As author, political speech writer and journalist, Sam Mukherjee plays interesting roles, but it’s his responsibility as a father that gave him the inspiration for his latest fantasy novel for young adults, says Moeena Halim
Based in Toronto, Canada, author Sam Mukherjee grew up in a typical Indian high-rise. Constantly walking in and out of neighbours’ homes, he was always surrounded by children his own age. The protagonist in his latest novel, The Perfect Tangerine: The Gift of Miracle Daley, however, is destined to lead a much more solitary life. Placed on a pedestal for being the miracle baby born three years after the world in this dystopian novel has given up hope on the survival of newborns, Miracle loses his standing soon after the baby drought ends. Labelled a ‘has-been’, he must learn to cope with bullies, and earn the acceptance of the children at school.
Author Sam Mukherjee’s novel is based in a world without babies
Mukherjee claims to have found inspiration for the fantasy novel, meant for 10-12 year-olds, when he saw his newborn trying to make sense of the world around him. Grabbing hold of a paper napkin, the third-time novelist began scribbling the story of a world without babies right there in the hospital room. “But I had no idea where the story would go and what it would lead to. That’s the biggest rush for me. I write stories to nurture my own curiosity,” he tells us animatedly over the phone.
Mukherjee insists that the fantastical story, complete with a talking barasingha, could be set just about anywhere. “I have intentionally refrained from stating a location, but it’s definitely set somewhere cold,” he says with a laugh. The book also deals with a number of social issues including bullying. “Suffering, loss and death — all these elements are a part of the book. But it wasn’t a conscious decision, it came organically to the story,” says Mukherjee, who claims to have dealt with the topics with a certain amount of irreverence. “I wanted to make sure I wasn’t preaching or talking down to the readers. It had to be a ‘fire-side chat’,” he adds.
The book gets its title from the idiosyncrasies of the protagonist’s grandmother. “She has an ongoing contest with the sun. Every morning she makes sure she wakes up before sunrise so she can catch the ‘perfect tangerine’ shape of the sun. It’s interesting how people do little things that they don’t really talk about. It may sound a little crazy, but it’s just a little quirk,” says the author.
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