation, she responded that Mishti was born in Mirzapur in UP and hence the title ‘Mishti the Mirzapuri Labrador. She also read out a paragraph from the book which described some mischief by Mishti and her pup named Soni. In response to a question from Bikram Grewal, a famous ornithologist and author of several books, she said that Dehradun was one of the places that Mishti had visited and was mentioned in the book. She then narrated the incident when Mishti suddenly jumped into the Ganga River in Rishikesh and was nearly drowned before being rescued as she did not know how to swim well then. Later, she learnt swimming in the Tons river of Dehradun region and hence the place was mentioned in the book in one of the chapters.
Wright noted that the book had done well and she felt inspired to write another book on pups of Mishti who had grown up since. She thanked illustrator Anitha Balachandran for “very good illustrations’ which had enhanced the quality of the book. When asked about the book whose main character was a dog, long time partner of Gillian Wright and a well known and respected name in India, Mark Tully humorously remarked that the book had relegated him to the third place, as Mishti was the main character and he only received passing references in the book. On a serious note, however, he added that once they were in a school in Ranchi in Jharkhand when the book was discussed and immediately 300 copies were ordered, and remarked that this never happened in the case of any of his books.
There was another discussion on a collection of poems, titled ‘Hills and the Plains / Voices from the Hills’ by Sumona Roy, which had Prajwal Parajuly, Ganesh Saili and Anjum Katyal in the panel. The collection of the poems, as the name suggests, has poems with the background of several places in the North Eastern hills. Speaking about the book, Roy said she was intrigued when people questioned the authenticity of the characters and the places that she described in her books and that she was perhaps looked upon as an outsider in those places. She reminded that she wrote fiction, but then tried to paint a picture as authentic as possible after a lot of observations if not research. Prajwal agreed with her and said he was also questioned in the same manner about any character he wrote even when it was fiction. Saili asked the young writers to listen to their inner voice and not be disturbed unduly by others’ comments. Roy recited some poems on the occasion and one was about a waterfall that has also been mentioned by RN Tagore in one of his books.