It has been a fairly long hiatus. Many of you well-wishers have expressed frustration and even scolded me for not releasing the book despite having talked about it for more than one and half years now. So an update is obviously long due. More importantly I excitedly share with you the deviation in the writing journey, and desperately seek your help and encouragement to make a difference.
As I finished writing the book, a few things dawned on me that I will quickly summarize.
- Thanks to my previous job in HCL I had a team to manage in Bangalore. Thanks to the remote location of Bengaluru airport and the garden city’s wretched traffic patterns, I began to travel by Shatabdi Express. I have always loved train journeys. For a change, I began to utilise the time by working on my book. So much so that to say thanks to Indian Railways the work is now called, The Book, A Train of Thoughts. The Train signifies train journeys and of course the journey of life.
- This work is also not a collection, but a ‘connection’ of short stories. As I shared the first draft with my editors (my dear friend Sunil and my dear SIL, Archana) I was amazed that the 10 odd feedback points from them had a one to one correspondence. But there were lots of positives. I undertook another longish train journeys and finished the final edits. Yes, the book is now complete! Phew!
- But how could this work make a difference to somebody out there? That was a question that kept nagging me and when I got the answer, it was still casual and that it could be a life changing experience hadn’t sunk in yet.
As this is my first book, I decided to not make a penny out of this and to dedicate all profits to painters with disadvantages. It took a while to identify such painters. Some meetings with NGOs led nowhere but I have now tied up with the Spastic Society of Tamil Nadu. There are talks with a few NGOs and we should be closing the search later this week if all goes well. Worst case I will only stick to the 4 painters from this organization. The idea is that at the start of each of the 8 chapters, a painting / sketch by a disadvantaged painter shall adorn the book. It is these painters whose works will gain publicity and funds will be used for their needs – survival, medicines, food, shelter etc. Proud to share an experience below!
I met this 21 year old painter, Kavitha who is disabled. She cannot use her hands and it’s difficult for her to use her legs as well. She can understand Tamil but cannot talk coherently. But she has a smile that is divine and oblivious to what we might call unfair to her. Her house is very close to the Cooum, where the entire waste of Chennai gets dumped. So you can imagine how bad the living conditions must. She lives in a north Madras slum and her mother is a maid while her father does odd jobs to fund his passion for drinking. Eager to show how she could paint with her foot her mother mixed water colours and placed the painting brush between her right foot’s toes. In about 15 minutes, I saw magic unfold as the sheet was filled by the moon, its reflection, a few trees and an orange background. Some birds were returning home and it was then that I realized that I have an opportunity to make a difference. I am only human and was moved to tears when I saw her with her proud mother who carries a picture of Kavitha getting an award from Dr. APJ Kalam. That was 5 years ago and she was a rightful winner for being creative. However, today is different. Can we buy her paintings and decorate our houses, our work places or coffee mugs? Maybe …
Then I met a few other kids from the Spastics School and shortlisted 3 of them. One is autistic and the other 2 have LDs. They are not socio-economically challenged but the funds will go a long way to set up a dedicated center to encourage painting in the Spastic Society of Tamil Nadu. There are 3 more kids that will be finalized and these are from the lowest socio-economic strata. Amazing that while people like me are blessed to have studied at good schools and colleges and still cannot draw even if you point a gun at me, there are these amazing talents that exist in the most unlikely places very close to where you and I live.
While my book is intended to be a time pass entertainer, I am very happy that along with fun and the rare possibility of reading a book that covers topics across campus life, politics, cricket, ghosts, aliens and gyan, you can also make a difference.
I am looking to price the book at Rs. 300 and if you are in the US, would want to price at $15. So, you can contribute whatever amount you want and give the names of people with their addresses. I shall ship the books across as a gift from you to them. The network can multiply in that way.
Exact costs are being worked out and my team from NMIMS is exploring crowd-funding options. Many people have encouraged me but a few sceptics have also asked me the question, what next? My answer is that I don’t know. Just like we need to take a step out the door to start a journey across the world, this effort is a first step and I need your support, blessings and help. If your company can help through CSR, great, but whatever the route if we can make a difference to the painters whose details I will share shortly, I assure you it is worth it!
Have a great 2014!! I wish that in 2014 I shall have the honour of sending you several copies of The Book, A Train of Thoughts to you and your friends.
Mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions / suggestions.