I wanted to show Indian kids that brown kids with brown eyes living in Mumbai, Delhi, Coimbatore, Calcutta, Erode or Rajkot can be cool and go on adventures and possibly meet magical creatures. Reshma K Barshikar, author
Fantasy is the toughest genre to write a story in. But celebrated children’s books author Reshma K Barshikar casts a magical spell not just through her characters and stories but through her writing. Her writing is magical! Reshma recently published a book (The Lost Prisoner), she wishes she could have read as a teenager. "I cannot say I have moved on because my next book is an adult gothic thriller. Fantasy and supernatural themes have always excited me the most. Nothing makes me happier than witnessing a good fight with unseen forces," says the investment banker turned award-winning author. She grew up on a steady diet of Enid Blyton, R L Stine, and Grimm’s fairy tales that spilled over into Tolkien, Robin Hobb, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and George R.R. Martin. "I do love romance, which was probably why my first book was the rom-com Fade Into Red," she adds.
Magic & Science
In her latest book, The Lost Prisoner: The Hidden Children Series, Reshma has created a Harry Potter-esque world of magic and witches situated in India. "I created what I wanted to read – something uniquely Indian but set in the context of two themes I loved – witchcraft magic and quantum physics," she says. After all, magic is nothing but technology that science is yet to explain. The author is deeply inspired by Amitav Ghosh’s Sea Of Poppies as well as Warped Passages by Lisa Randall."
The book starts with Shui and her friends licking their wounds after the big fight in the first book. Shui is aware of her potential and the fact that she possesses one of the most powerful Grimoires in the world. She is trying out her powers, developing a crush on an older boy, and doing her best to stay out of trouble, but trouble always finds her. This time in the guise of kids who need her protection. Something sinister is brewing in the world of witan. Anya has been kidnapped and children are going missing. There are whispers that the red riders, the witan’s greatest nemesis, are on the hunt again. But they aren’t the only ones, someone else is after them, and her book. In The Lost Prisoner, Shui realizes that the Witan community is just like humans. They experience love and suffer loss just like us. However, a new evil is threatening to tear them apart.
While growing up, Reshma could not relate to some of the books she read. "When I began writing this novel, I wanted to show Indian kids that brown kids with brown eyes living in Mumbai, Delhi, Coimbatore, Calcutta, Erode or Rajkot can be cool and go on adventures and even possibly meet magical creatures. I wanted them to see themselves in their stories, in a context and setting that was familiar to them. They can have crushes, and their friendships are just as strong, their relationships with parents just as tenuous, and their schools just as exciting. They are like teenagers anywhere else, only they speak a mix of languages and eat a variety of food," Reshma explains.
Magic and shamanism are fundamentally the same all throughout the world, whether African, Native American, Korean, or Indian. Every tribe has a healer and a shaman. "If there is one genre I love, it is the supernatural. Creating the world was a long process and it was never about placing Indian characters in a Western trope but building a world that was and is, truly organic and authentic to our understanding. The reason why I created the world from scratch, one with its own laws, language, and physical design. The Banyan is the heart of every village and it made sense to build a community around a tree. Trees are so magical."
The author spent some time meeting the Wiccan community in India. A subsequent trip to Kolkata for a piece for the National Geographic Traveller set the ball rolling. "I decided to combine our ideas of supernatural magic with traditional Wiccan ceremonies and set the story in Kolkata," she says.