Booknomics

Publishing, Print on Demand, Self-publishing in India from Pothi.com Team

August 12, 2019
by Neelima
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Interview: Anil CS Rao

We spoke to Anil CS Rao, a graphic novelist in Hyderabad.

Anil CS Rao is a self-trained digital artist specializing in comics and graphic novels. He studied engineering at Pratt Institute in 1988 and did an MFA in writing and an MS in architecture recently.  His wife Padmaja who has been painting and drawing since her elementary school days is a self-taught artist. She did a brief course in painting at the Washington Studio School in DC. Most of her life was spent working as a lecturer at St Teresa’s College in Eluru, India.   He left Hydrabad in 1968 at the age of four and recently returned to reside again in Hyderabad, Telangana in 2017 under the OCI scheme with his wife and children after having worked for over fifteen years as an engineer.

Tell us about your latest work Manhattanville/Y2K.

Manhattanville/ Y2K - TeluguI had worked from 1990 to 1994 in the City of New York in the capacity of Electrical Designer and my focus was on primary low voltage systems such as telephone, fire alarm, etc.  My short story Manhattanville – the first in the anthology – was based on my observations of people working for the New York City Civil Service as well as a vague allusion to a bus depot I had been assigned to work on as a design engineer.  During its construction, I visited the real-life construction site and became friends with many people working in the construction inspection and project management team,  who were primarily of Indian origin members and mostly from the state of Gujarat in India. This is fiction – not to be construed as documenting real lives or scenarios – but of course, the characters, setting and plot were a composite of my imagination and many of the friends I had made during that project’s construction.

Likewise, Y2K is based on similar observations when I later worked as an Operations Engineer for the State of California around the time of the so-called ‘Y2K’ computer glitch.  The purely fictional scenario, characters and setting were once again a composite of my imagination and real-life stories of people I met while working for the State of California from 1999 to 2002.

BharathiYou’ve written prose novels but there are more graphic novels in your repertoire. Why is that?

I have an MFA in Fiction from the National University in San Diego (offered 100% online) in which I took all my advanced electives in fiction writing.  The only program in The States in Comic Book Creation (‘sequential art’) was at the time offered as a residency Masters at Cal Arts – and I would not have been able to physically relocate to California, given my family and other logistical reasons.  Hence my first work Bharathi: Her Theory of Everything was done for my MFA Thesis requirement despite my wish to submit a ‘graphic’ piece which would not be accepted in fulfilling the department’s Thesis requirement.

Describe the process of writing a graphic novel.

I use solely a relatively ‘canned’ character/environment 3D program called DAZ Studio for my CG generated artwork.  My wife then alters, modifies and/or ‘corrects’ my CG work in Adobe Photoshop.  For scripting, I initially used CELTX software – but now the program no longer supports the comic book format I currently just work from a template in MS Word.  Of course, things change when translating a written script into a graphic novel/comic book. One becomes in many ways a cinema director interpreting a script for celluloid in that unknown elements might impose changes (in my case a lack of 3D resources).

You collaborate with your wife Padmaja as well. Tell us about the experience of producing books and art with your better half.

My wife is a very proficient painter with excellent freehand skills. I learned my lessons from my past work which was released without her help. Now all my work is scrutinized by her prior to committing to print.

While creating your novels and art,  influences of the US and Hyderabad seep into your work. Why?

I was born in Hyderabad in 1964 at Neelofar Hospital – it may be the case I will breathe my final breath in that same hospital.  Hyderabad has been always in my heart, despite immigrating to the United States in 1969. I subsequently visited Hyderabad almost every summer holiday I was given by the American school system.  In 2016, I returned to Hyderabad with my family with really no plans of ever returning to The States.

Your books are also published in Telugu. What kind of challenges do you face while writing in multiple languages?

I first attempted a Telugu work way back 12 years ago.  I was trying to come up with a Telugu language script for Ingmar Bergman’s script for his film titled Winter Light.  I feel this would be the best example to cite because of both the parallels and cultural asymmetries I faced – in translating not only from one language to another – but in transposing the dialog and the culture in which its rooted from Sweden to India – specifically a village in Andhra Pradesh with a Lutheran pastor in a small church morphed into a Hindu Brahmin ‘pujari’ servicing a small Vaishnavite temple in Andhra.  I ran my pitch to noted Telugu poet A. Jayaprabha (co-author of a book of poems with PV Narasimha Rao – Unforeseen Affection) with whom I was an acquaintance in Hyderabad at the time. Her comment summarizes the dilemma I faced: “Telugu people just don’t talk in that manner”.  This was prior to my marriage to a Telugu-speaking Indian National and now, after having lived in India on and off for the past 14 years I have some inkling of the real Indian idiom with respect to dialog and behavior of Indian characters in contrast to their Western counterparts.  By the way, I am still working on this project 12 years later. I have not given up – only drastically changing the plot and other elements of Bergman’s original script so that I am not accused of intellectual or aesthetic theft.

Tell us more about this work in progress.

My current work-in-progress (to be released in Telugu and English) is Vizag Blue. If you google the term, you’ll find it refers to a very beautiful blue marble quarried in or around Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh.  It’s a metaphor for the protagonist of my work as seen at first by her Nurse attendant and the Doctor treating her: beautiful, hard, and cold.  The narrative was inspired by an Ingmar Bergman film from the 1960s titled Persona starring Liv Ulma, a woman (stage actress) who is admitted into a Swedish psychiatric hospital for not being able to verbally communicate, and her relation with her nurse attendant Sister Alma.  That is about where the commonality of characters and settings ends. My work takes a totally different trajectory plot-wise than Bergman’s original masterpiece.

Kalpana, a student of theater at the Andhra University in Vizag is engaged to a fellow student who subsequently breaks his engagement to return to Mumbai to his parent’s place to continue his studies there. Soon after his departure, Kalpana begins ‘hearing things’ and finds herself in an expensive mental hospital in Vizag. Instead of revealing her hallucinations to the medical staff, she maintains silence and refuses to speak. The doctor, Reena Rao, observes her for a month and is unable to find anything wrong with her symptom-wise and offers her vacant beach house outside Vizag were she could get out of the hospital setting along with a private duty nurse Usha. The house had been on the market for over a year and rather than pay someone to watch over it, Dr. Reena thought this arrangement would be mutually beneficial. Normally, Kalpana is kind and compassionate in nature. When the ‘voices’ rule her mind her thoughts turn nasty and negative. Her relationship with Usha goes beyond the superficial as Usha uses Kalpana’s silence as a backdrop to narrate her own failures in love and marriage. Usha narrates a story about her first sexual encounter with a boy in her village when she was 16. And upon accepting the boy’s advances, she becomes hesitant and the boy subsequently rapes her. She later becomes pregnant with his child and her mother attempts to force her to have a ‘home abortion’ rather than face family stigma. She also narrates short explanations of her husband Anil, who during his student days was a radical communist who ironically is of Brahmin parentage. The abortion is stopped and Usha and Anil marry to adopt the child as their own. After a while, smoking a hidden supply of marijuana and experiencing symptoms, she reacts to an expression of hurt by the nurse after reading a letter she wrote that was returned to the post office for lack of proper address. In the letter, she writes very negative opinions of Usha and the stories she shared with Kalpana. Kalpana runs out of the house on the beach as Usha pursues her. Usha trips and ceases her pursuit. In a shaded grove adjacent to the beach, Prem appears as a hallucination and they both take a ride on his scooter through Vizag. He informs Kalpana that he had broken his engagement in Mumbai and now wishes to be engaged once more to Kalpana. On the beach, they consummate their love – at least in Kalpana’s hallucination……

Your favorite graphic novel?

Daniel Clowes’ Ghost World.  Its convoluted plotline and dialog mesmerized me, and later more so the film adaptation starring Steve Buscemi.  Clowes graduated from Pratt Institute in 1984 just when I started my BE studies there (I graduated in 1988).

Your experience with self-publishing.

Pothi.com – the best in the business. No more comments required on this question.

Was a pleasure talking to you, Anil! All the best for your future projects!

August 7, 2019
by Neelima
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That’s the Word For it: Plangent

The etymology of the word plangent is fascinating. This word with mournful connotations takes its origin from the Latin plangere which translates as the lamentations of beating the breast. The word is used a great deal in describing music but can be used with a sigh to talk about calamitous political situations and emotional dramas.

Here are some literary instances of the word:

“Sarcasm and jokes were often the bottle in which clinical depressives sent out their most plangent screams for someone to care and help them.”
― David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

“To this waltz, born in a distant, snowbound country out of longing for just such a flower-scented summer night as this, Rupert and Anna dance. They were under no illusions. The glittering chandeliers, the gold mirrors with their draped acanthus leaves, the plangent violins might be the stuff of romance, but this was no romance. It was a moment in a lifeboat before it sank beneath the waves; a walk across the sunlit courtyard towards the firing squad. This waltz was all they had.”
― Eva Ibbotson, A Countess Below Stairs

July 31, 2019
by Neelima
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That’s the Word For it: Excuplate

Exculpate is a word that is trending right now. This word traces back to the Latin culpa where the meaning of blame is embedded. Some literary examples of this word…

“Indeed, isn’t the whole business of ascribing responsibility kind of a cop-out? We want to blame an individual so that everyone else is exculpated. Or we blame a historical process as a way of exonerating individuals. Or it’s all anarchic chaos, with the same consequence. It seems to me that there is—was—a chain of individual responsibilities, all of which were necessary, but not so long a chain that everybody can simply blame everyone else. But, of course, my desire to ascribe responsibility might be more a reflection of my own cast of mind than a fair analysis of what happened. That’s one of the central problems of history, isn’t it, sir? The question of subjective versus objective interpretation, the fact that we need to know the history of the historian in order to understand the version that is being put in front of us.”
― Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

 

“The notion that evil is non-rational is a more significant claim for Eagleton than at first appears, because he is (in this book [On Evil] as in others of his recent ‘late period’ prolific burst) anxious to rewrite theology: God (whom he elsewhere tells us is nonexistent, but this is no barrier to his being lots of other things for Eagleton too, among them Important) is not to be regarded as rational: with reference to the Book of Job Eagleton says, ‘To ask after God’s reasons for allowing evil, so [some theologians] claim, is to imagine him as some kind of rational or moral being, which is the last thing he is.’ This is priceless: with one bound God is free of responsibility for ‘natural evil’—childhood cancers, tsunamis that kill tens of thousands—and for moral evil also even though ‘he’ is CEO of the company that purposely manufactured its perpetrators; and ‘he’ is incidentally exculpated from blame for the hideous treatment meted out to Job.”
― A.C. Grayling

 

July 24, 2019
by Neelima
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That’s the Word for It: Normative

Normative is not the same as normal. According to sociologists,  unlike norm or normal, normative has a morally endorsed component to it and refers to.

This word is usually found in highly charged pieces. Check these out:

“Deviant’ is the weapon of the normative to discredit and demonize the Other.”
― Jamie Arpin-Ricci

“Beloved, to be white is to know that you have at your own hand, or by extension, through institutionalized means, the power to take black life with impunity. It’s the power of life and death that gives whiteness its force, its imperative. White life is worth more than black life. This is why the cry “Black Lives Matter” angers you so greatly, why it is utterly offensive and effortlessly revolutionary. It takes aim at white innocence and insists on uncovering the lie of its neutrality, its naturalness, its normalcy, its normativity. The most radical action a white person can take is to acknowledge this denied privilege, to say, “Yes, you’re right. In our institutional structures, and in deep psychological structures, our underlying assumption is that our lives are worth more than yours.” But that is a tough thing for most of you to do.”
― Michael Eric Dyson, Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America

 

July 19, 2019
by Neelima
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Interview: Dr. Dhuni Soren

We spoke to Dr. Dhuni Soren, author of History of Santals.

Dr. Dhuni Soren represents the interests of all adibasis of Jharkhand and neighboring states of India, particularly Santals in the World Adibasi Council at the United Nations working group on indigenous populations. He speaks for their rights on International Forums.

Tell us about what drove you to write a book about Santals? What was lacking in the existing literature about Santals?

All books written about Santals are by non-Santals mainly  Europeans and some non-Santal Indians. Authenticity and a true reflection of the real life of Santals as even modern Santal writers have not been born and brought up amongst them.

Tell us a bit about your experience living in a Santal village as a young person- something about oral traditions, food, and culture. 

Even after all these years, I can still remember playing with other children on dusty paths and in muddy fields catching fish. I can smell and hear the sounds of running water of the nearby rivers and brooks and smell the wildflowers of the nearby forests when we went hunting there.  I learned music and traditional dance with traditional musical instruments and attended local fairs and festivals with the villagers and learned our history by way of the oral traditions of the elders of the village and many others I still remember fondly.

Oral tradition was the only source of learning. I learned our customs, traditions, and culture, including our history, civilization and religion and migration stories, from the elders of the village. Schools and colleges were virtually nonexistent in our area. Food was simple and sourced from the local produce, mainly rice and maize with very occasional meat from homegrown poultry, pigs and goats. Everything about our culture is unique, including our language, dress, and homemade alcohol made from rice. The naming of the newborn and the customs of weddings and funerals are unique and different from what is seen in mainstream society.

Also, tell us about your experience in the UK. 

My experience in the UK has been extraordinary as I was perhaps the first Santal and certainly the first doctor to come to the UK and I made the most of it. First and foremost, I was impressed by the honesty of the people. Once I lost my wedding ring on a tube train in London and found it the next day when I went back to look for it. It had been left with the station master. But things are changing for the worse here as well as it is everywhere in the world, yet it is still better than other places. Healthcare is free for all from birth to death.

But I still have great love and affection for India and its people.

Image result for History of Santals pothiGive us a brief account of the history of Santals as mentioned in your book.

The history of Santals is still a great mystery and needs further research to identify and locate the places of their past glory like Chaichampa Garh. In my book, I have tried to put our history into perspective from my life experience and from my readings of different books in the hope that you learn the real history of Santals.

 

How do you go about researching and writing a book?  Any advice for writers of historical books?

I mainly write about Santals and Adivasi people and their progress and development and places of interest I have visited like  Egypt, Australia, New Zealand and other places. I do a lot of reading to collect information for the book and I have a lot of them already written down for publication. Once I have gathered the information, it does not take me long to write since I have plenty of time owing to my retirement. Writing historical books about something rare or unusual is difficult due to the lack of reference books. So choose the topics carefully. Good luck!

Writers who have inspired you?

I have not particularly been influenced by any except for maybe Dr. W.G Atcher I C S of British Raj days who has written many books about Santals like Tribal Law and Justice and Hills of Flutes.

Tell us about any new project you plan to work on.

I have a couple of documents ready for publication.

It was so nice talking to you Dr. Soren, thank you for the opportunity!

July 17, 2019
by Neelima
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That’s the Word for It: Eructation

This fancy version of the burp came into use in the fifteenth century. Eructation is a medical problem for some and mostly it’s an expression of a satisfied stomach.

The word has been used in books in interesting ways:

“Slang, too, is the wholesome fermentation or eructation of those processes eternally active in language, by which froth and specks are thrown up, mostly to pass away; though occasionally to settle and permanently crystallize.”
― Walt Whitman

“Here at any rate is Ignatius Reilly, without progenitor in any literature I know of—slob extraordinary, a mad Oliver Hardy, a fat Don Quixote, a perverse Thomas Aquinas rolled into one—who is in violent revolt against the entire modern age, lying in his flannel nightshirt, in a back bedroom on Constantinople Street in New Orleans, who between gigantic seizures of flatulence and eructations is filling dozens of Big Chief tablets with invective.”
― John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces

 

July 12, 2019
by Neelima
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Visual Friday: Writers of India – Girish Karnad

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July 10, 2019
by Neelima
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That’s the Word For it: Spelunker

A spelunker is a Latin sounding term for caver. According to Merriam Webster, the word came into adventure sport lingo because of the author and outdoorsman Clair Willard Perry.

The word seems to be used a great deal in literature:

“I have no special desire to go crawl around in caves, but I really like the word [spelunking] and want to use it in conversation. I do a lot of things just to use words I like.”
― Evan Mandery, First Contact-Or, It’s Later Than You Think

“I love vocab. It’s like spelunking in a cave you’ve been in your whole life and discovering a thousand new tunnels.”
― A.S. King, Please Ignore Vera Dietz