About three years ago, I began working on an exciting project with the National Rail Museum in New Delhi. The idea was to create stories set in and around trains in India.
It was challenging but fun. I dived into details of engines and their working in a way that I had never done before. Among other things, I needed to ensure that the story led naturally to the technical pages, while also being independent of them. In other words, a reader who was completely uninterested in technical details could still enjoy the story and cheerfully skip the technical pages.
So, I launched into intensive research. What trains could I write about? What would my characters do? How would they go on an adventure while also discovering how an electric locomotive works?
I set the first of the stories on the Duronto, a train with which I am very familiar. Among other things this is what I kept in my records – a list of technical halts.
Ultimately, my characters didn’t take this train for reasons of the plot and narrative. They took train number 12261 instead. Even so, the only thing I knew about Bhusawal (sometimes Bhusaval) was this – Chitra and Priya peered at the train time-table to see where the technical halts were and where a potential thief was likely to escape. No spoilers here, but yes, Bhusawal was a place where things could happen.
And so, when I went to Bhusawal two days ago for a workshop, I was unreasonably excited. How could I not be? It is a place that featured in my first published middle-grade story, a place that was part of the setting for an adventure of my own making … Who wouldn’t be thrilled?
It helped that the workshop was fun too, full of laughter and enthusiasm. The teachers took part in every activity right through the four hours I spent with them. Speaking, reading, writing, word puzzles … When teachers are interactive, workshops are fun!