A Himalayan Affair: Jotted magazine interview


Priyanka Pradhan is a Dubai-based journalist with over 12 years of experience in television, print and electronic media, across India and the UAE. Her debut children’s book, Tales From The Himalayas is a collection of 17 short stories published by Rupa Publications. The book was runner-up for the Montegrappa Writing Prize 2020 at the Emirates Literature Festival (Dubai), where it was picked amongst the top 5 manuscripts in the Middle East, from 600 entries. Priyanka also bagged the Ruskin Bond Promising Writer award for Tales From The Himalayas; at the Dehradun Literature Festival 2019 (October), where the manuscript was handpicked by Mr Ruskin Bond, from amongst hundreds of entries by Indians across the world.

  • A few of the stories have been passed down to you from your grandmother. Do tell us how you wove these tales into your debut collection?

Some of the stories in the collection are my adaptations of folktales that my grandmother would narrate to me, as a child. I’ve retold these stories in my book, by updating them to reflect the times that we live in. I aimed to do this by incorporating contemporary issues that children deal with today.

For example, I’ve included themes such as colorism or color prejudice, body confidence and rejecting gender stereotypes, among others because these are issues that come up in their day-to-day lives and are important to address. There are also stories about environment conservation and wildlife preservation. There’s no set, ‘moral of the story’ here but you’ll find something that triggers a talking point. The idea is to discuss and ideate, not to preach.

  • Can you tell us a little about how you put the collection together? What did you have to keep in mind considering your audience is young adults and pre-teens?

The 17 stories in the collection are varied and cover different topics- some are adventure stories, while others delve into darker subjects. Two stories in the collection are about real-life heroes from Uttarakhand while other stories are simply high on entertainment value. However, there’s a common thread that binds these stories together- the theme of building confidence and having faith in oneself. 

Adolescence is such a tumultuous time for many of us- we don’t want to be called ‘children’ at this age. We want to be taken seriously but at the same time, are unsure about a lot of aspects of ourselves, our immediate world and the world beyond. The most important insight I got from reading books as an adolescent was to cultivate optimism, build confidence and to learn to have faith in my capabilities and judgement. My endeavour is to convey these aspects through my stories.

In all, there were 14 drafts for Tales from the Himalayas and it has changed a lot, over time.

  • What was your writing routine and process? How did the book change along the way? 

Well, I have the habit of quickly jotting down notes in a book or on my phone’s notepad whenever I get an idea for a story or a character. I find inspiration anywhere- while I’m dancing, painting, travelling or even eating something. My note-taking is also pictorial, with a lot of diagrams thrown in- I sometimes even draw out an entire story and then proceed to put it down in words.

So when I sit down to write, I assimilate all my notes and build upon them. The toughest part is to decipher my own handwriting and making sense of my crazy doodles.

In all, there were 14 drafts for Tales from the Himalayas and it has changed a lot, over time. I workshopped some of the stories in the collection, sent them to a few experts from the publishing industry and even just avid readers, for their critical feedback. This proved to be invaluable for me as a writer because it gave me an objective view of what worked and what didn’t.

  • Do tell us a little about the story that got you started with the collection and one that stood out for you? 

The story that got me started with this collection is the one I remember requesting my grandmother for, over and over again. It’s the story in the book called ‘Kafal’ – the memory is so vivid even now, it gives me goosebumps. Another story is based on a very popular folksong from Uttarakhand called,’Bedu Pakho’ – which has been such a big influence in my life growing up, I simply had to put it down.

But the story that stood out for me in this book is the last one, called, ‘Postcard’ because I drew from personal experience while writing about dealing with the loss of a loved one.

A Himalayan Affair Interview With Priyanka Pradhan

Image Courtesy: Instagram/@himalayan_tales

  • As a debut author, what was your biggest challenge in publishing this collection? 

The biggest challenge as a debut writer was the lack of guidance – how to approach a publisher? What should my pitch look like? Do writers even get positive feedback or am I just wasting my time submitting unsolicited manuscripts?

I’m glad a collective like Bound is here to help first-time writers, not only through writing workshops but also by offering advice and guidance through mentors who are published poets and novelists. This one-on-one contact with people established in the publishing world is crucial for debut writers.

To sum up, I believe persistence, perseverance and patience are most important for debut writers.

A Himalayan Affair Interview With Priyanka Pradhan

Tales From The Himalayas by Priyanka Pradhan has been published by Rupa Books. Readers can now buy copies of the book on Amazon and Flipkart.

Author’s shelf: Top Children’s book recommendations

A few recommendations for children’s books, from my personal bookshelf. See any favorites? 
(Bottom to top)

The Dog Who Lost His Bark by Eoin Colfer
A gorgeous, pencil-illustrated book that shows why pets should not be bought, but adopted. An entertaining and moving story that drives the point home. 

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle – a fantasy-adventure novel which is a great introduction to sci-fi, for young readers. It’s not my favourite genre but this book is nothing short of terrific! 

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson- 
A coming-of-age adventure book you won’t forget in a hurry. Themes of fantasy, young love and coping with tragedy, make it a compelling read. 

Malgudi‘ and ‘The maneater of Malgudi’ by RK Narayan – The television series based on this fictional village was the reason why I picked up my first book as a child. It’s been the biggest influence on my writing and I can’t recommend it enough for RK Narayan’s inimitable style and storytelling. 

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie – Soon after the fatwa in his name for writing Satanic Verses, Rushdie surprised the world with his first children’s novel- an allegorical book that explores contemporary issues in the world while drawing on classic fantasy tales. 

Rain in the Mountains by Ruskin Bond
A collection of stories that have a way of connecting with the reader beyond the barriers of age- by one of my favorite writers, whom I have the privilege of calling a mentor!

‘Kim’ and ‘Just so stories’ by Rudyard Kipling.
Kim – a story set in Imperial India, is one of my favorite reads from the Nobel prize-winning author, Rudyard Kipling. The intriguing characters and exciting plot make for a book that’s unputdownable- even for adults. 

Just So stories’ is a collection of delightful tales with Kipling’s signature wit. A must-read for younger children, to exercise their imagination and develop a keen sense of humor.

Pre-order now on Flipkart!

I’m thrilled to announce that, ‘Tales from the Himalayas’ is now available for pre-order on FLIPKART (India). Click on the link below and pre-order your copy right away!

Tales from the Himalayas

Hope you enjoy the book!
Thank you for your support and good wishes

Book cover reveal!

I’m thrilled to reveal the cover of my book, ‘Tales from the Himalayas’, published by Rupa Publications, India.

The cover depicts a scene from one of the stories in the book called,’The Explorer’, which is about a real-life hero from Uttarakhand. Main Singh Rabat was one of the first Indian explorers of the 19th Century in British India, who hailed from a small village in Milam, Uttarakhand and went on to survey the Himalayas, not only in India but also in Tibet. He single-handedly determined the altitude of Lhasa, without the use of any professional equipment, uncover as a monk. He also contributed to the ambitious ‘Trigonometrical Survey of India’ and was decorated for his achievements.

The cover design has been made by Mugdha Sadhwani and the illustrations are by Mohit Suneja.

The book has garnered a lot of appreciation, especially by renowned writer, Ruskin Bond, who had picked this manuscript and awarded it, ‘ The Ruskin Bond Promising Writer Award’, at the Dehradun Literature Festival in October 2019.

His quote on the front cover reads,”Enchanting tales, straight from the heart of the mountains. Vivid storytelling and striking themes make it a delightful read.”

Actor Freida Pinto, who was one of the first few to read the manuscript commented,”Tales from the Himalayas has this unique and special storytelling quality that can transport you and your imagination into another world, where the wanderer’s heart and sol truly reside.

It is at once, an entertaining, heart-warming and delightful read for both, adults and children alike.

Themes of family, belonging, loss, wonder and nature dominate the pages.It is the perfect escape from the mundaneness of city life and the urban burden. Even the re-read of the same story is as pleasurable as the first read.”

Front cover of tales from the Himalayas
Front cover of Tales from the Himalayas
Back cover of Tales from the Himalayas