Early into our chat with Shaheen Mistri, at the Teach for India office in Vikhroli, we are reminded about one of the primary goals around which she founded Akanksha, over two decades ago: to educate and create avenues where lesser privileged children can flourish. Since then, the Akanksha Foundation has done this, and much more. And today, we were witness to another example of this revolution.
Three years back, when Shaheen, her mum, Saker Mistri and aunt, June Watts Mistri created Miss Muglee’s first adventure, it made an impact. An Akanksha graduate, Sirajul Khan, illustrated the book along with art teacher and designer, Sheetal Shah. “This time, Miss Muglee goes to Gujarat to meet her friend, Mr Get, the peacock, where they will participate in the grand Garba ball. But this friend is greedy, loves materialistic things — including an iPad and an iPhone, and is constantly afraid of losing it all. Surkhi, the flamingo plays an important catalyst,” Shaheen fills us in. (No spoiler alert about the rest of the plot!). The book size has doubled as it has been developed into two parts.
Before our meeting with Shaheen, Sheetal and the three illustrators behind Miss Muglee’s second adventure, a quick memory-jog had taken place — to 2008, when, as an Akanksha volunteer, one was a small part of this journey. Raju Devender, then a 17-year-old student, stood out for his art; the careless doodling, the casual brilliance of his strokes, and raw talent that was waiting to exhale. “Didi, you are here!” Raju exclaimed, on entering the room. He was all grown up. The swagger hadn’t gone, but one couldn’t miss a quiet confidence that replaced the impatience of before. Along with him, is 20-year-old assistant illustrator Zamir Sayed who played ideal foil to Raju in this colourful storybook. The final element to the core team, 17-year-old Rahul Patil, had to give this meet a miss due to a sprained ankle.
“We wanted to make this a journey of change, where after Miss Muglee teaches Mr Get to give, the second part in the book, is about the ripple effect of giving,” reveals Sheetal. Clearly, Raju, Zameer and Rahul had a blast working, of course, with Sheetal’s guidance and egging on, especially with deadlines. “We had three months to wrap this up — they worked wonderfully as a team,” she adds. Raju jumps in, “My temperamental self would get bogged down by changes and feedback; Zameer was the calming factor.” The admiration is mutual, “Raju had the concept in his head, we would discuss our ideas, and work closely with Sheetal didi,” reveals Zameer. All artworks were hand made using poster colours, and the vibrant palette stands out, naturally.
Akanskha has big plans for Miss Muglee: from mobile apps to a website, and more. “She represents the importance of learning and spreading of good values and ideals. We hope this message gets out — using opportunities where one can make the world change,” Shaheen tells us.
We can’t wait to hear more from this croc that rocks.