Anushka Ravishankar, monster creator, nonsense poet and platypus, in conversation with Aishwarya Subramanian, writer, critic, and fan of the colour purple and hair (we don’t THINK she’s a monster).
AS: First, Moin and the Monster is a few years old. Did you always plan to write a sequel?
AR: Not really, not when I wrote it. The end was a small act of subversion, I think. I didn’t want the expected ending where they either become friends, or the monster returns to monsterland, and Moin wipes a tear from his eye … But everyone assumed that I’d left it like that because I was going to write a sequel. So I gave in to this expectation, in a very non-subversive, meek sort of way.
AS: But no story ending is really safe from sequel-demanders, is it? Poor Arthur Conan-Doyle couldn’t get away from Sherlock Holmes even after he shoved the man over a cliff. Do you think you’ll be writing a sequel to Monster Songster?
AR: I can’t honestly say that I haven’t thought of it, but I can honestly say that the moment the thought occurred I yelled nooooo! startling my cat out of his wits. I have the scratches to prove it.
AS: Moin’s monster says it’s neither male nor female and seems to enjoy both looking terrifying and intimidating (or it would if Moin could draw) and having really great hair. Are you deliberately breaking gender stereotypes, or are monsters just more enlightened about that sort of thing than we are?
AR: Monsters are more enlightened than we are. So I hope that by portraying an enlightened monster, who is not afraid to shampoo its hair and sing soulful songs, I can inculcate in children gender-sensitivity and an awareness of the ubiquitiousness of heteronormativity. I also hope to teach them the importance of personal hygiene.
AS: Are all monsters so forgetful, or is Moin’s just particularly bad at remembering rules?
AR: Since we only have a sample of one to judge by, I guess we’ll never know.
AS: I was going to ask a question about monster hair care routines but as you say, we only have a sample size of one. Still; do you envision the monster as straighthaired or curly?
AR: It has a sort of coiffed wave, with a hint of a curl at the end, if you know what I mean.
AS: I love the little in-jokes in these books that will only make sense to people of a particular generation (Loopy Bagiri) or linguistic background (Colander). Do you put those in for yourself, or…?
AR: Yup, I put in those for myself and anyone like me (you, for instance, since you got those). Look, I know that ‘Colander’, for instance, will be lost on non-Tamil speakers, but that’s half the fun. For someone who doesn’t know where that’s coming from, it’s complete nonsense, which is funnier, in a way.
AS: Moin isn’t exactly brilliant at hiding the monster, or at thinking up excuses for the strange happenings around him. Of the three kids (Moin, Tony and Parvati) who do you think is best equipped to keep a secret like this one?
AR: Moin. Not because he’s any good at it – Parvati is cleverer at that sort of thing, but would never let herself get into such a situation and Tony’s head is so deep in his encylopaedia that he’d make a bigger mess of it.
AS: This is a deeply symbolic text. Obviously, the monster is a external manifestation of Moin’s own thwarted desires – he too wants to be intimidating and carefree, yet he’s held back by his own self (this is symbolised by the monster’s fury when Moin draws him inaccurately; Moin/the Monster has not been allowed the complete freedom of self-definition). Comment.
AR: Hahahahahaha. Srry, lughing too hrd. Cnt typ.
AS: There are also the philosophical questions of identity raised by the monster’s self-identification as a monster. It’s a word with many negative connotations in our world, though presumably not in his. If ‘monster’ is the general term for its species, does it not have a name as an individual? Does it mind not having a name?
AS: What’s wrong with the colour pink? I like pink.
AR: Me too. Silly monster. It actually likes the colour purple. Must be all that deeply symbolic thing you sugges-mmmgfff. (Sorry, I had another attack of hysteria and could not be picked off the floor. Have forgotten what I was saying.)
AS: If the monster could put his feelings about this interview into verse, what would it sing?
AR: Woo hoo hoo hoo hoo!
Interviews give me the ‘flu
So tell me no words
And ask me no qs
Spare me the jeers
And the sceptical boos
And let’s all go home
With our socks and our shoes.
Woo hoo hoo hoo hoo!