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Chitra Soundar

As a child

I was born in a big joint family in Chennai, a coastal city in India. I loved listening to stories from my grandmother and her sisters. As a child, I was shy, bookish and quiet. But I used to make up stories to tell my kid sister and younger cousins. I even won the Best Storytelling prize at her school when I was in Year 3. I acted in plays written and directed by my mother every year during summer vacations. I loved making up nonsense verse in Tamil, which is my mother tongue. Our summer holidays were filled with mangoes; tender coconuts and big family stay overs with all the cousins. We hardly watched any telly or movies. We read books, copied out dictionaries, read the newspaper like a radio newsreader and rummaged around in a big shed that was out of bounds.

As an adult

I studied in Chennai all my life. I was in the same school from primary to secondary mostly. My friends today are still my classmates from primary school. When I was 14, I wrote my first poem in Tamil. Two of my teachers, who were Tamil scholars encouraged me to continue. Then I started writing in English and also in Hindi, which is the national language in India. Once I wrote a song for a puppet show we had created for our school project. I unexpectedly won the Best Poetry Award that year for another poem I had written about Bharathi, a famous poet from India. When I went to college, I wrote an essay on the state of education in India and sent it to a competition and I was so chuffed that I had won the first prize in the all-state competition. I don’t think I imagined myself to be a writer in those days. I wrote diaries, poems and essays – every time I had a thought or an opinion. I just enjoyed writing – even if they were long answers in an examination. I recently found a photo of my first essay ever (when I was six) - and I have emphatically declared that Book is God.

As an artist

I’m very much a morning person. I like to get up before the sun and watch the sunrise. My writing desk is next to the window and I like the sky breaking out in the morning, when everything is quiet and as if only some of us share the secret of the morning. When I start a new story, I like to scribble, doodle and write by hand. I draw lots of lines and circles and put ideas in them and play around. I’m very particular about the notebook I use. I either written in unlined notebooks or if they have lines, I write over them. I love using ink pens of different colours and I think I buy more notebooks than milk. I’ve written over 20 titles for children.

Things you didn’t know about Chitra Soundar

  1. Chitra has never had any pets – not even fish.
  2. Chitra loves cooking when she’s not reading or writing.
  3. Chitra is a vegetarian – she doesn’t eat meat or fish or egg. But she’s fascinated with eggs. Read why here. www.chitrasoundar.com/how-my-fascination-with-eggs-turned-into-farmer-falgu-goes-to-the-market/
  4. Chitra likes to play Scrabble and other word games.
  5. Chitra collects lots of small things – keys, stones, shells, feathers, postcards and such.
  6. Chitra didn’t have a telly at home until she was 15 years old.
  7. Her favourite colour is burnt orange. She loves dark earthy colours and wears colourful clothes.
  8. Her friends still call her Chitti – short for Chitra at school. They used to chant CHITTI-CHITTI-BANG-BANG at me for fun.
  9. Chitra loves watching birds – she tries to identify birds wherever she goes.
  10. Giraffes are her favourite animals. She has over a dozen giraffe figurines in her home.

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