SOME DREAMS DO COME TRUE
Even after being released across the nation, my book, ‘Baker’s Dozen – a brew of 13 short stories’ never made it at Crossword Vadodara. Over a decade ago, I used to work at Crossword Barista (It’s now been replaced by CCD). There was this rack of Indian Fiction section which I used to stare at, imagining my book on it someday, but that never happened, until few days ago. I walked into the Crossword Vadodara store and was pleasantly surprised to find my book, right at the very spot I used to visualize it. Enthralled at this unexpected sight, I looked around, wishing to approach each person in the store and announce, “Hey, that’s my book, why don’t you check it out? It’s no bestseller, but can be a quite interesting to read.” Well, I resisted the temptation and reserved it for Social Networking sites, where I am pestering readers like you with daily posts on this feat.
The journey of Baker’s Dozen finds its roots in 2002 when I used to work at Barista, Vadodara. There was a book launch organized at Crossword. I don’t recall the author’s name but he was a middle-aged bearded author-like man who was being interviewed at Crossword Barista (He ordered Decaff Cappuccino with Tiramisu). Just the sight of an author being interviewed made me resolve to become an author someday and be interviewed this way.
I have been writing poems and short stories since the age of ten but never thought of getting them published. I was quite content with the fame that ‘Wee Wonder’ feature in Indian Express earned me (I still cherish my reviews being published in Filmfare magazine and prizes from CNN IBN). But this single incident changed everything and infused enough courage in me to dream of becoming an author.
Later, I was shifted to the Race Course Barista and I vividly remember it was a rush hour where everyone was asking for a cappuccino – the newfound nectar that the Vadodarians stumbled upon and were hopelessly addicted to, gleefully asking for a Caapuchino. There was a picture of a middle-aged man on the wall of Barista and while making the ‘Caapuchinos’, a few verses started haunting my mind. I just couldn’t resist the temptation of scribbling them on endless paper napkins and stashing them inside my pocket while operating the espresso machine.
The next day, I compiled all those verses into a poem called, ‘A sip of life’ and showed it to the Store Manager of Barista. He liked it so much that he got it framed and gave it the pride of place right next to the picture it was inspired from, with a byline ‘Prakash Gowda’. A journalist happened to read it and she offered me to write an article for their upcoming feature on Uttarayan. I was taken aback by the offer and said that I wrote poems and short stories as hobby and writing articles wasn’t my cup of tea or rather coffee. Nevertheless, I gave it a shot and this eventually opened up new avenues of foraying into professional writing.
It was this time when I started compiling my short stories, with the first ones being ‘Vande Matram’ and ‘Anonymous’, which I had written for a short story competition but could never muster up the courage to post the entry as I thought the stories weren’t ‘ripe’ yet.
In fact, Baker’s Dozen was never meant to be my first book. The first book I had written was ‘In search of God’, a fiction on religions. I had to do an extensive research to write it, which meant reading Bhagwad Gita, Bible and Qur’an. The book was supposed to be published by a Kolkata-based publication house but they suggested changing the end and tone down the violence in it – something I out rightly refused and dropped the idea of ever publishing it. I am still not sure whether I want to publish it or not (it’s not ripe yet).
The book had a character called Noorie Saiyeda. With each page, her character became so powerful that she overshadowed the protagonist of ‘In search of God’. As a last resort, I had to remove her from the book and give a separate identity in the short story, ‘The Veil’, which was eventually published in Baker’s Dozen.
‘I love you* conditions apply’ was loosely based on my experiences of dating girls during my ‘Barista days’. I am not sure if it’s still true these days, but when Barista was launched, girls used to find Barista guys cool, and guys like me weren’t complaining either.
After joining advertising agency as a Copywriter, I penned more short stories like, ‘Three desires, one destiny’ which was based on actual incidents I read about in vernacular newspapers.
‘The End’ was a story I wanted to write as a film script and even made a promo film for it, naively seeking producers and financers to back it. (Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDsFTjjhtvA)
The next to follow was ‘Neer’. This story is based on a dream that my sister had about a girl surviving without consuming a single drop of water. The dream evoked many a questions on my mind like- what if she is about to die? Will the doctors be able to inject medicines/glucose inside her? How will the society react? These questions eventually transformed into ‘Neer’ – one of my most ambitious stories that I wish to adapt as a film someday.
‘Big B & Me’ was a story I wanted to share with the actual Big B, Amitabh Bachchan, as an ardent fan. It was based on the Coolie accident and I wondered, ‘What if a person shares the same destiny with the superstar? Will he survive? Will people pray for him like they did for Amitabh Bachchan?’ This thought led to the story, ‘Big B & Me’.
While working with a leading advertising agency, I had an opportunity to travel across UP, including Delhi, Barabanki (native place of Naseeruddin Shah) and Allahabad (native place of Amitabh Bachchan). It was during this trip that I met a union leader. I was in awe of his demeanor, the dash of confidence while speaking, the way he smoke his bidi and read newspaper, on his haunches. This was when ‘Lallan Leader’ was born and I started scribbling the short story in my diary, the moment I reached the guest house.
‘The Altruist’ is the story of a smuggler who hires a journalist to become a ghostwriter and pen down his biography so that people would come to know how he has benefited the society. This was again a film script, which I dreamed of making someday and eventually found pride of place in the book.
‘Punching Bags’ was a story I wrote in the middle of the night after watching the movie, ‘The Fight Club’. The film had such great impact on me that I wanted to write my version of it, the accusation of plagiarism notwithstanding. Hence the dialogue in the story mentions the film, ‘The Fight Club’ and I ensured that I create my own story and let the film be a mere inspiration and not a copy.
‘Sickle & Sprouts’ was the result of working on Corporate Sustainability Report, as well as an article in the Times of India about the need of being self-reliant in an agrarian nation like ours.
Honestly, all these stories were never written as what they are, but in single lines, scribbled somewhere in my diary in illegible handwriting. I am this lazy writer who seldom fleshes out any of my stories and jot down the basic plot-line. It was only when I decided of sending five short story samples to Penguin that I actually started writing them.
A friend of mine, Mr. Achal Rangaswamy happened to read them and offered me to send it across to a ‘small’ publishing house that he knows. I agreed and he later revealed that this ‘small’ publishing house is owned by his wife, Mrs. Sapna Rangaswamy. They liked the concept and asked me to finish all the stories in 2-3 months. It was a 12-story collection back then and I thought it would be erroneous to compile 12 stories in an anthology called Baker’s Dozen, hence we decided to add one more story to make it 13.
This last story eventually became the opening story, which was written only to complete the 13 stories. Hence I chose to call it ‘The Devil’s Share’. It was inspired while watching the DVD of Satyajit Ray’s film, Kachenjunga. In fact, the story isn’t remotely connected with the film except the location.
SPREADING THE WORD
I barely knew Rani Dharker. The only interaction I ever had with her was during a Kids Fashion Show where she was a Chief Guest and I had been asked to pick her up. I was driving after a long time and drove in the most reckless manner and ended up putting her off with my driving skills. After writing Baker’s Dozen, I approached Rani Dharker via Facebook messenger, by sending a request that I would like her to write a foreword for the soon-to-be-launched book and even reminded her of the ‘driving incident’. She clearly declined – something I expected.
Few days later, she asked me to send a concept note if she liked it, she’ll go ahead but she warned me of not expecting a ‘yes’. I sent her a synopsis of my book. She later asked for a story. I did so. Later she asked for few more stories, which I promptly emailed, and she ended up reading all the stories and liked them so much that she agreed to promote it and become the Chief Guest during the launch event.
To begin with, I would like to thank Rani Dharker for being a constant support, be it for the book launch event or the short play version of the stories. Thanks to Uttara Jagannath, Devika Jagannath, and Krishnamurthi Kumar for narrating the stories. Thanks Jay Merchant, Jyoti Arora (Splatter Studio) and Paritosh Goswami for organizing the promotional event where we staged the short stories.
Interestingly, I was asked to pick her up for the event, hence coming full circle in life. I am really grateful to Rani Ma’am for everything she has done for me and shall always be indebted to her.
The Narmad Library at Surat invited me to speak on Baker’s Dozen, which was quite a memorable experience, thanks to Niket Shastri for organizing it. Last but surely not the least, thanks to Achal Rangaswamy and Sapna Rangaswamy to publish my work through Maitreya Publication, and Ravikiran Rangaswamy for those wonderful photographs on the cover.
Press coverage by The Times of India of the book launch event on 25th May’12 at Landmark Vadodara:
“Prakash Gowda’s fertile imagination produces stories that engross and startle.”
– Rani Dharker, Author, Theatre Person, Academician
“Your Baker’s Dozen is extremely brilliant. Continue your career as a writer passionately. May God bless you dear.”
– Irrfan Khan, Actor
“The only predictable thing about Prakash Gowda’s stories is that they are unpredictable. Three Desires, One Destiny gave me nightmares. Big B & Me brought tears, ‘The Veil’ shocked me. Each story was different and remarkable.”
– Uttara Jagannath
“Loved your book. Started reading it last night and finished today. Loved ‘Three Desires, One Destiny’, and ‘The End’. But I connected most with ‘I love you* Conditions apply’. Hoping to read another book by you soon.”
– Khyati Gulati
“Loved reading your book. So when are you writing the next? You give your readers reasons to wait for the next.”
– Lubhita Shekhawat
“Haven’t read it yet, but my dad happened to read Baker’s Dozen and he has sent a message for you that it’s a brilliantly written book!”
– Karishma Bhaya
“Finaly read ur whole buk…must say brilliant job..hats off! Actually i’ve bcum a fan of ur imagination n humour..You’ll soon get 2 more fans coz mom n dad both r readin it”
– Devika Jagannath
“The book was amazing…it grows as u read…i really liked the start (The devil’s share), cause it grips u to go on reading till the book is not done…overall wonderfully written… waiting for ur second book Prakash :)”
– Niriksha Nik
” I feel as if i watched 13 films for a price of a multiplex ticket”
– Paul Rozario
So, that was Baker’s Dozen for you. These 13 stories and their characters have been an integral part of me since a decade, but never gained an identity of their own. Thankfully, this book has breathed life into these characters. Lallan Leader, Noorie Saiyeda, Vishveshwar Sahay, Meera Sharma and Iqbaal tea vendor often come and meet me over a cup of coffee and hint at a sequel. Something’s brewing for sure. 3 stories are ready to serve, 10 more to brew. Cheers!
Promo film of Baker’s Dozen (Thanks Devashree Desai for making it possible):