Media professional turned potter Rohit Kulkarni talks to us about his debut children’s picture book The Pottering Pig, illustrated by Priya Kuriyan and published by Pratham Books, and of course, Lalita, his real life pet pig. The book, available in five languages (English, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, and Kannada) is also available as an ebook on Pratham Books’ Storyweaver platform.
So, as a potter who has a pet pig, this story is obviously inspired by real life. What prompted the book? Can we expect a series?
Quite honestly, the story came from rambling conversations I have with friends, usually about animals that are a huge part of my family. Bijal (Vachharajani, author and Senior Editor with Pratham) heard one such story about Lalita, and then ensured I write it!
I’m not sure about a series; I’ve been working on a sequel though, but given that I’m a full-time potter and lazy writer, that might take a while!
Who is Mini Singh in the book based on?
The name Mini Singh comes from the living legend, master potter Mansimran Singh, who I absolutely adore. I had the good fortune of learning from him and he’s an incredible potter and a superb, flamboyant gentleman who lives life large; though he’s known as Mini Singh!
How did you get Lalita—was it choice or circumstance? Any story behind the name?
A friend, Neha Panchmiya, runs an animal welfare organisation (in Pune, called ResQ) where Lalita landed up as an injured little thing. She had lost an eye and was in awful shape. I actually didn’t think she would make it and, in fact, joked that maybe we should get a barbeque ready! Neha and her team ignored my morbid jokes and nursed her back to health. And since I had flamboyantly said that I would adopt her if she survived, I was promptly delivered a pig for tea one day!
I’m a bit of a Bollywood buff and so she was christened Lalita because she didn’t have an eye and that kind of reminded me of the yesteryear thespian Lalita Pawar.
What’s it like having a pet pig as compared to, let’s say, a dog?
Lalita lives at Curators of Clay, the pottery (near Pune). She’s quite a chilled out thing. She’s nothing like a dog, because she’s far more intelligent and therefore doesn’t care much about pleasing her human caretakers. But, she’s incredibly good-natured, patient and rather sweet in her own pigheaded ways. She’s quite a conversationalist and you’ll often see us having extended chats with her. Recently, she fell quite ill and was perhaps the best animal patient I’ve ever seen…taking injections without protesting and being very pleasant even though she was in a lot of discomfort.
What do you have to say about the phrase ‘dirty pig’?
I’ve never met an animal that is inherently ‘dirty’ and in the case of stray pigs, it’s our garbage that they’re attracted to, for food, that’s it.
In fact, pigs are remarkably clean and neat animals; Lalita won’t even poop in the wrong place, and she always chooses to do her business in a corner or area farthest away from her regular food and playing place in the pottery.
What’s your advice for parents whose kids may want a pet pig after reading your book?
Every kid should have a pet. But a pig might be a tricky one to keep in an apartment!
What has been the reaction to the book, particularly from kids and parents?
To be honest, I wrote the book because I love the pig; Priya illustrated it beautifully and Bijal edited and made it all happen. The couple of kids I know seem to love it, but that’s a question best asked to the publishers!
Most adults I know loved the book. But then, most adults I know, like me, haven’t exactly grown up!
What’s your next project?
This is my first published book. I’ve no clue about my future writing! Maybe I’ll write about my elder sibling’s donkeys next—Jenny and Jakob.
Can you recommend your top 5 children’s books?
I grew up reading Enid Blyton; my favourite series of hers is the Five Find Outers ( NOT the Famous Five!) But, I would recommend all of her books. Oh, and the Billy Bunter series. And also, all of Gerald Durrell’s books. Kids should totally read those! And then there’s the Artemis Fowl series, my gosh, so much fun!
When was your interest sparked in pottery and is it a good skill for kids to attempt to learn?
I’m a full-time potter. It’s my livelihood. I’m really the worst person to give any sort of parenting advice. I think growing up is overrated.
But I do think every kid should have a pet, learn a musical instrument, know to swim, play some sport, have bruised knees and have happy times spent doing absolutely nothing or something totally ridiculous.