About the Duo:
Gayathri & Srividhya are sisters. Both are engineers, entrepreneurs, writers, artists, and content creators. Also, Gayathri is a Bharatanatyam dancer and Srividhya has a diploma degree in Painting. Both in their early 30’s, married and have one son and daughter, respectively.
Anything antique and ancient intrigues them. They love traveling and exploring their traditions, culture, historical places, and temples. They believe that there is a story in everything you see, and they would love to share it with other like-minded people.
In a candid chat with The Asian Review here’s what the authors of A Boy Called Ambi revealed about their love for exploring, and writing.
- When did you both first realize you wanted to be writers?
It all started with our habit of chit-chatting with elders in our family, especially with our grandma and grandpa. Grandma used to share old tales from her childhood and imbibe the ambiance of those days through her stories. She used to tell us about how that era was entirely different from what we are living in today. It all felt so simple yet beautiful and would make us awestruck relishing every piece from the past.
Our father who is the main inspiration for this book helped us in realising our dream of becoming writers. He used to ask us to write small articles about the places we visited during summer vacation. As they say, “Drops and Drops make a mighty ocean”, slowly with small articles and paragraphs about our hobbies, the places we visited everything slowly started a journey within us.
Every time we used to talk over the phone, we spoke about the good things around us. They say that the human mind has a great habit of forgetting so we thought why not we create something which keeps up the positive spirits of us alive and every time we want to feel our roots we can see or read something which is precious to us. That is when we realised our passion for writing.
2. How long did it take you both to write A Boy called Ambi?
The idea was born some five years ago. But we started building the blocks only during lockdown, and we thought this would be the ideal opportunity for us to finish our first book and embark on our writer’s journey. And with the blessing of elders, we were able to finish it off as per schedule.
Initially we thought that this is going to be easy but with a two-month-old bub for Srividhya and a six-year-old for Gayathri, and being in different time zones, surely wasn’t a piece of cake! We really had to slog our days and nights to complete this project. Every time we wrote we discovered we can add something more. Finally, within a span of about 6 months, “The Boy Called Ambi” made its way in the readers world.
Covid-19 was creating a negative vibe across the world and so we thought why not spread some positivity through our book. We wanted to create a light mood read kind of book during this time. A lot of people told us that this book reminded them of their childhood and was like a time-travel back to those times. Since this book is about the old times, we took inspiration from one of our favorite books “The Malgudi days” and to our sweet surprise lots of people did tell us that it reminded them of Malgudi days. We were on cloud nine and felt like it was mission accomplished. As a writer you really feel so encouraged when people give you so much love and such good feedback especially for your debut book. A great feeling isn’t it?
3. How do you divide the work between yourselves? Who creates the plot? Who writes? Who takes the pictures or creates illustrations etc.? Is there a plan in place?
Our Eureka moment happened when we visited our ancestral village and saw the beauty which is not the same these days due to industrialisation. But we got a glimpse of our book there and were able to imagine how we could recreate the magic through our book. We started loving the beauty of the village, the rich culture and how simple things can be so priceless. All this was the base of a great inspiration for us and we framed a character called Ambi in mind and started building a small plot on top it. We both used to split the stories equally. Then, discuss it over phone and write and edit it daily. We believe in discipline and always created timelines for the both of us and we used to have huge discussion online and share ideas with each other as when it used to strike us. We explained about the village scenes and the story around it to Reshika who is our cousin and she started putting those into beautiful illustrations. The other digital artworks were created by Srividhya.
Also, the illustration on the book cover was done by Srividhya. The idea behind the cover was inspired by an incident in the story of how Ambi’s father sent him to the market to get the groceries for the hotel. A small boy enters the market and looks for the options available for the things he wanted to buy. He takes a stroll to see the quality and price of the stuffs. Nowadays, most people shop online and the habit of street shopping in local markets it almost coming to extinction. So, we thought of reviving those wonderful moments from the past through the book and the illustrations.
4. The book’s central character is Ambi. Is Ambi purely fictional or do you know someone like Ambi in real life?
The reality is every tam-brahm house in Tamil Nadu has an Ambi so we thought that Ambi would be the ideal and universal character for people to relate and enjoy the nostalgia behind it. Ambi is a mix of our imagination and the characters from the old-folk tales that our grandma used to share with us.
5. A Boy called Ambi is written in an old era of India, do you think boys like Ambi exist in today’s generation? Who show everyone respect (including mute animals) and who believe in simple living and are very content with their lives?
We all have a pinch of Ambi in us that’s what we believe. It was so evident with such great reviews from everyone that they were able to relate with Ambi. There is a common link of “emotion” that we all have. Simplicity can’t have a constant meaning it is relative. For example: Some people find reading a hard copy book is simple and for some reading in kindle is simple.
Our planet is a beautiful place filled with great human beings. We feel that whichever era this might be, there’s always a balance in the ecosystem, there’s always good and bad. Rather than finding Ambi in the crowd, as an individual we can start finding Ambi within ourselves. Respecting and loving the other beings is the basis of humanity. The next generation will embrace the roots only when we keep them alive. Also, in a society we need to be the change to see the change! Right? (Okay well…that’s too much of Gyan 🙂 ha ha)
It is said that if we look for god with all our hearts then you may find him too… then why not Ambi? (Inspired by our favorite dialogue of SRK :Kehte hain agar kisi cheez ko dil se chaho … to puri kainaat usse tumse milane ki koshish mein lag jaati hai.)
6. Can you tell us about the publishing process of a book?
It’s a very consistent process. You need to freeze certain things and as a writer sometimes you’re never satisfied and keep doing revisions until you feel this is it. We are sure many authors say that to convert it into the best you need multiple iterations, we agree but a point will come where it will give you a feeling that the bell is going to ring, and you just must submit the exam paper to the invigilator. You just need to find that moment of yours. But yes, on a lighter note. It really takes multiple iterations to reach perfection. There are different stages in the publishing process. You need to submit a manuscript, then populate the illustrations if any. Right from the Book cover to putting up the right chapters in the right sequence to placing proper illustrations, it really takes a lot of your time. Then, edit, edit, and edit until you know this is the zenith point.
7. What do you both like to do when you’re not writing?
We both enjoy making different cuisine and love art (Music, dance, and painting). We are travel freaks so if not, anything then definitely traveling is always on the agenda. Exploring new places, talking to the local people there to know the small details of the place is something that we really like. Sometimes, you can be amazed with the things you get to learn from the locals that you can’t find in Google.
8. Do you hear from your reader’s much? What do they say?
The journey of getting reviews and feedbacks has been great till now. We would say we have been incredibly lucky as most of our readers have given particularly good comments about our debut book which has been truly kind of them and very encouraging at the same time. Feedbacks helpful be it in any field to improvise and become a better version.
9. Do you read other books? What are your favorite books?
Yes, we love reading :-), a lot of R K Narayan, Amish Tripathi, Ruskin bond, Chetan Bhagat, Sydney Sheldon’s, etc.
We take up pointers from every book that we read, whatever is applied to us. We also like to spend some time towards reading articles and blogs. Ramayana and Mahabharata are our go-to’s when we are in dire need of inspiration be it for writing or anything.
We like to read the Puranas and the stories behind the existence of our temples, the rituals there and how they used to construct and what was the reason behind the perfection of those temples. Imagine how without any engineering instruments, there used to be such symmetry in the architecture. There are so many things to explore and temples are really one of them for us.
10. Any plans of upcoming books? Do you plan to write again?
We are almost on the verge of completing our next book which is a children’s book with a lot of illustrations and a beautiful story. Hopefully, it will be published soon. We have a pandora box full of stories to share so writing will keep on going.