Sunday, May 28, 2017

First Copy of This Way Is Easier, Dad - The Story Behind

One of the finest feelings I have experienced is holding the first copy of every single book I have written so far. So with "This Way is Easier, Dad". This time of course I feel it is much more collaborative - the content being provided by Anjali, illustrations by Chacha, encouragement by friends and associates like Krishna Shastri Devulapalli and Chitra Viraraghavan and innumerable hours of active work that is priceless by Vidyasagar Rachakonda a genuine altruist and clear soul.
Anjali and Me (The working title of this book)
It was a couple of years ago while I was wondering about my next project that Krishna and Chitra told me in no uncertain terms that I must get the Anjali blogs together. I was not sure but they were absolutely clear about it. Krishna actually put me on to a couple of editors he knew but they slowly faded into more important businesses of theirs after a couple of mails. But it was in one conversation with Sagar that he told me - picking the Anjali project without hesitation over two other contenders - and saying 'this one is a winner sir'. I had my doubts but Sagar was absolutely clear. He thought of how the book should look, helped me with the proposal, the proof of concept, drew some fine illustrations with a software, and then we sent off the proposal. I was circumspect still. (One editor friend shot back her reply - so what's the big deal about writing blogs about your own daughter?)

For the record - the proposal was liked by the Chief Editor at Jaico Sandhya Iyer, who I feel has an eye to see through a rough idea and she said 'It's a charming book'. I remember her reaction to 50 Not Out too was similar. I have the highest regard for her and also am very fond of her and her ways - the way she convinces me of why something is important etc. This preliminary acceptance happened in April 2015. Then I sent the entire manuscript in a month or so and it went to an editorial committee for comments and suggestions. That took a couple of months and finally we had something on our platter.
Illustrator Chacha Surendra
Sandhya assigned Mugdha to the book and we started work on it. There were over 130 blogs at that time and I had to reduce them to 100. That by itself was a challenge. Every day's delay meant that the content was getting added. Mugdha was patient and meticulous. I am certain I am not easy to deal with but she did.

The content was something I could tweak, but the bigger problem was the illustrations. Sagar tried first as he did with the Proof of concept, with a software that drew an outline of a photograph. We made about 20 of those (sitting together hour by hour) and then Jaico was not too convinced that the minimalistic, line drawings were what they needed. The search for illustrators continued - Aditya Jella tried his hand at one way of getting computerised line drawings. The roads finally led to Chacha Surendra who is an incredibly talented artist and who did some work for 50 Not Out (the umpire icons for No Ball, Bonus Runs etc). Chacha agreed to do the project for us - 100 illustrations. We had 30 pictures of actual incidents but we needed concepts for the other 70.
Sagar, who lent a lot of time and creative support to the book
Again I sat with Sagar, every other day I would land up at his house after dropping Anjali at school, and over a delicious cup of coffee, we would discuss each concept and pick a placeholder picture off the net. This was improvised and the idea written down in my notebook. Then I would take the idea, the picture and the concept to Chacha who would start work on the same. It was two months of intense work. Then we had to send the pics to Jaico for approval. They came out really well.

At the same time we were also working on a deadline of going to print in October. I worked through that period trying to get the concept across as clearly as I could, avoid repetitions as much as I could, try to say it without being preachy or preening over it. The idea of adding the adult perspective for a contrast came in and we added that - it was difficult to write that - because the thought process is so twisted. The return gift was the self-help part that the editorial committee was keen on having and though I resisted it initially, I now see its relevance.
Me and Keerti, editor par excellence
At every stage I was consulting with my friend and editor Keerti Ramachandra on almost everything and she always humours me and gives me her opinion and suggestion. Many friends have seen, edited and helped me in many ways as I wrote, edited.

The October 2016 deadline got blown with demonetisation and I suspected that our schedule will get delayed. It did. It went to April and then May. So on May 28, when I walked into the Mumbai office of Jaico, I was least expecting to see a copy. But Sandhya came into the room with a copy of the book and well it was the familiar feeling of holding the book in your hand again.

I gifted the first copy (which I normally keep for myself) to Anjali. It's her book after all. The second copy I gifted to Miskil who wa one of the first readers to tell me that she absolutely loved it. The third copy, or the first in the set of my complementaries, is what I kept for myself.


Jayasrinivasa Rao said...

Congratulations, Hari ... the narrative on how the book came about is fascinating ... Congratulations also to Anjali for being the heart of the book ...

Harimohan said...

Thanks Jay. Will pass on your wishes to Anjali. :)

Unknown said...

Congratulations Harimohan Garu.

Harimohan said...

Thanks Lalitha.