Like Pearls on a String: stories of India’s first composite novel – Crossed & Knotted

  • Lakshana Palat, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 14, 2016 19:22 IST
Edited by Sutapa Basu, the book was recently declared India’s First Composite Novel by Limca Book of Records.

One is trapped in this incredible web of a novel, where each story has a conscious yet subtle connection to the next. No doubt, Crossed & Knotted has been declared India’s First Composite Novel by Limca Book of Records. Sure each of its 13 authors have a distinct style, but the stories fit together like pearls on a string — something that wasn’t easy, says the novel’s editor, Sutapa Basu.

“It was a challenge to keep the story rolling. We had long discussions with the authors to make sure they were in the loop, keep checking the consistency, and make sure the link between each story was visible to the readers. All in all, it was wonderful to see the web that was created, and it was a really satisfying project,” says Basu.

Sutapa Basu, editor of Crossed & Knotted

The novel opens with a boy, Sudip, who is entangled in a marriage of inconvenience. The plot becomes more complex in the next few stories where we see his daughter reading a mysterious diary, and the scene moves to a broken Afghanistan. The opening story and the last story meet after traversing a varying range of emotions, and conflicts.

So how did the idea of the novel come about? Dipankar Mukherjee, the CEO of Readomania (the publication), says he liked the idea of Chaucer’s Canterbury tales, and wished to try something similar in India. He and Sutapa came together to take the project forward. “We first conducted a contest online. After reading through many stories, we selected 13 talented authors. So the first story was written by Sutapa. The premise was set, and the authors carried it forward with a distinct link. However, we made sure that a theme wasn’t repeated,” says Mukherjee.

Some of the proud authors: (Left to Right) Sutapa Basu, Anupama Jain, Avanti Sopory, Arvind Passey and Mithun Mukherjee

The process of writing their respective stories was one full of anxiety and excitement for the contributing authors, too. Here’s what some of them have to say:

“I kept my fingers Crossed n had Knots in my stomach for I felt this was new set of lemons life had thrown at me!”
-Anupama Jain

“C&K taught me how to think out of the box while trying to remain connected to the preceding stories.”
-Arpita Banerjee

“Crossed and Knotted, for me, was a way of testing the waters and preparing for the future. I used this opportunity to closely interact with wonderful authors and try to gauge how others thought, plotted their stories, and developed their characters. The toughest thing was to learn how to let go of my creations and allow them to be used and interpreted in different ways by authors that came after me in. All for a better novel!”
- Ayan Pal

“I waited with a lot of anxiety and excitement at what the previous writer would come up with, and as each writer shared their narrative, I thought up a story line involving the characters that s/he had created. The truth is that the main character in the story stayed with me through out and I just had to write about him and his fortunes.”
-Bhuvaneshwari Shivkumar Shankar

“Writing a story for Crossed and Knotted was like running a relay race, where each of the writers had to take the baton from the previous writer, and continue running. It was an amazing concept, and all we had to careful about was picking a link and adding our own twist to it. My ‘Dragon Lady’ has been one of the strongest and most interesting characters I have ever created and I had a wonderful time spinning her out of thin air!”
-Deepti Menon

In this day and age of literature, this daring venture to revive composite novels has proved more than successful, and we do hope to see more composite novels in future.

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