An Engineer with an MBA, Ramendra Kumar (Ramen) is the Chief of Communications at Rourkela Steel Plant. Besides, Ramen is a national award winning writer with 32 books to his credit. His writings have been published in 29 languages – both Indian and foreign. Some of his stories, poems and satires have found places in text books, as well as national and international anthologies. Six of his books have been recommended by Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), as Supplementary Readers.
Over the years, Ramen has won 31 prizes in the Competition for Writers of Children’s Books (English), including 5 last year, organized by Children's Book Trust. Besides, he is an inspirational speaker and storyteller, invited to literary fests, soirees and seminars. My City Links caught up with Ramen when he was in Bhubaneswar for his latest book release and to address a workshop on effective parenting.
You write in different genres. Which one is the closest to your heart?
I love writing for children and spending time with them. I feel the only way I can contribute my mite to the society is to reach out to children with stories, which not only entertain but also inspire and elevate. Writing for children has taught me that the only way to be happy is to be like them. I adore the young ones for their innocence and straight-from-the-heart response.
When did you start writing for children?
I started writing satire, poetry and fiction in my college days and continued my literary pursuits after I joined Rourkela Steel Plant. When my daughter Ankita was four, my son Aniket was born. My wife Madhavi suggested, “Why can’t you tell Ankita stories and put her to sleep, while I concentrate on Aniket.” But instead of telling traditional stories to Ankita, I used to spin a yarn every evening. The figments of my imagination continued even after Aniket grew up. The stories liked by my kids found their way to the editors’ desk and the tales started getting published!
What kind of stories do you write for children?
I write stories that are in the ‘Here-and-Now’ genre. The writing is set in the present and addresses contemporary values and concerns. The kids in my stories are ordinary children, who face extraordinary circumstances with guts and empathy. I ensure that the tales are fast-paced, with a dash of humour to retain the interest of the effervescent minds. Each story has a value, subtly tucked in somewhere, as a takeaway for the child.
We would love to know about your latest book.
My latest book, ‘Against All Odds’ is a tale of fun, football and friendship! The protagonist Kartik shouldn’t play football because he is one-armed. His friend Siba can’t play because he has to earn a living. His classmate Tina mustn’t play because her mentor is differently abled. The book is about three individuals, three obstacles and one passion – Football. It has been published by Duckbill Books, one of the most happening publishers of children’s literature in the country.
You are one of the most popular storytellers in the circuit. Could you share your experience with us?
As my wont, I simply love telling stories. The response of the young has been fantastic in my storytelling sessions. My sessions usually involve a lot of singing and dancing. As you know, the ideal number for such interaction is considered to be around 75. But in my last event at DPS, Bengaluru, during the prestigious Bookaroo Children’s Literature Festival, I had 585 kids rooting for me!
You have also done extensive research on Jagannath Consciousness. What attracted you to Jagannath Culture?
As you know, Jagannath Culture is not merely a religious belief; it is a way of life. It is a consciousness that transgresses boundaries of caste and creed, religion and race to embrace the entire humankind.
I had the rare honour of presenting a paper at the 31st World Congress organized by International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) held in Copenhagen, Denmark. In my paper titled ‘Here and Now Writing: An Indian Paradigm’, I drew upon the Jagannath Culture and explained how its values and ideals can be skillfully synergized with the modern day concerns to fashion and sculpt a literature that is timeless.
My book ‘Tales of Lord Jagannath’, originally published in English, has been translated into Odia and Hindi. It comprises stories associated with Lord Jagannath, which form a fascinating treasure trove of myth, legend, folklore and history.
You have also dabbled in fiction for grownups. What has been the response?
‘Mohini’, my maiden book for adults is a romantic thriller based on the film industry. It found an instant connect with my readers and its first edition was sold out in the very first week of its release. It remained on the Amazon Bestseller list for months and earned great reviews.
My first book of non-fiction, ‘Effective Parenting: A New Paradigm’ is based on ideas culled from my own experiences as a child from a broken home, my observations as a writer for children and my own struggles as a parent. It is a framework offering only gentle suggestions, without being didactic. The book went into its second print in the first month of its release. I am now invited to conduct parenting workshops in different parts of the country and the response of the participants has been very encouraging.
What motivates you to be such a prolific writer?
Writing to me is an OCD – Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I don’t write for money. I don’t write for fame. I write for the love of writing, for the joy of creating. My writing may not make me rich, it may not make me famous, it may not even make me popular but if my words can lighten someone’s burden with a ray of happiness or a flicker of hope then I shall take pride in a job well done.