Posts Tagged With: Interview

Taking children on a trip of the universe

Lucy Hawking | Pic Courtesy: Alan Peebles

Lucy Hawking | Pic Courtesy: Alan Peebles

Lucy Hawking, daughter of the world famous theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, knows the art of telling a good story. Lucy is the author of two novels for adults (‘Run for your Life’ and ‘Jaded’) and the George Greenby series which includes ‘George’s Secret Key to the Universe,’ ‘George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt,’ ‘George and the Big Bang,’ ‘George and the Unbreakable Code,’ with the final book almost completed and a television series in the works. But she writes with a purpose, her single-minded objective being to make science accessible and entertaining to young readers. “Children find it difficult to relate to concepts of time or space. I use storytelling to explain scientific concepts. It is fun and engages their creativity,” she observes.

p5lucy2In the George series, we meet a charming young boy George Greenby and his friend Annie and, we learn about their adventures to the solar system and beyond. Lucy adds, “It is not just children’s fantasy, it is based on real science. To make it factually tenable, I took help from my father and his colleague, Christophe Galfard, and got them to write about the work they do.”

When not writing, Lucy travels the world, meeting children, “taking them on a trip around the universe.” She also visited India recently, making an appearance at the Bookaroo Festival for Children in New Delhi. But varied though the countries are, she notes that children everywhere share a common enthusiasm for space-related topics. “The countries themselves may be different — Japan, United States of America, Australia, Bangladesh, India. But what is the same everywhere is that these children are keen to know more about space travel and black holes. There is a willingness to learn and the wonder and joy at discovering something new is palpable.”

Though Lucy was introduced to science at a very young age, even before her father’s inevitable rise to fame, she never had the slightest inclination to emulate her father. “I loved reading books and developed a love for the arts from an early age. I therefore went on to study literature and foreign languages at Oxford and then became a journalist and a writer.” Having said that, Lucy admits that her father has had the strongest influence on her career as a writer. “He is a great writer himself. And now more than ever I look up to him, as I strive to use arts to make scientific concepts accessible.”

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Categories: Articles- New Indian Express, Author Interviews, Books, Penguin Books | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘The word difficult doesn’t exist to me’

Shobhaa De

Writer and columnist Shobhaa De has nothing but praise for the literary environment in Bangalore. Having been part of Bangalore Literature Festival, the city’s uber event to celebrate the written word, De maintains that Bangalore has a very vibrant core, far removed from the IT tag it enjoys. “One thing that we cannot and should not lose sight of is the rich literary tradition that the state has always enjoyed over several hundred years. And Bangalore, in particular, being the hub of Karnataka, is a city which is way way beyond just a IT hub,” she states.

She notes that a literary festival here was overdue and she is glad that it is run by people who have genuine level of commitment and passion to provide a platform for diverse opinions, diverse points of view, debate, dissent and more. 

On freedom of expression

De has been quite vocal about issues plaguing the country, especially those concerning women. Yes, she admits that her writing has, time and again, drawn criticism from various quarters, but that doesn’t deter her. “The word difficult doesn’t exist to me. To tell the truth and to tell it fearlessly is every human being’s right. And we should take full advantage of being a part of a democracy, where our freedom, the constitution guarantees, will not be curtailed if there’s something worth fighting for.” Of course there will be people in the world who have more clout, who are more powerful, who want to harm you, she observes. But then again, that’s the test of your own character, of who you are, what you believe in. “Isn’t that the price worth paying?,” she asks emphatically.

On UR Ananthamurthy

This year, the festival commemorated UR Ananthamurthy, one of the exemplars of Kannada literature. De has her own experience to recount about the great storyteller. “We were on the panel at the last edition of Bangalore Lit Fest. And I like how fiery, feisty, articulate and unafraid he was in voicing his opinions. Not all of them were accepted, even by a very informed audience and crowd. Despite that, he was a giant as a thinker, as an iconic litterateur, who broke so many shackles, so many rules, freed so many people from their limited thinking and limited imagination.”

On writing

“I write every day of my life,” she declares, “I write for weekly columns, blogs, Twitter — writing on every level defines me and consumes me and that’s the way I want it to be always.” She is looking to start a new book soon. But she’s not sure what it will be about. “It’s only when an idea is about to explode inside my head and makes life unbearable for me, that I actually start the book. Because the idea has to be powerful enough for me to want to write it with that sense of passion and intensity.”

On the recent brouhaha on ‘ethical journalism’

Shobhaa De has gone on record, on her blog and on Twitter, about the recent spat between Deepika Padukone and a leading newspaper. Most of her comments stress that there is nothing wrong with sensational stories and the issue has been blown out of proportion by the actress who she once termed is “overrated and average-looking”. But when we asked her about it, she refused to comment, saying, “I write for the newspaper and I don’t have anything to say against them.”


An abridged version published in The New Indian Express on September 29, 2014

Categories: Articles- New Indian Express, Books, Interviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In conversation with graphic artist, Seth Tobocman

A few days ago, I got a chance to talk to Seth Tobocman, the brain behind the comic magazine – World War 3 Illustrated. Of course I was nervous. I was going to talk to one of the most renowned graphic artists from America, the one who has championed many radical causes, whose comics delve into subjects that are real — be it political unrest, global warming or monetary crises. The interview was in relation to a visual demonstration he was going to conduct at the Rangoli Metro Arts Centre. The performance, he told me over the phone, was going to be based on the cultural concert (Cartoon Concert) method developed by cartoonist and illustrator, Vaughn Bode. Which meant that he would use comic strips and fuse them with PowerPoint slides and perform the text. And the themes would include “various issues of importance at the moment like the Palestinian conflict, global warming, social justice and homelessness in the USA, among others.” 

During the conversation that went on for over an hour, he held forth on his stay in Bangalore, his comics, his comic creation process and the medium in general. 

On life in Bangalore

Seth travelled to Bangalore over a month ago as part of the T.A.J Residency programme, a collaborative project between visual artists and gallerists. This gave him a chance to showcase his sketches on his upcoming comic book entitled A biography of Leonard Weinglass, an illustration of the life and works of a US criminal defense lawyer, and also interact with other artists from the country like Orijit Sen and Appupen. He also took part in a demonstration against rape that took place at Town Hall, a few weeks ago.

“The people in Bangalore are very fascinating. They did not hesitate to come up to me and talk about my work. For instance, two days back, I was drawing the street life around a temple at around 1 am.

Three boys came up to me and struck a conversation,” he says.  Of particular interest to him is the traffic in the city. “Maybe I will plan a comic piece around my life in Bangalore, ” he says.

On his creative process

“I sometimes complete a piece overnight, that is if the deadlines are stringent. If not, it takes atleast a day or two for me to complete a page. I first think of a plot, then come upon a structure. An important aspect is the rhythm which is akin to that of poetry. A comic artist should also pay attention to the visual construction, representation, of how much you can extract from the plot.”

On art that stirs reactions

The political comic book ‘World War 3’ marked the start of his career as an artist. The book came to fruition in 1979 after he and his friend, Peter Kruper decided to self publish a book that became a beacon for anti war propaganda. “I grew up reading comics and was fascinated by them. But then, there came a point when I realised that all comics were similar, they didn’t have any new plotlines. This compelled us (Seth and Peter) to create our own comic book.” Over the years, the magazine evolved, becoming a series and encompassing more than just it’s initial premise which was ‘concern over nuclear war’.

Seth is of the belief that comics are a great way to communicate with absolutely anyone and hence tries his best to ensure his comic books highlight relevant subjects and highlight his social observations. “Comics are very simplistic in nature and easy to understand,” he notes. And hence, like World War 3, Seth has gone on to publish many other radical works like ‘Understanding the Crash’ — a meditation on the sub-mortgage crisis that crashed Wall Street, ‘You don’t have to f**k people over to survive’ which is an attack on the morality, politics and social conditions of the Reagan era. Then there’s ‘Disaster and Resistance’, describing the disastrous events of the 21st century: 9-11, wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine and many others. And all of his comics have one common goal, epitomising these very words that described the 43 edition of World War 3– “No idea should be unspeakable. No emotion can be forever repressed. No one is above criticism. But critique, speech, and expression, are only meaningful in relation to the goals of liberating humanity and preserving nature.”

On the future of comic books

Where does he see the comic industry heading towards in the next decade? He is sanguine as he answers, “It is a very interesting period for this medium. Back in America, I find a lot of artists from Kyro and Lebanon making interesting stuff. There is a whole new wave of comic expression which is only good for the industry.”


First appeared in The New Indian Express

Categories: Articles- New Indian Express, Books, Culture, Interviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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