Akanksha founder Shaheen Mistri's love for kids and out-of-the-box ideas seamlessly come together in her debut children's book, the first in a series of six, that follow the adventures of Miss Muglee the crocodile
It doesn't take long to figure that the protagonist Miss Muglee isn't your regular (read: scary, evil) crocodile. She loves dressing up in Indian attire, is funny, sheds real tears, isn't afraid to show her emotions and wears trendy nail paint.
Akanksha kids are all smiles with Shaheen (FAR LEFT) and book illustrator
Sirajul (FAR RIGHT) as they wait for Miss Muglee to hit Mumbai's streets.
"The spirit of this book and what Miss Muglee embodies is essentially what Akanksha stands for good education, bright ideas and vivid colours, emotions and the use of nonsense words," explains Shaheen Mistri, the dynamic founder of Akanksha and CEO of Teach For India.
ENTER MISS MUGLEE
It seems like poetic justice that Shaheen is out with her debut novel, which she says is a reminder of all that she and her huge team believe in, in the organisation's 20th year.
"Mum (Saker Mistri) and I came up with the idea, ten years ago, and it was my aunt (June Watts Mistri) who created Miss Muglee. However, it was only three years ago that the idea took shape and form as a book," adds Shaheen while speaking about how this delightful book emerged.
You have to listen to Shaheen when she speaks about the lack of good reading material, having been in the forefront of education for the city's under privileged kids. "There is a shortage of children's books, of ideas and imagination. There needs to be a middle path where Indian and Western concepts meet. We thought of weaving it together with Miss Muglee," she adds.
Nonsense words generously pepper the book, written entirely in verse
COLOUR ME BRIGHT
Akanksha kid Sirajul Khan, now in his first year of senior college, has done the artwork for the book with help from his Art Teacher Sheetal Shah. "It took me a year to create the artwork with Sheetal didi's help. I had to take a break in between for my HSC boards," he explains.
One look at the book and it's clear that Sirajul had a blast designing it. From dressing up Miss Muglee in a ghagra to recreating Mumbai's vibrant cityscape in all its chaos to the vivid ethnic-meets-Western border work for each doublespread, the book stands out for its refreshing spontaneity.
ANIMALS MORE FUN!
Animals are the star cast in the six-book series; "you can have more fun with them," remarks Shaheen, adding that she chose a crocodile as the lead because they are normally perceived as fearful creatures. "But here, Muglee's been given emotions; she's full of masti, and for a change you see a softer side to a crocodile."
Sirajul created Faizal the frog and Kitty the cat, two characters who meet Miss Muglee in the first book.
The second book also has an animal connect, when she visits the Gir forest, as part of her adventures to Gujarat, and is slated for an October release, to coincide with Gandhi Jayanti.
Until then, follow Miss Muglee on her enchanted travels across Mumbai!
Miss Muglee Goes To Mumbai releases on April 17, with a reading by Akanksha kids. It will be available at leading bookstores. Log on to www.akanksha.org and www.teachforindia.org
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
While Sirajul took the basic concept of Miss Muglee from Shaheen's aunt, he used his imagination to breathe life into the book. In fact, the bus route 124 that Miss Muglee boards was actually the same route that Sirajul used to take. His attention to detail is remarkable and evident in showcasing Miss Muglee's
love for dressing up, staying trendy and hip with colourful suitcase in tow.
BOOKS FOR KIDS / YOUNG ADULTS SET IN MUMBAI
Road to Mumbai by Ruth Jeyaveeran
Ordinary Mr Pai by Kalpana Swaminathan
S's Secret by Shobhaa De