Madhuri Kamat: Notes from the Archives

Madhuri Kamat is the author of Flying with Grandpa, forthcoming December 2018.

Flying with Grandpa emerged from a story synopsis for television entitled, “The Adventures of Xerxes”, started in 2005.

Xerxes was so boring with his “propah” speech, neat clothes. He was nicknamed Xero or Xerox because no one anyway could pronounce his name and he was such a dull black and white chap. Were it not for the frameless glasses he wore nobody would even notice he was there.

Oh, dear, the spectacles strike again. They’re always to be found perched on the noses of children who need to be distinguished as nerds or shy children picked upon in class. And why is black and white and neat associated with boring?

Chikitsa, a nine-year-old tomboy, whom everyone called Chikki – she acted like a boy, she hollered, spoke ninety to a dozen, wore sloppy clothes, was popular and the head of the class. She could do all the forbidden things like eating with her hands, writing with her left hand, driving a bicycle – everything Xerxes was not.

Television needs female protagonists. Something to do with data on viewership but I’m not going there, too much of a minefield. So, I was asked to add one since my story had none. I plonked in a Girl bursting with all the stereotypes! What is acted like a boy, pray?

Xerxes wanted to be liked by Chikki, and he wanted to be part of her “Bomta” company – the gang of kids in his neighbourhood who created a racket on hire. Xerxes loved it especially when the “Bomta” gang came sneaking up to his mother’s clinic and created such a racket that the sick animals got cured and bounded out in fright. He loved to see his mother’s face at such times.

When it’s a children’s show, the central protagonist needs to be surrounded by a universe peopled with kids. But have you seen our films? We can sit through an entire reel without a child being spotted. Adults supposedly don’t need children around. Only children do. But I digress. I chose a gang for the surround sound, so clichéd! And why should the gang of kids be rambunctious? Why is the female professional an object of ridicule?

Heaving all the books, he made a neat pile and then gingerly took them on his head, then getting into the spirit of the game, he pretended he was the “bhajiwallah” and suddenly he felt lighter and free of the burden of the adult expectations vanished. And unknown to him those books piled on top of one another formed a magical pyramid whose weight on his head gave him the enlightenment he was seeking.

Those were the days when Harry Potter was the flavor of the season. So, I had to throw in a bit of magic. I tried the above but it went over the producer’s head and it got amended to wind chimes. But it wasn’t music to anyone’s ears. The producer declined the show but wanted to use the word Bomta for another show. I declined.

And so, it lay unattended in the folder on my computer hard drive for thirteen years. When I worked on it again because I wanted a story for children I deleted the television extras. So out went Chikki and Bomta and magic and the title, “The Adventures of Xerxes”. Children and adults lead staid lives. That is the fun of it! And thus was born Flying with Grandpa.



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