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Bijal Vachharajani

Bijal Vachharajani

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Bijal Vachharajani

You are a major Potterhead! How did the fascination begin?

I stumbled upon Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at a second-hand bookstore in Vile Parlein Mumbai and the store owner recommended it, saying everyone seems to be buying it. I had been reading about the series in the newspapers and was kind of curious. I bought it and began reading it. And really, then I got sucked into this magical world! So much so, that when my very grown-up classmates from post-grad college began teasing me about reading children’s books, I fibbed and said, it was recommended reading as part of our creative writing class.

Please tell us a bit about your writing routine.

When it comes to writing, I am a procrastinator. I find dusty corners to dust and chocolate cakes to be baked urgently, especially when I have a writing deadline looming. Of course, I end up doing a lot of thinking while I am doing all these tasks, and finally settle down with a cup of tea and a slice of said chocolate cake to write. I have a wonderful writing desk (it’s called The Rowling Desk, seriously) which sits by the window and overlooks a clump of trees with kites whirring around. A figurine of Professor Snape glowers at me so that I am not tempted to check social media when I’m working. I then write and write, and kind of forget everyone, including the cake. What really helps, is that I have a writing buddy, my friend and author Deepanjana Pal, and over messenger, we discuss sticky plots and character graphs.

You love the ‘jungle’. What gravitates you towards them?

Having grown up in cities, I find myself turning to forests (and urban forests as well) very often. Now, for instance, I am often in Bangalore, so I tag along with friends for walks and we look up and marvel at the canopy of trees and look down and peer at the many bugs there. I really think that it’s these wild places that keep us going and remind us how wonderful the planet is.
Do you feel that the school curriculum needs a revamp to make teaching environment more engaging?
I often travel to schools to talk about my book and I often meet children who are able to identify mudskippers and talk knowledgably about climate change. But there’s so much more to be done, especially because children are naturally empathetic towards the environment around them. And it would be great if the curriculum would reflect the environmental crisis and the wonders, and encourage children’s inherent scientific curiosity.

Your book ‘So You Want to Know About The Environment’ is a unique and fun take on teaching the subject, what are the factors you took special care of while writing?

Thank you for saying that! The idea for So You Want to Know About the Environment emerged after I returned from doing a Masters in environment security and peace with a specialisation in climate change at the University for Peace in Costa Rica. My work led me to meet many inspiring people working in the field of environmental science. My editor Sudeshna Shome Ghosh and I had discussions about the format of the book, and later with the illustrator, Sayan Mukherjee. The book focuses on climate change, food, wildlife, waste and water, and each section has stories, science, facts, and actions. I wanted it to be a book that looks at India’s environment while keeping the global perspective in mind, which is why you will also find little postcards from people from around the world.

How has the feedback been to the book? Any favourite feedback from young readers?

It’s been really inspiring to see how children are enthusiastic and concerned about the environment. One such reader wrote to me after reading the book with questions that were insightful. She said she read my book and it got her thinking about how she’d like to do something for the planet. We went on to have some fascinating discussions about waste segregation and recycling and how Earth is the only home we have.

About the Interviewee:

When Bijal Vachharajani is not reading Harry Potter, she can be found traipsing around the jungles of India.

In her spare time, she works as a consultant editor with Pratham Books where she dreams picture books into reality.

A journalist, Bijal writes about education for sustainable development. She has a Masters in Environment Security and Peace from the University of Peace in Costa Rica.

Bijal is the author of two children's books- What's Neema Eating Today? and So You Want to Know About the Environment, which was shortlisted for the best children's book of 2017 by Publishing Next. You can find her at bijalv.com.