Published: 27th July 2020
Why Kalyani Ganapathy's fun illustrations are the introduction to Ayurveda we all need
Looking for an interesting and educational book for your kids in this pandemic? Then, check out Kalyani Ganapathy and Ishani Naidu's book The Song at the Heart of the River
There's no time like the present to teach our children some important Indian values and about ancient medical systems like Ayurveda, feels Kalyani Ganapathy. This illustrator, along with author Ishani Naidu, released a book called The Song at the Heart of the River recently. This book helps both kids and adults explore the secrets behind the science of Ayurveda in an interesting way. What makes the book more unique are those beautiful illustrations used to explain Ayurveda and Vedanta which otherwise would be boring for kids to learn. If you're someone who believes that knowledge must be grabbed from every walk of life, then this book is a must-read for your kids.
We speak to Kalyani about her work and how she connects with the readers through her simple, light and colourful illustrations. Excerpts from the interview:
Your illustrations are quite unique. Since when have you been illustrating books and how did it happened?
I started my current career at 28. I always wanted to work with books but never knew how. At some point, I grew quite bored of my career as a graphic designer and just started drawing for fun on fabric. I thought it would be the greatest thing I ever did but I really failed miserably. I was terrible at networking and marketing and I had no inclination towards learning those parts of the business. One day, while moping about my epic failures, I went to the stationery store. I couldn’t resist picking up some watercolours and other stuff I liked. I started drawing on paper instead of fabric and I loved it. I also really enjoyed not having the pressure of making a sale. Eventually, I grew confident enough to post my sketchbook on Facebook. A friend of mine saw it and introduced me to an art director. Six months later, I had my first commissioned work. I sold many pages of my sketchbook before that.
Kalyani's illustrations from the book
Why did you decide to illustrate for The Song at the Heart of the River?
How much research went into it?I choose the books I work on purely by the script and how much it resonates with me. I liked Ishani’s story from the get-go. I understood the value of it and actually began utilising it before the book even found a publisher. I have been brought up on many principles of Ayurveda without even realising it, so I didn’t have to do much research. I understood it. Without having to be guided towards it, I knew that the illustrations had to depict nature on all levels.
How do you connect with your young audience?
I draw from the heart. So it’s a very intuitive process for each book. I know that when I draw something and I feel it’s working, kids will relate to it. I also add plenty of small details to keep children and adults engaged on every page.
Why do you think that it is important for children to know about Ayurveda and the science behind it?
Ayurveda is the science of life. Ayurveda says we are nature, we’re not different from nature. This deep connection with the natural world around us is what helps us understand the working of our body and mind. Moreover, Ayurveda is about physical, mental, emotional and spiritual planes of life. Even something like an everyday routine has deep meaning behind it. And that’s the reason I feel it’s important for children to start learning young, so they are grounded in the eternal spring of health and wellbeing.
While writers face a writer's block, I am sure illustrators also face their own version of a mind block. How do you overcome that?
Of course, I do have mind blocks. I’m really not a person who can draw all the time. I find it works to have a routine. I draw from 9 am to 5:30 pm and never beyond. I garden, crochet, read in my spare time. I enjoy my time away from my desk. And when I just can’t draw, I enjoy cooking for a few days and that always magically snaps me back. I also find that it is beneficial to use my discernment to choose my projects.
It's clear that you love books that encourage children to engage with nature. As a child, how much of these kinds of books did you read?
There is no doubt that we are nature, so we’ve got to start teaching our kids that. That’s the only way we’re going to impart values that will preserve this world we live in. And that’s the need of the hour. I grew up on Enid Blyton. I love that it really gave me the value of making the most of what you had — jam sandwiches, curiosity and a great imagination. I’m glad I grew up in the 80s where almost all children's books that were easily available where I lived were about toadstools and picnics. I got to see all this around me and really picked up the importance of just being a part of this big natural world, observing it and being in awe of it.
Any illustrators you admire and why?
This keeps changing but I have some definite favourites. David Melling, for his whimsy. Scott Bakal, for the way he expresses the complexity of the world in his simplicity. Kashmira Sarode, for the way she sees beauty in everything.
What have you been doing during the lockdown?
Just before the first lockdown, I finished a mammoth graphic novel, so I enjoyed doing nothing other than growing a healthier routine and engaging in self-care activities. As the lockdown went on, I slowly and steadily got back into a working routine and I’m currently enjoying working on a couple of picture books.