Authors Meera V Barath, R Lakshmi Priya talk about the inspiration behind Airavata, an anthology on

Once upon a time, it took just one ring to rule them all. In the here and now, a world of collaborations and serendipity, it takes a mythical white elephant to bring them all together, it seems. The giants who dance, sing, party, face hardships and escape come together under the banner of Airavata, an elephant anthology you never thought you needed. But the one that was only inevitable when Meera V Barath and R Lakshmi Priya decided to join forces.

Because on the one hand, we have Mayaakatha: where stories dance which Meera describes as “a market for stories and writers”; a community of writers who have come together (over the past year) for the sole purpose of sharing stories. On the other we have Pachyderm tales – Lakshmi Literary Council which helps writers prepare their stories for publication.

When the two decided to work together, a book on elephant stories – one in the imagination of many – seemed like the natural fit. “When we decided to do an elephant short storybook, we didn’t want to waste time on several rounds of discussions to finalize the project; we went with our thoughts and thought only about taking action – all through a phone call. And here we are with a bunch of stories, ”Meera says.

A number of entries – about 70 percent of them – that they received turned out to be from published writers. Contributions also came from talented children, who participated in the storytelling sessions. This not only helped bring in a diverse range of narratives, but also established the different perspectives on how different people see the world around the elephant. “The elephant is sometimes a funny animal, but it can evoke so many emotions in you. Three months before starting Pachyderm tales, there was this incident in Kerala where an elephant died after biting into a field bomb. So people questioned my decision to call the consulting firm elephants; Wouldn’t that bring back bad memories, they asked. That’s one way of looking at it, isn’t it? So I think the way we look at elephants is introspective in nature, ”she supposes.

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For Lakshmi and Meera, an elephant in itself comes with prosperity stories in every shade and this project is special since it is the first publication project for their companies. That the writers who answered the call saw it the same way, could not be more welcome. Such a turn of events with Airavata seemed fortuitous to Lakshmi, who had attempted to launch similar projects twice in the past and failed to take them off as planned. “Sometimes there is magic,” and it has had its part, she says.

Meera agrees as she views the successful collaboration with editors Deepti Sharma, Preeti S Manaktala and Shristee Singh as nothing less. “Although two of our editors contributed to this anthology, we wanted to maximize their potential, we had exchanged their work with another editor and finally we are here with their work too,” she shares.

The work with illustrator Satinder Ahuja has also proven to be creative and generous. “I came across this beautiful illustration of a pink elephant that she had already done and it looked perfect to me. I contacted her and asked her if she would consider sharing this for our book cover and she agreed. And everything fell into place, ”she recalls.

Not wanting to disappoint writers whose works have not made it to this anthology, and to please elephant tales to even more beneficiaries, the duo are preparing to release Part 2 of Airavata. This one having covered stories from all over India, they are looking to invite people from all over the world to offer their views for the second edition. Anklets in my hands, a collection of poetry, is also in preparation. This would be led by LetsMakeStoriesDino, a community of writers led by Meera and a team in association with Pachyderm tales. Hoping for more episodes of serendipity.

The book is available on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.

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