Brahmin Posts

Author speak: Satadru Mukherjee on his debut picture book, “Good Morning India”

Satadru Mukherjee is a photographer, a multi-media whizz and a talented marketing professional, currently working in the corporate sector. Good Morning India is his first picture book. It has been published by Scholastic India.

Good Morning India is a simply told tale of a little girl waking up early in the morning looking forward to her day at school. The unnamed girl is chirpy, her happiness is infectious, as she greets everyone on her way to school. She describes the journey narrating how Abdul Chacha and Pandit Ji are off to their mosque and temple for the day. It is a happy time as she looks forward to spending the day with her friends the super smart Kasheef, the ever joyful Christina and prankster Aman as they board the school bus:

As we play together

Beneath a sky so blue,

We promise to live our lives 

Bound by friendship so true. 

It is a beautiful book filled with light and joy as emphasised by the bright colours used. It also conveys the message of peace with the symbolic presence of a white dove in every frame of the story. What is truly remarkable about this book is that there is nothing out of the ordinary in the description. The slice of India portrayed in Good Morning India is present all around us. It is not confined to a particular region or locality. There are many ways of seeing but we just have to see India for what it is and not with a prejudiced mind. Good Morning India is heartwarming little picture book which will be appreciated by young and old readers, alike!


Satadru Mukherjee agreed very kindly to write a short note on why and how this book came to be written. Here it is:

I grew up in Kolkata at the turn of the century, waking up to the sound of the Azaan every morning. (I still do!  Now I stay in Delhi with a mosque quite close by my home.)

I would go to school (the 140+ years old Calcutta Boys’ School) each day and sing hymns, and start off the day with The Lord’s Prayer. Some of my best friends in school (we played football together) were from different religions. We went out pandal hopping during Durga Puja and stayed over at each other’s places. We were all invited for a Biryani feast during Eid celebrations at our Muslim friends’ homes. We are still the closest of friends. 

I was best friends with a gang of boys from the basti (jhuggis as they call them in Delhi) behind out house till the time I was in North Kolkata (till I was 9), and in fact got embroiled in a fist fight with boys from another basti group, till my dad arrived at the scene, caught hold of my ear and dragged me back home. 

During my college I used to save five rupees every day of my pocket money as our weekly treat was at a Muslim eatery called Qayum’s deep in the heart of central Calcutta, where you could get a plate of biryani for fifteen rupees!

Throughout my life, in spite of being brought up in a somewhat orthodox Brahmin family, my brothers and I always saw people and not what religion they belonged to.

When discussing this book with my publisher, we both agreed, given the current political scenario of aggressive polarization in the country Good Morning India should be a book that talks to young children about how all of us, irrespective of religion, can peacefully coexist. While writing this book, and working closely with the illustrators — my brothers Saswata and Susruta, — we really wanted to depict this sense of peaceful coexistence and equality that is the defining trait of India, to the young reader.

Good Morning India is scheduled to be released in mid-February 2019.

21 January 2019 

Literature and inclusiveness

nari-bhav Nari Bhav, published by Niyogi Books, is a collection of essays exploring androgyny and female impersonation in India. These are fascinating insights by practitioners, interviews with actors and some academic papers discussing the concept of nari bhav is a deeply rooted cultural belief in the fluid interplay of the female and male symbolized for example as Ardhanariswara.  A truly exceptional essay is the one by translator, performer and playwright, Pritham Chakravarthy, on performing the Nirvanam. This is the name of the performance she gave to a bunch of monologues that emerged from her work exploring the myth of Aravan that hijras or eunuchs have adopted in South India, especially Tamil Nadu, to contest the many filthy names used for them by the general public. To this she wove in the stories narrated to her by a transgender, ‘Noorie’. The first performance was staged in 2000 and was only ten minutes long. Years later she continues to perform it and the presentation is now forty minutes long and could probably be expanded to sixty minutes. Pritham Chakravarty makes a very interesting comment in her essay: “I sit among the audience and come to the central performance area to emphasize the ‘everychapal-bhaduri day-ness’ of the narrative that will presently unfold before their eyes.” And yet when Chapal Bhaduri, a Bengali actor famous for female impersonations, performed an autobiographical piece at a seminar organized at a Kolkata university in March 2016 it seems that members of the audience were discomfited by the performance.

The concept was simple enough. The performance would be a companion piece to the 1999 documentary on him called Performing the Goddess [ made by Naveen Kishore, Seagull]. In the documentary, entirely shot in the modest ground-floor apartment in north Kolkata where he lives with his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter of his sister Ketaki Dutta, Chapal Bhaduri gradually transforms himself from Chapal Bhaduri to Chapal Rani, from a man to a woman, from a human to a goddess, from the ordinary to the spectacular. At the seminar he would be doing the reverse. Her would appear before the audience as the Goddess Sitala, and then gradually divest himself of the divinity, the feminity, the spectacular, and end the piece by becoming what he is off-stage: human, male, ordinary. 

While discussing the book with a dear friend I discovered some very interesting facts about his family. This friend shikhandihas often told me how there has always been a space in the Indian society for all genders including for the currently fashionable term — “gender fluid” individuals. When I showed him a picture of Chapal Bhaduri, he told me about his grand-uncle whom everyone in the family called “Dada” and had remained a bachelor all his life. He died a few years ago. Interestingly Dada used to be an usher at some “talkies” in CP or Old Delhi but was always fascinated by dancing and dressing up as a woman. Apparently he was the go-to david-walliamsman in the family for advice on shringar, saris, buying gold jewellery etc. Dada was extremely fond of wearing beautiful Benarasi saris and spent a great part of his meagre salary to amass quite a collection.  While still a young man he began dressing up as a woman. It seems he used to give performances at private gathering. Apparently Dada was very informed about mudras and used to be a delight to watch. Also the family was completely at ease with his gender identity.  Apparently he was considered one of the respected elders of the family and his advice was sought on all important matters. He was also the matchmaker of the community. It probably also explains the comfort family members had with the eunuchs who used to wander in the colony.My friend has childhood memories of having the eunuchs over at home for tea and snacks. It was a regular affair and everyone was at ease with this practice. Another anecdote he recounts is of attending a wedding where where three uncles of the bride dressed up as women in saris and danced as part of the festivities.

And he is not alone in his observations. Anita Roy, publisher and author, wrote this wonderful article in 2006 “Dancing with God” to witness the kōla ceremony; a puja that honours the village deity. (

Each family in the village undertakes to host this ritual every year.  The presiding bhuta of Adve is Jhumadi (or Dhumavati in the local language, Tulu). A protector of the village and its inhabitants, human, animal and plant, Jhumadi is gendered female and believed to be one of the manifestations of the Goddess Shakti. But like Shiva’s incarnation as Ardhanariswara, she mixes both male and female attributes. Unlike the Puranic gods, who are worshipped in temples, officiated by Brahmin priests and receive offerings as silent spectators, bhutas are more localized spirits who directly influence the lives of their devotees with whom they have a much more intimate, almost neighbourly, relationship.

GeorgeAt the Myrin International Children’s Festival, Reykjavík, well-known author and translator, Lawrence Schimel lawrence-schimel-oct-2016-icelandwhose picture book for children, Amigos Y Vecinos, includes a gay family said that it’s extremely important to include LGBT+ characters in children’s books so they reflect the world that children already live in. (LILJA KATRÍN GUNNARSDÓTTIR, 6 Oct 2016 “LGBT lives just as important as heterosexual ones” ) David Walliam’s first book for children The Boy in the Dress, Alex Gino’s incredibly powerful novel for young adults —George and Richa Jha’s picture book The Unboy Boy are examples of contemporary literature being inclusive by accepting and respecting “unconventional” characters for who they are. Vivek Tejuja, book critic, wrote a poignant article last year entitled “Being gay: how books and reading saved richa-jha-the-unboy-boymy life”. ( Scroll, 21 March 2015,

Reading provided the much needed solace. Reading was a balm to all my aches. Books transported me, took me away from reality. I did not know want to face reality. Why should I? I thought to myself, when I could be lost in the lands of Oz and travel with Gulliver and be miserable with Jane Eyre. Nothing was of consequence, but the authors and the books I read. . . . Reading books was sufficient then. They did not discriminate against me. 

Vivek Tejuja’s forthcoming book meant for young adults will be addressing some of these issues. Siddharth Dube’s precisely told memoir No One Else and A. Revathi’s gripping account of her life as an activist in A Life in Trans Activism are recent contributions to Indian literature discussing sexuality and the grey areas it inhabits —these exist in Nature. revathiThe biggest challenge lies in making this reality visible for now the hypocritic notion that heterosexuality is the norm and everything else is unacceptable on any moral compass reigns supreme. And yet as mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik confirms in Shikhandi and other tales they don’t tell you which is a collection of stories celebrating life “narrated by our ancestors that are rarely retold publicly as they seem to challenge popular notions of normality”. In Oct 2016, Parmesh Shahani, Head – Godrej India Culture Lab, said at the India Economic Summit, New Delhi that parmesh-shahani“inclusion is for everyone and not just the LGBT community”. He bolstered it with evidence that if businesses & institutions are inclusive then it will have a positive impact on productivity, growth and development. ( “India Economic Summit: Breaking Down Diversity Barriers”, 6 Oct 2016. )

( Note: All the images are off the internet. If you own the copyright please let me know and I will acknowledge it. )

2 November 2016 





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