Raghava KK is a contemporary artist living and working in New York and India. His wife Nethra is a musician. Krithi Karanth is a Conservation Biologist based in Bangalore, India. They were addressing the audience in the Bangalore Literature festival during the session titled ‘Catch a Tiger by the Tale’.

Krithi started the conversation by sharing her childhood journey which led to creating the book called “Come play with me”. Her father was a tiger biologist and took her along everywhere. She spent her childhood doing strange things like distinguishing tigers, leopards and cats, looking at the skulls of cows, learning to set up camera, traps, and rather odd things. What she realised was that her father has given her an extraordinary opportunity of 16 years, that going to the jungles of India, watching the animals for hours together, and falling in love with nature and wildlife was easier for her. She spent 10 years being a scientist and she is clear that children today are very disconnected from nature, particularly urban children. National Geography has supported her work.

Raghava then spoke that he met Kriti five years ago in Washington DC and she walks up to him casually and says, “I heard that there is a cool Bangalorean here”, and he replied, “Cool for sure, Bangalorean even surer”. They decided to collaborate immediately. She is a scientist and he an artist who got inducted to National Geography Society for bringing Arts, Science and Technology together and it only makes sense when worked together. Raghava shares that his formal education was done in Bangalore to become a cartoonist. He went travelling all over the world and fell in love with paintings. He is passionate about animals and children.

Krithi thought of coming up with children books that celebrate India’s wildlife. It is going to be bilingual. They started with Kannada and English version and wanted to do English-Tamil, English-Hindi, English-Marathi and take it across India. This book is not for a commercial for sale it is going to be given for free to thousands of children living in the edges, with a hope that they don’t view Tigers and Leopards and elephants with hostility, but really start to fall in love with them, the way the panellists have.

Krithi researched about wildlife urban conflict and identified animals that are most endangered and came up with a list of ten and initially started creating characters out of them. They wanted characters to be realistic and magical, they wanted to put life into them and bring up the spirit. Netra brought the story to the characters. They hoped to get the kid like the animals. So they picked stories that appealed to the children. They wanted to relate this to something that is repetitive and something that they thought was fun. Raghava continued the discussion saying they wanted the book to be silly, fun and engaging. They decided to launch the book in Kannada and wanted to create the book in every regional language available along the Western Ghats. They started with Kannada, wanted it to be an extremely well-made book and so they worked with Kokkachi-publishing house to design book.

‘Come, play with me’, is an extremely dark story of a little baby macaque asking all the animals from the jungle, “will you play with me?”. They all give excuses and nobody has the time to play with baby macaque. In the end, baby macaque turns to the reader and says, ‘Will you play with me?’. The secret of the book is, the only way the reader can play with baby macaque is if the reader realises there are masks and can be plucked out. The idea is for the reader to hold the mask in their hands and enact the animals

A play is the most powerful way to empathize with an animal. Children in villages will be taught to make their own play using the masks in the book. This is not just a book, it is an interactive drama and a class in it. This book is a kick start for a movement to bring artists and scientists to imagine new ways to engage in a non-didactic way with the problems they face as a scientist in India. National Geography Society has given the grant to distribute the books to 10,000 children in Kannada and hoping to launch in multiple other languages. Kokachi and Prabha have assisted with the illustrations. The books are available at the Centre for Wildlife Studies. They are distributing these books and raising funds to distribute. This is not a commercial venture. This is going to be a series of books

About the Author: Ashika is a CA student. She is an enthusiastic social activist and also an uncertified psychotherapist on an Instagram handle “@ms.selenophile”. She helps people to overcome mental illness and motivates people to lead life in ac meaningful way. Writes her thoughtflows with Hashtag #Spread_laughters❤ on her Instagram handle. Endlessly working for #Suicide_prevention_awareness. Helping people to defeat there dark sides of life and motivates them to create the rest of the life a colourful one.She currently writes for Bookstalkist.