For acclaimed Emirati Nasheed singer Ahmed Bukhatir, who has been enchanting people with his soulful songs, turning author of children’s fantasy fiction is somewhat of a return to his first love
[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ittle girls love fairies. Little boys love dragons. That’s just the way it is. And the rest of us love wizards, witches, sorcerers, monsters, and all that the supernatural world has to offer. Even before the release of his book, the blogosphere is abuzz with one fairy-loving group and another vouching for dragons. All thanks to Ahmed Bukhatir’s Dragon Boy and the Witches of Galza.
Three years ago when I met Ahmed at his palatial residence cum studio in Sharjah, while preparing to launch his new Nasheed (Islamic songs) album, he had revealed in “one of the good-to-know-facts that no one knows” that he loves writing and would write a children’s book if he could. And now this “good to know fact” will become public very soon as his book will be out in July and was discussed at the Emirates Literature Festival this month.
Ahmed recalls that when he was 12-year-old, he had written a short story about his adventures with his brothers at their house: “Our house had a large garden and it was made in a way that you could play pirates in the swimming pool, hide and seek between the large trees and lots of outdoor games.
“My story was about 20 pages of our daily life as a dairy entry. My older sister read it when we were in London on vacation and she adored it! That was the beginning of my sojourn,” he says. Though Ahmed distanced himself from books early on, his love of cinema drew him to the fantasy genre. “I was more of a listener then a reader. I watched a lot of movies especially the fantasy ones.
“Once I finished my studies and set up my business, I felt there was something lacking in me. Even though I was a famous Nasheed singer, I wanted to do more. What was that? I didn’t know. The day I entered a bookstore in London, it all changed. It felt peaceful. I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone but couldn’t go beyond chapter 2. So I left it. I bought John Man’s Chengiz Khan a history book, which I left halfway.
“Maybe I had to write something, which I could read and like. So I decided to write. I wrote a story with historical events adding some fantasy fiction to it. I wrote three pages and was stuck on the fourth one for two years. Then I stopped,” he says, adding, “I was flying to Toronto, and I watched How to Train your Dragon and enjoyed it so much that I watched the credits too! When I heard that it was from a book my eyes popped out!
“When I found out that Cressida Cowell was only 10 years when she wrote it, I was zapped but read it in a month (which was a record for me!). The idea of Dragon Boycame to my head, one night, when I was driving down Dubai with a friend. He loved my idea. And slowly the whole plot formed in my head. I had to flush these thoughts somewhere. So that’s how I wrote the book which is now turning out to be a series.”
“Ahmed has written two of them. “I still plan to go for three or more. Inshallah. It all depends on the story. I would never want to make it boring and extend it for no reason. When I find the right time to end it, it will end,” says the author whose favourite characters are the Sister Witches of Galza. “I love the way they think and act. They’re so bad that their reputation precedes them. And when you get to know them in the story, they’re the villains you love to hate but with respect,” he says.
Ahmed’s children had a big role in creating the story in its present form. “They gave their opinions in some of the ideas I had doubts with and it turned out to be amazing. Children are the best ones to understand and comprehend the wildest of imaginations. The further you go with your mind, the more they will appreciate it and everything is for them a new adventure and a fresh experience,” says the author who was a senator on the Sharjah Council, which deals with public policy as well as economic and social issues .
Currently he is the founder of a mobile game development company and is also deeply involved in projects to end childhood hunger worldwide.
“Children are our future. As per the statistics, a child is dying every six seconds. I ask myself, what have we done to save these innocent souls? What have we done to make sure that kids have a roof on their heads? Do they have food, water and proper medical treatments? We can’t stand seeing our own children feel pain just from a needle sting, then what about those children who actually end up dying? Orphans who haven’t felt loved, a feeling that we all long for, but if we can just be there for them, it would make them feel better.
Since I am writing for children, I want to set up a fund to help them. I believe that we have not been sent to this world to live, work and be there for our loved ones cause just that is being selfish, but real love is when you take care of someone you don’t even know and doesn’t owe you anything,” feels Ahmed who hopes to see his book being made into a film some day.
Dragon Boy is a classic tale of a boy who is part human, part dragon. He has been entrusted to an old man who was trapped in a forest and could only find the way out by making a bargain with the Witches of Galza who have put a spell on the forest. Encountering dragons, monsters, fairies and witches, it’s a world full of suspense and enchantment that keeps the reader on the edge.
Although Dragon Boy grows up in the human village and discovers its secrets and what lies beneath, he confronts Evil and wants to help Good. Not being able to accept himself for what he really is, he must hunt for his origins, and enter the world of an enchanted forest, wizards, witches, fairies, dragons and demon centaurs.