Sunil Shivsale is a fine young man, a techie from Bangalore with many talents and this is his debut book. Sunil has been on his writing journey through the past decade - writing, learning and working at his craft. (His magnum opus is far more elaborate and explores mythical lands and characters in a much deeper scale and will surely come out sometime soon.) So when he said his first book 'Chikki Bites' was out, I quickly got a copy. I always admire those who write purposefully and pursue their writing seriously enough to get published. It's not easy.
Straight up I loved the title (Chikki was my favorite snack at school). The illustrations on the cover (and inside Himanshu Anand) by were very promising so I knew they would complement the content well. The 73 page book has eight short stories all of which feature animals in a large way, very Panchatantraish even in the way they are dealt - every one of them has a lesson, a value to take home. I really liked that aspect of bringing in animals in that manner. Somehow those who care about animals seem to have a deeper human quality.
So we have 'Koyal's Concert' about a Koyal whose talents are misplaced which makes her rather unpopular and how Gani the baby elephant and Koti the little monkey help her find her real talent - she suddenly finds her mojo and flow in life (a hint for some techies surely), 'What is in the old trunk' is about a penitent thief and how some animals help him discover the human in him - the world is full of second chances, if we want to change. In the 'White Lamb and Grumpy' we learn how what we hear and what we experience are two totally different things - judge others by their actions and not by their looks (or words).
'Monkey business' is a heartwarming story of a human and his love for animals and how they all benefit from that one thing - unconditional love. 'Where is the Kitten' is about a dog who makes amends to his outlook on life after an incident with a kitten - flow with life, don't differentiate. 'Chippi and Munky' are two chipmunks in danger from a cat - and they take a big risk in favour of doing the right thing, which pays off handsomely. 'Face on the Moon' is about a rabbit and a doe who claim that the serene, peaceful moon is theirs - until they realise that they can find love and support within and around them. And 'You must be hungry' is about a temple priest who has this mission of feeding people in his temple everyday and how it saves his kingdom and his people - do your job with utmost dedication and sincerity in the worst of circumstances and miracles happen.
They are all lovely little stories with fun and chirpy characters. Each story deals with seemingly small but real issues and how the characters choose in favour of doing the right thing even in the face of danger - and how it works out well for them in the end. In a world of stories trying to shock and be popular, Sunil sticks to the straight and narrow, like his characters, the hard route and i am sure it will pay off in the end for him and for the readers. It's a lovely gift to anyone - especially children. Written in an easy, lucid style, with a dash of humour, it slides the value across subtly, and maintains the fine balance between telling the story and conveying the lesson.
Sunil has a fine imagination and builds a credible world with fun characters. His writing is easy and has a light touch. More importantly, it is honest which to me is the key to good writing. Fine debut Sunil and hoping to read more from him.