Delayed flights or trains can be extremely annoying but corporate honcho R M Rajgopal the time spent waiting was utilised productively to hone his writing, a passion that resulted in a book after a decade.
I started writing on airports precisely to control irritation while waiting for the flights. I found it so negative that I started writing sitting there. Those were days when you were lucky to be on time, says Rajgopal who heads the HR of a corporate firm. Rajagopal’ s book The Empty Pedestal and other stories weaves together a handful of short stories that talk about fall of an idealistic labour leader, the aspirations thrust on an uncomprehending kindergarten student and others that transform everyday happenings into a commentary on the present times.
I used to work on the stories on some weekends. Since I used to travel a lot and had many evenings free, I found writing almost therapeutic. And there were the perennially late flights of the Indian airlines monopoly, says Rajgopal.
However, he says that he no more writes on planes or at airports since he restarted writing in 2012. And competition in the domestic skies has ensured more on time arrivals, the author quips. The debut book is a collection of 21 short stories that were written over a period of 12 years between 1987 and 1999.
All the stories are different from one another and narrate an inspirational tale set in different parts of India. He writes about the nostalgia of a musician for whom contemporary music ended in early sixties. Similarly all the stories have different tone and represent various emotions of the people. The author says that he is inspired by writers like Graham Greene, Somerset Maugham, John Fowles and Paul Scott.
Like these four, my story telling is straight and uncomplicated, says Rajgopal. Some of the stories in the book, including the title story are written in first person; however, the author says that those stories should not be taken as autobiographical pieces. It is not a sign of the story being autobiographical. It is because when I write, the first person helps me to get deeper into the protagonist’s mind and think as if I was him, says Rajgopal.
The author says he will soon come up with a book that will have autobiographical elements. The book will be ready for publication by end October 2014. It is written in the first person and is autobiographical in nature without quite being an autobiography. It tells the story of me, the quintessential India Company man, and my life through the sixties, seventies, eighty and nineties.
This story telling gives the reader a firsthand glimpse of what the world was like in those times. It is tentatively titled Retro, says Rajgopal. Some of the stories in the book, The Empty Pedestal and other stories, are dated and the setting may not be relatable in the current time. Since a few stories were written before 2000, that time period gap is noticeable. The stories are dated because they may be incidents within the narrative that are dated. However the themes are for eternity, says the author.
The author says that he did not wish to replace the dated stories with any new stories because of the kind of topic that the stories deal in, can be associated with even today. Each of the stories is a small work of art. The context may change. The human beings remain human beings. The stories therefore have an element of eternity about them, he says. Rajgopal says that a passion for literature and writing was inculcated in him from his childhood.
My house was always brimming with books. My father often spoke of various aspects of English and English literature. I grew up in Kerala where it can rain for days on end. So there was time to curl up with a book. I was always a debater which meant written preparation for eloquent speaking. The urge to write came on strong from 1986 onwards – the year my father passed away, says the author.
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