Till We Meet Again is a kaleidoscope, that delves into the depths of colourful lives, dissecting inner thoughts and bringing out the true hues of a middle-class Kolkata neighbourhood. As you read the book and get lost into islands of stories, each of which can make a book by itself, one wonders how many of them could be your own! Author Shibaji Bose is undoubtedly a good observer. Just like director Satyajit Ray never stopped from exposing the minutest of details through superb cinematography and research through his movies, Bose has penned down daily experiences that any Calcuttan faces in modern times through weaving words.
What is your inspiration behind writing your book ‘Till We Meet Again’
I was born and brought up across quaint little places in Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha. Getting to read books was a luxury as we used to receive the late edition of the newspaper, a day after it was published. My first brush with reading were the comics and Hindi monthly magazine like Parag etc.
When I moved to the cities, I realised that I had to earn my stripes to be even considered in a discussion around books. The penny dropped!
I remember asking my relatives to gift me story books for my birthday. They obliged and I was introduced to the magical world of Bengali literature. I am a voracious reader. I started reading the works of Sanjib Chattopadhyay, Syed Mustafa Siraj, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Dibyendu Palit, Shankar and Satyajit Ray. One of my closest friends introduced me to the world of Sidney Sheldon, Robin Cook, Robert Ludlum, Eric Segal, Jeffrey Archer, Agatha Cristae among others. Thus, began my love affair with reading and it continues unabated.
It was then, I secretly wished, I will write my own book.
The very specific event, which spurred my fancy to take up writing my maiden work of fiction. I used to visit this unisex salon. I was a regular client and has become quite friendly with the owner and the stylist. I used to visit them during the afternoons when the salon was relatively less frequented. It was during those hours, which coincided during their lunch break, I was regaled with the stories around their lives. I took up the paper and pen.
What is so unique about this book?
The book is titled, ‘Till we meet again’. It is the story of a young man, who is considered to be a mediocre. How would you react if I were to tell you that a young man is considering hair styling, when he is required to decide his career? The protagonist Aryan chooses to become one and makes it big!
Set against the back drop of a sleepy neighbourhood in Kolkata, this is the story of a middle-class family and their compulsions, struggles and accomplishments. The family consists of the father who is a failed careerist himself and is misunderstood both as a husband and a father. The mother plays the second fiddle but is resilient to fight battles with the hope of winning the war! The daughter transforms from being an ordinary girl to become an investigative journalist who exposes the infamous chit fund scam. The younger brother is considered to be worldly wise but lands himself in the prison for his infidelity.
The story has layers and sub plots that circle around the political scenario between 2012 and the present times and the journey of Aryan from getting chastised as an average to becoming a successful stylist with one of the most luxurious beauty and wellness chain. A shopping mall plays a dominant fixture in the story along with the beauty and wellness clinic. It adds to the build-up of the situations and provides a seamless transition from one state of being for Aryan to a heightened state of engagement for the readers with the unfurling of fast-paced events.
The story explores Aryan’s relationship with many interesting characters in the salon which includes his co-workers and the clients. There are many implicit moments captured in the events and instances, which I think will help the readers to draw a parallel with their own lives and times and thereby keep them engaged with the narrative. The writing takes the inter-personal equations that widely prevalent today, by taking into account of the basic tenets of human relationships like despair, greed, jealousy, pride, adultery, honour and success. The book celebrates the transformation of an ordinary young man from being chastised as an average to become someone outstanding in his calling.
Tell us a bit more about your book writing journey? From draft to production!
For a debutante, writing a book is merely 20% of the entire process. The next 30% is to find a publisher. The balance 50% is all about promoting the book. I had sent the manuscript to ten publishing houses. A couple of them offered self-publishing as an option while only two of them asked for the complete manuscript, till Srishti Publishers chose to show it the light of the day. I was literally numb, realizing that it is not only about finishing the manuscript; there was so much more than what meets the eyes. I did not have the immediate luxury to feel anything.
Once I was through with writing, I invested a lot of my time in researching the blogs, websites, journals and books to learn – next is what? So, there was the cover letter, the chapter planning, synopsis, marketing plan and designing the hook to get the editor’s attention that required to be organised. This is besides and beyond the revisions, re-drafting, grammar checks etc. An incredible learning process where you discover the fascinating world around books and publishing.
But yes, once I got into my own space soon after the final editing and the proofreading got over, I have been dreaming a lot. I am dreaming of my book getting read by a vast number of readers, pouring their reviews and making it to the list of a bestseller!
What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
The books written in regional languages are rich treasures, but rarely do they get the respect and attention that it truly deserves. One such book is ‘Chowringhee’ in Bengali, written by Sri Mani Sankar Mukherjee (Sankar). It has been translated in English. I think it is an outstanding book and it should be read by many more people to appreciate the finer details of storytelling.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I will choose our Golden retriever, Dushtu. He is a gift. He has changed our lives.
What does literary success look like to you?
Success is a relative term; it is difficult for me to exactly define it. But if we are to discuss what will make me happy as a writer, I think, it will be about the book being read by readers from a wide spectrum. If my book is found relatable, if it leaves a lasting impression, if the readers ask for more from the characters and when I can truly call myself a full-time writer. This is how I will want to look at literary success.
How many hours a day do you write?
When I begun writing, the first thing that I did was to plan the chapters. At the beginning it was a challenge as I was struggling to get the flow. There were too many self-imposed criteria, which were working at the back of my mind. Once I was through with the prologue and the cleared the hurdle of completing the first chapter, things became comfortable. On an average, I wrote for 2-3 hours at a stretch and when the words started pouring, I went onto writing for 5-6 hours.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I have experienced interruptions while writing. I am not sure, if it qualifies to be termed as a writer’s block. There have been instances when I did not write for days. I think, I was searching for building relatable contexts to the narrative. And on certain periods, I was occupied with other priorities at hand.
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