Last week, the nephew put on a blonde wig and denim jacket to dress up as Alex Rider, the teenage spy from the book series by British author Anthony Horowitz. The year before that, his grandmother crafted a paper pulp cartoon mask for him so he could be Greg Heffley of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid fame.
It got me thinking, that children dress up as international book characters all the time — I am happy to don the garb of a Gryffindor on most occasions — but how about Indian ones? So here’s my list of characters that I think would set the tone of any fancy dress-slash-book day.
Mithyakins: In Roopa Pai’s eight-part Taranauts fantasy series (Hachette), Mithya’s eight worlds are plunged into darkness when the evil Shaap Azur steals all their 32 stars. Enter three Mithyakins who are on a quest to solve 32 riddles to set each star free. When it comes to dressing up, children can look at Priya Kuriyan’s black-and-white illustrations for cues. There’s Zvala the child of fire, the brainiac of the team who loves to dress up. Add some shimmering nail paint, glowing ribbons or colourful leaves in the hair and let out an occasional “Eeeee!” to suddenly be Zvala. Team up jeans with a graphic-printed tee to transform into the athletic Zarpa, child of the super serpent Shay Sha, and of course break out into sudden stretches — after all she can twist her body into all shapes and stretch herself like rope. Or put on a bandana to become Tufan the child of wind, and whistle a tune and pet some animals while at it. Both Zarpa and Tufan would wear their graphic-printed tees over a snug, full-sleeved plain jersey.
The Monster: There are few monsters as adorable as the one in Anushka Ravishankar’s fabulous book Moin and the Monster (Duckbill). To draw out the monster from under his bed, Moin has to draw the fearsome beast who has “nose like pails, ears like horns, and teeth like nails”. Unfortunately, Moin’s drawings skills are not quite up to scratch. So instead of becoming a purple scary creature, the monster is pink, and has drumstick-like legs and flippers for feet. Anitha Balachandran’s rendering of the monster is adorable and will give you some fun costume tips.
Historical characters, with a twist: Head over to the pages of the History Mystery series by Natasha Sharma (Duckbill) for some ideas. Why not be Razia Sultan, who keeps getting pesky, rude presents, or emperor Ashoka with muddled messages inscribed on pebbles or Raja Raja Chola with a pepper mill (which may just be goat droppings). Check out Queen of Ice by Devika Rangachari, and think of how to be the regal Didda.
Rusty: Ruskin Bond’s boy from the hill, Rusty, is perhaps one of his most memorable characters. Dress up in a checked shirt and jeans with a pair of boots. Be ready with some tales like a monkey travelling in a bag in a train or an encounter with a leopard. Don’t forget to pack in some spirit of adventure, because that’s what really Rusty is all about.
Princess Easy Pleasy: There’s nothing like a bratty princess, especially Princess Easy Pleasy (Karadi Tales), who wears a crown on her head along with a case of really bad attitude. Natasha Sharma’s princess is hard to please, but recreating the character rendered by Priya Kuriyan is easy pleasy. A crown, faux gold jewellery, royal robes, along with a temper tantrum and you’re good to go. After all, who said princesses must be all things nice?
Feluda: Pradosh Chandra Mitra a.k.a. Feluda, the fictional private detective created by Satyajit Ray, is quite a dapper one. And if, like Feluda, you put your magajastra (brain weapon) to use, you can come up with a fabulous look. Kurta, shawl and bell-bottomed trousers, with a hint of swag is perfect Feluda wear. Tapesh, Dr. Watson to Feluda, has it easier with jeans, a long-sleeved shirt, and a jacket. Of course, even better if you can go as a trio of Feluda, Tapesh, and thriller writer Jatayu/ Lalmohan Ganguli. Jatayu can be dressed in a white kurta, jacket, and loose pajamas or dhoti. Don’t forget to draw a moustache and spout poetry at the drop of a hat.