“Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.” — Albert Camus (French author, journalist and philosopher)
I have been sharing so many photos of Chennai, after writing three books on various aspects of the city – in poetry, short fiction and a whole novel. As I happened to live in Chennai when I started to write and then lived and wrote in Chennai for another twelve years. So it is only natural that Chennai would feature in my thought process as a literary fiction writer.
Please visit my Facebook author page Across Borders or click this link for my photos of Chennai since last Pongal: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10159374003064974&type=3
In the year 2015, when we still lived in Chennai, at the Kolkata book fair I attended a session on Indian Cities, in which Bishwanath was also in the panel, talking on Calcutta – the city he had just released his book on about six months or so before. In this panel, also was a known poet, danseuse and writer from Chennai who had just released her non fiction book on Chennai. There were authors talking on Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi too.
Now to the Chennai author’s resigned dismay and my utter shock, there were books of all the panelists on display and sale outside the venue but hers. So I voiced my disappointment, to which she spontaneously replied, “Books on Chennai are not stocked as they apparently don’t sell and even publishers are resistant to taking them on.”
By this time I had written the early chapters of my novel ‘Entwined Lives’ which had Chennai as it’s primary location in addition to Mumbai. So I was indeed very disappointed by a Chennai writer telling me this so blatantly. I thought about this issue for a while, and the possibility of just changing the location – as it was still a very early stage of the novel and the plot was anyway pertinent to any big Indian city.
But I promptly reminded myself exactly why I was writing a novel on Chennai – it was to do my little bit in giving back to the city that had made me a writer and accepted what I had to say. With several people including leading chronicler of Chennai Mr Muthiah giving me so much personal support for my debut book. And a local corporate house sponsoring my debut book’s launch at the Taj over a Madras Book club event, even though this book was about the two Bengals. The TOI covered this launch in Page 3 as “An evening to remember.” Then there were so many people in Cennnai, who supported me through my early stages as a writer, starting out with as a blogger.
I decided to go ahead, writing this novel on Chennai, with my sense of integrity spearheading my decision – also thereby becoming bolder in the challenge I had taken up, to write it in the backdrop of the print media industry.
Chennai is a city of intriguing contrasts. And married to a senior journalist and working as a senior executive search consultant with a reputed international head hunting firm, I weaved my years of experiences into this novel which is my 4th book. The book is available globally on all online book sales platforms in print and several digital formats.
It was like telling myself – publishers won’t take me on, newspapers who had very generously written about and covered my debut book and interviewed me, wouldn’t publically touch it with a barge pole. So I was in this all on my own!
But it’s been two years now since I released this book and I don’t regret my decision to stand up and set myself free from the bondage of close minded, judgmental attitudes. Also I just do not see the sense in having a market driven book – that sales and marketing departments find so easy to shove around to non thinking minds.
In my two decades of corporate experiences I have never come across such easy lives as attributed to those of the Indian publishing industry.
As instead of devising means and schemes to market and sell a good and meaningful book – it’s just easy to keep shoving what people want readily, like an FMCG product – then why have a marketing department at all!
People can just lead the market and buy books like 2 minute Maggi noodles – which may I remind those who are my age and thereabouts – was shoved into our palates in our school years – so much so that we developed a taste for it just like a child does to milk.
To add to this information on literature on Chennai not selling and in reiterating this view on easy selling driving a product(books) that ought to break mental barriers – I could not but help noticing – not a single copy of Bishwanath’s Tamarind City, an excellent book – though there were several copies of all his other books, at the book signing event last Saturday in a Calcutta store.
This is what true freedom means to me: Doing what my conscious and integrity goad me to do!
What better day to share this with you than on Republic Day, that too – as I’m writing this post sitting in Chennai.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to
choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
— Vicktor Emil Frankl (Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist)
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