Tik-Tik, The Master of Time
2013, Red Turtle (India)
2013, KITAB (Pakistan)
Tik-Tik lives on the planet Nopter, where the slowness of growing up troubles him, so he embarks on a cosmic journey of discovery with his best friend, Nib-Nib; his grandpa Kip-Kip; and the inter-galactic traveling cat, Dum-Dum. The Growing-Up-Project takes the four of them to the small blue planet, Earth, where amazing, and sometimes hilarious adventures await them. But will Tik-Tik find there the solution to his problem?
Illustrated by Michelle Farooqi
Kitab (Pvt) Limited
Publication date: 2012
Jai Arjun Singh in The Hindu Literary Review
The narrator-hero of Musharraf Ali Farooqi’s new book for young readers is preoccupied with Time and wastes none of it in letting us know what the central peeve of his existence is. “There was one gigantic, colossal fault with our species which trumped all the advantages,” says Tik-Tik – a boy from the planet Nopter – on the opening page, “Our species was slow to grow up. Very slow.” In case you’re wondering, “growing up” isn’t code for a people collectively becoming wiser, or something else abstract or allegorical; it is literally about moving from childhood to adulthood. Hankering after the many freedoms available to adults, and impatient to become one of their rank, the single-minded Tik-Tik decides that “this state of affairs should not be allowed to continue unchallenged and uncured”.
In fact he continues to make such self-important proclamations throughout the book, for he is an endearingly deluded fellow. He gives himself heaps of credit along with many grand-sounding designations, but he constantly misreads situations and overestimates the worth of his own initiatives – which means much rescuework has to be done by other people, notably his unruffled friend Nib-Nib, with whom he shares a love-hate relationship (and whose cat Dum-Dum is a personal nemesis). This brings a bumbling charm to Tik-Tik’s narrative, which serves the book well, especially when he makes a proud announcement only to have the wind taken out of his sails a few sentences later. Or when he indulges in quasi-philosophical asides (“I realised that all planets have their Dum-Dums. One cannot escape them”) or over-dramatizes his problems: “With Dum-Dum prowling on the land mass, and the penguins underwater, this planet had now become for me the single most dangerous place in the whole cosmos [...] I hoped to find their military training camp, fitted out with rope ladders, horizontal beams and swings.” Even when he casts himself as an Evil Scientist driven to nefarious means for his survival, the effect is funny, not least because we know that little will come of his schemes.
This winsome book begins slowly, with a series of developments that culminate in Tik-Tik setting off on an inter-galactic journey in a space egg with his grandpa, but the pace lifts once they land on Earth and start figuring out “high science” methods to remedy the planet’s construction flaws. Hanging a giant comet from the “bottom” of Earth, for instance, would stabilise it and do away with the menace of changing seasons. A huge propeller fixed to the North Pole would be a nice way to speed up rotation and make time pass more quickly. And a polarity device is a neat method for keeping unwanted things and creatures as far away from you as possible (though this can, like anything else, backfire).
Sprinkled through the story are illustrations by Michelle Farooqi – the author’s wife – the best of which do a valuable job of enhancing the text and clarifying the things described. For example, it wasn’t until I saw the lovely drawing on page 61, a depiction of what Earth looks like after the propeller and the comet have been attached, that I felt I had a real sense of what Tik-Tik had been up to. The drawing is non-realist in that it shows Tik-Tik, his grandpa and five waddling penguins as abnormally large figures occupying a sizable part of the planet’s surface, both on the “top” and the “bottom” (the effect is similar to the famous images of Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince on his tiny asteroid) but it is an instant mood-establisher, affectionate and quaint while also making the familiar seem unfamiliar.
Tik-Tik, The Master of Time is a breezy, humorous adventure story – with some very rudimentary science for young readers – but it has a self-evidently serious side too. Tik-Tik’s impatience is a version of a paranoia many of us have experienced as children: suspecting that Adulthood is an exclusive, privileged club floating unreachably in the misty distance; wondering when (or if!) we will be admitted to this fellowship and what deep secrets we might learn when that happens. The irony is that for a grown-up reader, a book such as this one can both create and fulfil the opposite sort of yearning. And this may be why the climax, though a bit laboured in its spelling out of ideas, is so affecting – Tik-Tik’s sense of loss and disorientation when he finally gets his wish and then realises that there is no going back is easy to relate to. For those of us with limited access to space eggs and giant propellers, revisiting our favourite children’s books – and discovering new ones – is a good practical way of bridging time’s great divide.
- Mina Malik-Husain in The News
What do you do when you are a genius surrounded by dullards? When a cat just won’t stop stalking you? Or when you are thoroughly tired of being a kid? Tik-Tik can’t wait to grow up and, on his home planet of Nopter, it seems to take twice as long. His best friend and arch-rival, the annoyingly rational Nib-Nib doesn’t seem to mind, nor does her evil cat Dum-Dum, who takes an instant (and mutually shared) dislike to Tik-Tik.
The life of a Commander-in-Chief is never simple. So Tik-Tik seeks the help of the intrepid and unusual Grandpa Kip-Kip and, after a series of adventures, winds up on a baby Planet Earth, where he hopes he can speed things up and become a grown-up on the double.
Does Tik-Tik manage to become the Master of Time? Finding out is an adventure the reader must embark upon, and what a fun expedition it is indeed.
Children of Pakistan, rejoice! For the first time you can open a locally published book not about Julian and George as they eat potted meat sandwiches on a heath somewhere, reclining on a bed of bracken in the shade of their caravan. Instead, we give you — rather, Musharraf Ali Farooqi has given you — a tale of adventure and science wrapped up in a series of black and white drawings by Michelle Farooqi. Hooray, we say!
While Tik-Tik and Nopter are not exactly the same as a story set in a mohalla down the road from a bazaar, the sci-fi setting of Tik-Tik, Master of Time gives it the license to have been anywhere in the universe. The book is not over-populated with characters, which is ideal for the average six-year-old reading the book and helps keep the focus on the story instead of losing one in a web of forgetting that George is really a girl and Timmy is the dog, not the brother.
Most importantly, the characters are trying to be clever, but Farooqi is not. The pleasure of good children’s fiction lies in the author not talking down to a child, not over-simplifying words or plot and telling the story straight-up. Farooqi does just that, giving Tik-Tik a pompous know-it-all tone layered with Tik-Tik’s gradual realisations about the people that matter to him and, importantly, about himself.
Growing up is not just about passing time, or accumulating days and years. Growing up is about becoming wiser and more mature, and you needn’t be physically old to have that. Tik-Tik, the Master of Time tells us just that, without preaching or turning the book into a tedious moral example of what happens to naughty children who are too full of themselves and don’t listen to anyone. That is probably the biggest appeal “Tik-Tik” has for children of a certain age group — it can also be read as just an amusing story, full of interesting facts about how science works, helpfully illustrated by Michelle Farooqi’s wonderful, lucid drawings that capture a playful childishness without turning into cartoons.
Tik-Tik is the first of Musharraf Ali Farooqi’s several books for children to be made available widely in Pakistan. We do look forward to being able to get our hands on The Amazing Moustaches of Moochander the Iron Man and Other Stories, for example, four stories again set in and coming from familiar worlds. Children’s fiction is the way forward if we want to rejuvenate our children’s interest in reading. In a global world we can yet get away with our Enid Blytons and Roald Dahls — our delight in these old friends is immense; imagine reading the Faraway Tree series as a tale set in your own backyard! No bottom of the garden, but the huge pipal in the back lawn becoming the Faraway Tree and Sana and Ali clambering up its spreading branches to find adventures beyond their wildest imaginings! Tik-Tik and his exploits are entertaining a new crop of readers in a way unique to us, and it is a welcome change.