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Shreya Sen illustrated Timmi in Tangles by Shals Mahajan. She was interviewed for the Duckbill blog by Akshara Ravishankar, an idli-loving philosophy student.

AR: What made you want to work on this book? What was it like working with Shals on the illustrations?

SS: The moment I was given the script by Anushka, I thought let’s read a paragraph! But before I realised it I had completed the entire script in one go! Ha ha. It was such an interesting read. I could relate very well to the character of Timmi. It seemed like somehow I knew Timmi and that I had met her before! I really liked the way Timmi dressed up in shorts and colourful t-shirts! I also have a similar taste in clothes, I guess! All the minute details that Shals talked about brought alive the character for me.

Shals knows what she wants! The best part is that she is just very clear. Also the way she thinks and visualises the world of Timmi is completely whacked up. The place where she lives, her bedroom and the balcony, the characters in Timmi’s world were all well thought out by Shals! It was a lot of fun working with her. There have been times when I got stuck and I would call her to sort things out! She dealt with me patiently.

One more big learning that I owe Shals is her insights on gender stereotypes. Its incredible how she has talked about such a mature subject so easily in a children’s book. I would say Shals has used the medium of a children’s book to question society, upbringing by parents, society’s expectations and a lot of other things. Unknowingly, a lot of kids and families go through this! I would say this book should be a must read for any kid and also for parents!

AR: The thing I found most striking was the amount of detail in all the illustrations, down to the characters’ clothes and expressions. Which character did you enjoy drawing the most?

SS: Thank you so much! All the characters were a lot of fun. All of them were wacky and that was the best part. It’s very difficult to say which character I liked drawing the most, hmmm, all of them were actually so much of fun! I had oodles of fun visualising Idli-amma. I would love to meet her one day!

AR: Is this the first children’s book you’ve illustrated?

SS: This is the fourth children’s book that I have illustrated. My first children’s book was Padma goes to Space’ for Tulika Publishers, Chennai.

AR: My favourite illustration was the portrait of Timmi as the Raja. What was it like figuring out what Timmi looked like?

SS: Oh, is it! Actually, I didn’t make that spread for a long time. I kept it as a small surprise for myself till the end. The way Shalini has described Timmi wearing her ‘Raja dress’ is hilarious. I could not stop myself from imagining what she would look like. But the problem was that this was the spread that I could only think in colour. The colours that Shalini described Timmi wearing just would not go away from my mind!

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