Early 2016. An open-mic comedy night is in progress at Take 5, Bangalore . Aamer Peeran–possibly one of the wackiest comics around–is on stage, eating shit like it’s Thai food. Only a few days back he’d opened for Matt Davis and killed it, like a boss. Matt, sitting by the bar, smiles at Aamer’s predicament. As Aamer finishes his eating-shit-on-stage and walks away, despondent and broken, Matt stops him and says, ‘If you breathe it, you’ll make it. Relax!’
That’s golden advice. And coming from someone who has been on the scene for 20 years, you’d better write it down and chant those immortal words, every day. Just. Breathe. It. Don’t long for glory. Don’t fret over your not getting opportunities. Don’t lie to yourself that you’re good. You’re not. Or maybe you are, but you could be better.
I started writing when I was eight. Thanks to Sister Rajam, the assistant headmistress of Little Flower Convent, Chittoor. She threw me out of class because my shoes were slipshod. I loved it. I never fixed my shoes. I wanted to sit under the massive Gulmohar tree all day, along with other slipshodders. They sat around me as I regaled them with stories that I made up on the fly. The war of the ants. Secret Agent Munirathnam (who had a TV on his bike that showed the whereabouts of baddies.) Jimmy the flying dog. There were many tales.
I was too young and ignorant to have realised then that I had found my calling. I started ‘writing’ when I was 14. I wrote in longhand and filled up 192p unruled notebooks. I wrote two novellas. Zinda the terrorist who became a hero. Kill or Die, a spy thriller. My folks wanted me to become an engineer. I was stubborn. Maybe at that time, I didn’t know what I wanted. But, I knew what I didn’t want. So I signed up for B.com and continued writing without knowing why I was doing it and expecting nothing from it.
I also read lots. Madhu Babu’s wonderful detective, pulp fiction: the Shadow series. I hope he allows me to translate it to English from Telugu. Yendamuri. Yerramsetti Sai. Malladi Venkatakrishnamurthy. In Tamil, I read Rajesh Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Suba, Kalki, Balakumaran… I didn’t discriminate. I read everything that came my way. Desmond Bagley, Alistair Mclean, Chase, Wodehouse, Stephen King, Chandler… Those days they used old books to pack groceries. I remember standing in the kitchen watching my mother unpack dal, sugar, coffee powder, or rice and as soon as she was done I’d snatch the paper, run to the backyard, sit on the washing stone and read what that paper from an old book had in store. I was addicted to stories.
I started working as a Salesman in 1995. Three years later I ended up in a small ad agency. Writing was a distant memory and an impossible dream. So in 1998, in a fit of incomprehensible rage and despair, I wrote a book. My first book. It was mostly biographical. It was shit. I even sent it to Penguin. One of their editors was sweet enough to send me a rejection letter. I trudged on, sliding deeper into the quicksand that is corporate life but somehow miraculously steering clear of the dreaded EMI trap.
It took me until 2011 to take the plunge. I had started blogging in 2002 and I was atrocious. My writing was shit. It still is, I guess. It took nine years to convince myself that I can write. By then, I had developed a new addiction, something far more sinister than stories: the paycheck. The missus cracked the whip and said, ‘Enough of bullshit. Give it up. Come with me to Kolkata. Stay at home and write.’ Just like that, I stopped being miserable. I hadn’t known until then how miserable I was in fact. Imagine you lived all your life in the Bangalore airport smoking room. One fine day, you step out and you’re in Nandi Hills. How would you feel? That’s how I felt when I quit my day job.
It took me more than 30 years. To stand where I am today and tell you the bored reader that I finally managed to become a published novelist. See http://sumankumar.com/ranga
You can also follow Ranga on FB to stay in the know. https://www.facebook.com/rangahalfpants/
Or you could just buy it from Amazon: http://www.amazon.in/Ranga-Half-Pants-Suman-Kumar/dp/8184958250/
Don’t forget to rate the book on Amazon once you are done reading the book. I’d love to hear what you thought of the story.
Okay now that I am done pimping, here is the real point of this long post: I have started writing my second book (actually third, but let us not talk about it.) Nothing gives me more joy than spinning stories. Nothing. I don’t know how Ranga Half-Pants will do in the market. But it is done. Time to move on. By the time I turn 50, I am 42 now, I want ten books done. Tough target. I know. But I breathe it.