The aftermath 

Sheila Kumar, August 25, 2013

I have to ask. Are you old enough to remember those films in which, just before the end credits rolled, there appeared a sentence outlined in lurid pink or blood red: ‘This is not The End, this is just The Beginning’…?

That sentence was so simplistic, viewers missed the enormous profundity it contained. Because it really is true. Most things begin only after the one who creates, finishes creating.Think about it. MF finished his Madhuri Dixit series, after much delay, due to the frequent trips he made to the cinema to view that soporifically boring film starring our gal; after which, the furore began. Kamal Haasan put the finishing touches of his epic Vishwaroopam, readied it for release, and the rest is current affairs,  fast becoming history.

Me, I’m talking about my book. My first book. A set of stories, which I hoped would be a good read. It was with a sort of quiet triumph that I arrived at page 237 and keyed in the last word. (No, there were no Rowling-like contests to guess the last line of this book). After all, I had conquered my natural-born indolence and put down a story. Then, I sent it off to a publisher.

We will draw a veil over what followed next. Readers are a gently brought-up lot and it will not be fair to expose them to angst and anguish this early in the story. Suffice it to say that publishers the world over (and this includes you, David Godwin) did not jump three feet high upon finishing the first chapter of my magnum opus. There was a spell of intense loneliness, feelings of victimisation, a sensation that I was the proverbial toad under the harrow, whatever a harrow might be. Then, one bright sunny day, the book found its publisher and the publisher found his book. Or at least, one of the many books he would publish that year. All was well.

And so, the book was published, with a most pleasing jacket pic. I beamed in Bangalore and presumably, the publisher beamed in New Delhi. There was a most pleasing book release function at a bookstore, there was a most pleasing crowd in attendance (without my resorting to bribery and corruption, thanks be), who, after nibbling on samosas and quaffing tea-gone-tepid, actually ambled over and bought a copy of the book. Bought many copies, in happy fact.

Well, the book has been ‘out’ for many months now and I am happy to report, should you be interested (You are not? Oh, sorry) that it seems to be doing quite well. But now that the dust has settled, I have to say I am a writer who got on the learning curve after the book was published.

I have learned that unless you are prepared to hawk your work, and hawk it hard and shamelessly, it could well fall by the wayside, its subtle merits hidden under a bushel. I have learned that there exists a slush pile for review copies, too. And like Franny in John Irving’s Hotel New Hampshire, I have learned that just as you preen after the fourth consecutive good review, you meet people who haven’t heard about your book. Or you, for that matter.

I have learned that if you send your book to writers whose work you admire, it could well be sending copies into a literary Black Hole. You never hear back. Or if you do, you hear the most mystifying things. Like, your book did fetch up but the Famous Writer was in between personal assistants. Like, another famous writer whose visiting friend had been much struck by the cover picture and had borrowed the book, and was yet to return it.

I ran into one of the writers I’d sent a copy of my book to, at a recent lit fest. He said the most charming things but there was no getting away from it: they were the most vaguely charming things. It could have been any book.

Well, it stands to reason that most successful writers are busy people. But what about friends, close-ish friends? A few of them seem to be waiting for the movie version to come out. The singular joy of possessing a signed copy of my book seems to leave them unaffected.

Still stranger was the phenomenon of people who told me they had started on the book, (‘reading Chapter Four now’) and then, slipped into a mystifying silence. What? They just couldn’t get past Chapter Four?

I wonder if I should schedule an appointment with the neighbourhood shrink to find out if I’m suffering from delusions of grandeur.

But I’m learning fast. When people ask me if I have started on my next book, I smile. Enigmatically. And the thought balloon comes up over my head: Guys, give me a chance to recover. From the aftermath.

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