While talking about herself on her website, author Anjali Banerjee touches upon her childhood. “Inspired by my maternal grandmother, an English writer who lived in India,” she writes, “I wrote a mystery, The Green Secret, at the age of nine. I illustrated the book, stapled the pages together and pasted a copyright notice inside the front cover. After that, I churned out a series of mysteries and adventure novels with preposterous premises and impossible plots. Then I put them away in a box and grew up.” But the child in her comes forth in books such as Maya Running and this one.
We all have our favourite grandfathers. And we have all had our favourite moments with our grandfathers, irrespective of which side of our parents they came from. This book is about Anu (Anurag) and his grandfather, Siddhartha Ganguli, and what happens when grandpa passes away suddenly. The boy refuses to accept the tragedy.
Try as he might, Anu can’t forget his beloved Dadu and wishes he were back with them. Memories of his birdwatching jaunts with Dadu, the unfulfilled search for a barred owl and the regular storytelling sessions make the separation particularly painful. He begins to see that his grandfather’s ghost is with him and not with the gods, as his parents want him to believe.
A couple of sightings down the line, Anu goes into action. Watching a home video his aunt brings from India, he gets it into his head that the best way to bring Dadu back from the gods is to become a sadhu. His closest friends, Unger and Izzy, help —he gets his head shaved, visits graveyards and even rolls to school, as part of the penance.
As the young boy’s determination grows, he hears about a magician on an island some distance away. The three friends take an unscheduled “field trip” after leaving notes for their parents. A highly excited Anu manages to get an audience with the great magician—with some help from his father. That one meeting is Anu’s big moment. In an instant, he grows up and understands what reality is.
Banerjee has subtly woven in the various stages of childhood: from a sense of wonderment to peer pressure to an adult-like realization of life. Most Indian children would have—especially those who live away from their grandparents—experienced the heady moments when a grandparent comes visiting.
Bringing Back Grandfather was first published as Looking for Bapu in the US in October last year. Banerjee, whose parents migrated to Canada, grew up on the shores of the Winnipeg River. Childhood must have been great fun. As she recounts on her site, “I spent summers running around outside, playing hide and seek, kick the can, hopscotch and dodge ball. In winter, we made snowmen and igloos, tobogganed down a steep quarry called Yo-Yo Hill, and went cross-country skiing through pine forests and apple orchards. Oh, and my parents made me go to school and take ballet, figure-skating, swimming and piano lessons.”
Her favourite family event was a weekly drive to the garbage dump to watch for bears. Among her best-liked authors were Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie, Alexander Key and C.S. Lewis. And she encourages youngsters to write.
When one of her young fans asked her what to do with a good idea for a story, Banerjee had this to say: “You can think about ideas for the rest of your life, but if you don’t write, you’ll never get published. If you write only a page a day, that’s 365 pages a year. Write when you first wake up, write before bed, or write on the ferry or the bus. But find a way.”
The writer is editor of Heek, a children’s magazine.Write to firstname.lastname@example.org