We had to keep reminding ourselves that he was only eight.
Little Rishav Gupta may only be eight, but he’s already published his first book in Singapore. The books is Dreamagination,a collection of stories that Rishav wrote between the age of three and seven. And, he recently won AVA Events’ Young Achievers Award in Singapore, for the category “Volunteering and Community Services”.
At an age where most children like to while away their time watching TV, or just playing and fooling around, Rishav was writing books. We ask Rishav and his mum, Srinanda Gupta, how exactly the book came to be, and what their success mantra is. Read on!
Mummy, did you always know that Rishav was gifted?
Srinanda tells us rather modestly, “All children are talented, and to be really honest, I don’t feel that my son is a gifted child.
“All I remember is, right from when he was a baby, he loved scribbling. Being a teacher in the early years, and seeing a lot of scribbles, I was surprised to see him hold a colour pencil easily and make concentric circles, even before he turned one.
“I also discovered that he loved designs, and he was happiest when around any kind of designed carpet…he would constantly play around with the designs.”
No wonder then, that little Rishav loves doodling. He even drew a mural for theAsianparent’s office recently! He does not attend any drawing classes though. His parents are worried that it might curb their little one’s natural imagination.
The Dreamagine mural that Rishav drew at theAsianparent office
We are curious, did you take any special effort to nurture his skills when he was a baby?
Mummy Srinanda, who is also an early childhood educator, recalls, “Yes, to be frank, I did a lot, right from when he was six months old. I would read a lot to him, mostly picture books then…
“I also sang to him, and he would respond very well, he was able to identify objects in books from as early as six months.”
So, how and when did the idea of a book originate?
Srinanda remembers fondly, “Honestly, I never thought that one day we would come out with a book! Rishav was just three when he told me that he wanted a book. That book wasn’t Dreamagination though, that book was called The Lion’s Walk.
“Each page focussed on a particular place and some detail that he observed of the place. Basically it was just his drawings, and me typing out whatever he said. But I noticed that, even back then, he had the idea of sequencing and making connections…
“Later, we spoke at length about what he really wanted. He said, ‘I want my book, it has to have a hard cover, it has to be in a shop on a shelf.’ And that’s how I knew that he wanted his very own book!
“Of course at that young and tender age of 3, he wasn’t able to articulate the word “author” or writer.”
Most of us would have just brushed off those words as a child’s imagination. But not this mum. “I made it my mission to fulfil his dream,” she says.
And what were the first steps to making that dream come true?
Srinanda takes us along on her journey, step by step.
“What I did first was, I started collecting his drawings that I thought had the potential for a story. Sometimes he would talk to me about it, and we would have long conversations about his doodles, the little fish he drew… the picture that he stuck on the cupboard…
“Sometimes writing came first, and he would support the story with illustrations… “
This dedicated mummy saved all her son’s work in a bag over the years, from the age of three to seven!
She continues, “Sometimes I would provoke him with a conversation about his drawings, and then leave him to write about it. Never once did I bother to correct his grammar, I gave him the freedom to be.”
Teaching tips and cute illustrations from “Dreamagination”
“You will see that the book has mistakes in it, and it has been deliberately kept that way, for that’s how children are. We didn’t want to kill the authenticity by correcting and editing his work.
“I also want to mention that each story in the book has been revisited over the years…as Rishav grew older, and his thoughts grew, I would ask if there was anything he wanted to add to his stories.”
Srinanda would then diligently type out her son’s handwritten stories, and save his drawings in her computer.
“There are 10 stories from the age of three to seven and you will see a gradual progression, in thought, in writing, in grammar… you will notice that slowly, I introduced the concept of punctuation, editing, things you can do to make the story sound exciting, how to stretch a word for effect etc… over the years, the length of the story also increased.”
Now we want to know about the publishing process?
Mummy Srinanda reveals that for her, the book was a beautiful and special journey. So she was reluctant to give the material to publishers who only cared about the economics.
“I never gave the draft material to any publisher who demanded that the book be edited and made perfect. I waited for four years, but did not find a publisher who shared my convictions.”
“I tried online, went around Singapore, I even went to Kolkata in India, and tried to meet publishers, but in vain. No one understood the vision of the book. All had profit making intentions, while we had a completely different intention of making it as authentic for a child as possible.
“And then, one day I had a chance meeting with Zafar Anjum of ‘Kitaab’ publishing. He didn’t even take an hour, he just saw everything and agreed to take it from there on.”
Says Zafar, “I found Srinanda’s proposal very interesting – how a mother was nurturing a child’s creativity. However, I was skeptical about the quality of stories. But when I read the stories written by Rishav, there was a unique innocence in it, and there was something special about the stories, even though the stories were about commonplace things.
“The stories were written over a few years and one could see the child-writer’s thoughts maturing and gathering a level of complexity in terms of imagination and expression over a period of time.
“I thought this book could inspire other children and their parents, and that’s why I decided to publish it.”
So what happens after you find a publisher?
Srinanda goes on, “Once the publisher agreed, we discussed and scheduled a meeting with the designer. The illustrator (apart from Rishav), who has semi-designed the book, is Neha Sane. We discussed the specifics, how many copies, the cost…”
It is worth mentioning here that Rishav was always a part of the discussions, be it designing or illustrating. He even sacrificed his Sunday morning sleep for the discussions and meetings!
Srinanda also reveals, “Initially my idea was just to print it out for Rishav, but then I thought, why not share it with more people… what if it inspires many others?”
As the journey progressed, so did the vision. The book saw many informative and useful additions.
“I have included teaching tips in the book, and also the story behind the stories.”
“The last thing that was added to the book was actually the last page of the book, ‘What is your story…?’ It gives scope to other children to ignite their imagination and share their story.”
We are certainly impressed by all the thought and effort that went into this cute little book!
Publisher Zafar Anjum tells us, “The response has been fantastic. We have had many readings and interactive sessions so far. The book is inspiring other children to tell their stories too. “
“In fact, we are considering publishing another book by a child who was inspired by Rishav’s example. So, it has been a great journey so far for a book like Dreamgination. We hope to go into a second edition soon.”
Now that the book is published, what’s next?
Srinanda lets us know, “The book is available on Flipkart globally, and in some Singapore bookshops like Kinokuniya, where it is selling for S$ 20.
“The distribution is done mainly by the publishers. On my part, once the book was out, my head was ticking about how I could reach out to more mums and kids…”
“So we started going to schools, we started holding workshops with Rishav in India, and in Singapore, we have done workshops in Kinokuniya, National Library board, Playeum, and Rishav has even done readings,” says this proud mum.
That’s not all. Now this family plans to give back to society.
“Now our vision is to contribute the earnings from the book to charity…whatever we sell personally (not through a publisher that is), the money will be committed to charity.
“We have already done our first charity program for the slum children of Mumbai with an organisation called LCCWA (which runs a small little school for slum children).
“What has been really heartening and inspiring for us is that the school is now inspiring their children to read and write… and have named their writing lesson ‘Dreamagination’!”
That’s really awesome! So, is there a second book on the cards?
An excited Rishav reveals, “Yes! I have already begun work on my second book! It’s a series, a mystery… but I won’t reveal too much about it now.”
Mummy Srinanda adds, “He’s come a long way now, he now types out his book on the laptop, and his mind is working at a different level now, maybe because of his age, and what he’s reading…”
“Also, his father is extremely supportive…daddy and son have similar tastes, daddy helps him to choose books and discussions happen over books.”
So Rishav, are you a hero in school already?
The confident lad replies without hesitation, “Pretty much!”
“There are children asking for my autograph, to sign on their hands…”
Mummy Srinanda cautions, “It’s all very inspiring but I tell him, “Don’t get your head very heavy, we have a long way to go!””
What are your other interests, Rishav?
Rishav answers enthusiastically, “I love really, really fat books, especially the Harry Potter series (he’s read five of them) and Percy Jackson. I also love TV and the iPad.
“I love playing online games like FIFA Mobile, and love watching art, drawing and science experiments on Youtube… I like trying out stuff with baking powder and colour… I like trying out new recipes too – recently, I made eggs Benedict on Mother’s Day.”
Did we also mention he enjoys playing soccer, drumming, drawing, dancing, singing and swimming too? This kid certainly enjoys trying out new things!
We asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. And we got an instant reply, “I want to be an actor, footballer, inventor, singer, artist and an author.”
And here’s a question for mummy, are there rules in place for the son?
Srinanda tells us, “I am firm as a parent, I believe in routines for young children. A “No” is a no…even if you throw a tantrum.
“At a stretch I don’t encourage Rishav to spend more than 30 minutes on his iPad…as I feel that sometimes it can get too stimulating, also we have passwords and controls. We also have Wi-Fi systems which link his iPad to my phone so I know his browsing history.
“Also, when I walk into the room, he’s supposed to carry on with what he was doing…no closing windows and deleting history on seeing mummy.”
As a mum, what advice do you have for all other parents out there, on nurturing their kids’ talents?
Srinanda gives us these tips:
- “Mummies, every child is talented. Listen, spend time and have conversations with your child on a regular basis.
- “Read a lot…cuddle up and do bedtime reading.
- “Do simple things to encourage the love of language and vocabulary in your child. For example, when Rishav was little, sometimes we would do the letter ‘R’ walk, and I would encourage him to spot things beginning with ‘R’ etc..
- “I allow my son to be messy and creative at home.
- “As a working mum, I’m usually time-starved, but my passion drives me. I don’t believe in putting off things until the weekend. I feel that as a parent, one must be consistent and constantly stretch yourself.”
Lastly, Rishav, what advice do you have for other children?
Rishav smiles and says, “Just to dream and chase your dreams without fear. Even if you are scared, don’t be, just chase them until they come true.”
“Balance is key. Try to do a mix of many things. For example, don’t do too much of reading and little else…you’ll be too good at reading, but not so good at other things.”
Mummy Srinanda tells us, “One day I asked Rishav, what he would say to the world if his book ever got published. He instantly started saying these words (which are now in the book as well), ‘This is a big wish come true! You must dream and when the dream becomes bigger, bigger and bigger it comes true.’
“I want to encourage everyone around the world to write because it helps people to communicate and you can express your heart full of stories. You need dreamagination to live.”
Here’s wishing that more of Rishav’s dreams come true!
Also READ: The best picture books to read with your little one