Books: The Unexpected Author – Hindustan Times
“This book was conceived as a movie and written scene by scene many years ago when I was finishing my graduate studies in Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood!” says Amrish Kumar, 44, Kolkata-born, Delhi-based son of senior designer Ritu Kumar, about his debut novelGods of Willow: A Coming of Age Innings.
“At that time I really wanted to be in the world of film and entertainment. But I did a business degree and I was headed in a direction that I wasn’t sure I would end up in. So I just wanted write a coming of age story, something that would be kind of where I was from where and kind of the kind of stories I like to tell. I don’t know how the ideas came about, but I I scribbled them in a notebook that stuck with me for the next 15 years. I still have it,” recalls Amrish, who runs Ritu Kumar’s business.
“And then when Covid came, work stopped and we were all in lockdown, I sat down one day and was like, ‘let me try to write this like a book. Then I sent a few pages to an editor at a publishing house and she encouraged me to write more and more. Before I knew it, it was already a hundred pages… and then I had to finish it, but I had to redo the ending several times because I had only really imagined the beginning,” he explains.
The book took a little over a year and is set in Hyderabad, a city Amrish doesn’t know at all.
“I’ve only visited the city once or twice, but I used it as a backdrop because it seems like the right microcosm for this kind of story. So I researched and studied the history of the place. The setting of the book had to be an ancient place, a place with the fabric of a mixed structure of society, and Hyderabad is working for that! he explains.
Amrish chose cricket as one of the themes for his book because he wanted it to be lighthearted and meaningful at the same time. “When I say lighthearted, I mean a bit of wit and humor,” he adds in denial. “As a teenage cricket fanatic I went through that process of euphoria mixed with despair that a sports fan goes through on a regular basis and it was so woven into our communities and our cultures that it became a interesting device to use. Sounds scientific but, at first, I didn’t know what I was doing.
In the book, the protagonist believes his fortune is tied to that of the Indian cricket team. When they win, so does he, and when they lose, so does he.
“For him, the divine is built around cricket. And cricket also has a build in Indian life, in which spirituality plays out,” says Amrish. “The willow is essentially the tree from which cricket bats are made.”
Charm of the old
Another quality that makes this book charming is the era it recreates. “That, I think, is important. Anyone born in the 1990s will go back to a time when children went through a very big shift between how their parents grew up and how they grew up. There’s another generational shift that is happening now, in which we will be left behind. So the story was always meant to be a tribute to nostalgia,” Amrish recalls.
He never thought of himself as an author and is still amazed that he managed to write a book. “I’ve always been creative. I had a record company and I wanted to make films. But I never thought I could write. But I read a lot, so I guess that helps,” he says.
But the cinema remains his first love and if he could do willow gods in a movie, he would be the happiest person on the planet.
From HT Brunch, September 10, 2022
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