A children’s picture book titled The Art of Tying a Pug has been withdrawn after its publisher Karadi Tales received abuses and was threatened with legal notices for a pun on the word “pug” – a breed of dog – to describe the turban, or pugdi, worn by Sikhs. The book was authored by Mumbai-based writer Natasha Sharma.
The book courted controversy after being released two weeks back by the Chennai-based publishing house. Many Sikhs called for its immediate withdrawal, The Hindu reported. Karadi Tales’ co-founder and publishing Director Shobha Viswanath told the newspaper that they were bombarded with calls, mails, abuse and threats in the last few days. “The author and her family are feeling frightened and harassed,” she added.
After seeking legal advice, both the author and Viswanath decided to withdraw the book. They received more than one legal notice in which the petitioners called the book blasphemous, insulting and hurtful.
“Over the last couple of days, we received messages from some Sikhs expressing concern over whether the humour was misinterpreted as denigrative of a key symbol of Sikhism,” Karadi Tales said in a statement. “Sikhism and all aspects of the same are an integral part of our proud Indian tradition and we would not wish to do anything that hurts the sentiments of the Sikhs. We were seriously reviewing these concerns.”
The book has been delisted from Amazon. A trailer created to market it has also been taken down.
Sharma, who is a practising Sikh herself, grew up in Punjab’s Amritsar city. She used to help her father tie his turban every morning. This led to the idea to write the book. She teamed up with award-winning illustrator Priya Kuriyan for two years, sending her videos of her father so that she would get the details right.
“The book was intended to familiarise children with the process of tying the pugdi,” said the publishing house, adding that it was praised by many people, including Sikhs.
The book’s protagonist was a boy who helps his father tie the turban, but his pet pug keeps coming in the way. The dog finally ends up with a sash tied around its head. In a note in the book, Sharma said she wanted to “introduce children from across the country to a different facet of culture”.
Vishwanath said the backlash was unexpected. “Everything is seen as an affront today,” she added. “One should understand the intent, which wasn’t to hurt. Even if inadvertently one misunderstands sentiments, people should discuss it without threats and abuse.”