The brief given to them was to bring author Ruskin Bond’s book, Koki’s Song, to life, and Ayeshe Sadr and Ishaan Dasgupta have delivered beautifully. Sadr, a textile designer, and Dasgupta, a graphic designer, illustrated Bond’s lyrically written story about a little girl in the mountainside who befriends a young flute-playing cowherd.
“It was a real pleasure to illustrate his words. His writing is so simple yet so very detailed. He really transports you to the place he describes, forming beautiful visuals as you read,” says Sadr, who is quick to share that growing up she loved reading Rusty’s Adventures and The Room on the Roof.
Ruskin Bond, one of India’s most loved children’s writers, met Koki on a ship he was travelling on. The 12-year-old girl shared her chocolates with him, after having heard that he did not have money for chocolates. Even though he did not see her again, she turns up in his stories from time to time. She doesn’t grow old. She is twelve-year-old Koki forever.
The illustrations which contains roughly about 15 spreads took around a month to finish. In the words of Tina Narang, publisher, HarperCollins Children’s, their work matches the lyrical, gently flowing quality of Bond’s beautifully written Koki’s Song.
“We had seen the wonderful work Ayeshe and Ishaan have done in children’s books that are already in print. Ruskin Bond’s beautifully written Koki’s Song has a lyrical, gently flowing quality to it like the river which is part of the story. In Ayeshe and Ishaan we found the style that perfectly complements this unique quality of the story and there is a seamless match up of text and illustrations,” says Narang.
“We were confident that Ayeshe and Ishaan would very effectively interpret the story and represent it visually. On their part, Ayeshe and Ishaan were delighted to be working on a Ruskin Bond story and their enthusiasm can be seen in the care with which they have planned and created the entire book,” she added.
On being asked about the design style, narrative, or the colour palette they took into consideration while illustrating the children’s book, Sadr, who along with Dasgupta created 211 Studio in 2009, says that they wanted to be as close and authentic to the writing style as possible, so as to not take away from that.
“The tone of the writing often sets the mood of the illustrations, and Mr Bond’s textural descriptions of the scenes really helped us visualise better. We were inspired a lot by the Himalayas, the flora and the fauna found there. Also, the purples and blues or the mountains, the rich greens of the deodar forests, the colours of the sunsets, and the lovely birds one can see often while absorbing the views,” she tells indianexpress.com.
However, illustrating the book also had its share of challenges. “Visualisation of the characters is always the most challenging bit as it needs to be true, set in their surroundings, as well as connect with everyone,” says Sadr.
The duo, who has over the years worked on a wide variety of illustration projects, say that they love to draw and illustrate and are very interested by the arts. “We try our best to explore different ways of illustrations, while always studying and taking inspiration from different forms of historical or cultural references. This keeps us learning and excited,” says Sadr.
Koki’s Song is one of the twelve books being released under HarperCollins Children’s Books’ Summer List for 2019.