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Bollywood lyricist pens novel on outsourcing

Journalist Neelesh Misra's romantic comedy Once Upon a Timezone revolves around Indian call centres.

india Updated: Aug 24, 2006 18:00 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Outsourcing might have given pain to the West, but it is creating humour on the other side of the globe - in the newest Indian novel, a bumbling comedy woven around call centres and how India is learning to dream big.

Once Upon a Timezone by journalist and Bollywood songwriter Neelesh Misra, is a romantic comedy featuring an Indian man who disguises his identity as a call centre agent and his American customer.

The novel will be released next month at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where India is the guest of honour this year, publishers HarperCollins India said in a statement.

India's call centres are part of the business and technology boom that has given the country one of the fastest growth rates in the world and earned it grudging respect from many in the West who earlier wrote it off as a poor developing nation struggling even six decades after the end of British colonialism.

Outside India's urban centres, desperate poverty remains, but the economic progress has changed the way the world looks at India.

"Neelesh Misra wears his small-town sensibilities very proudly and yet straddles the world with his soaring ambitions," said top Bollywood filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt. "In that sense, he resembles one of the many faces of the new India for me - where it is ok to dream big, it is not a sin to have lofty aspirations any more."

With those changes, Indian writing is changing as well, the author said.

"There is certainly something changing in Indian writing with the way India itself is changing," Misra said. "The increasing global focus on the country has meant that authors here no longer need to write for the West to gain attention; The attention is already there."

In keeping with the transformation of India's image, Indian literature is also breaking a time warp.

Authors who once wrote about colonialism, caste oppression and other exotic themes for Western bookshelves are experimenting with here-and-now, contemporary themes, in tune with the new confidence seen in urban India.

This is the third book by Misra, 33, a former IANS reporter who has previously written two non-fiction titles - 173 Hours in Captivity: The Hijacking of IC- 814 and End of the Line: The Story of The Killing of The Royals in Nepal.

As songwriter, Misra has written songs like the popular Jaadu Hai Nasha Hai, which became the launching pad for Bipasha Basu and her boyfriend John Abraham in the 2002 flick Jism.

The novel's story revolves around its middle-class protagonist Neel Pandey, just out of college, who dreams day and night of his first love-America- and also an escape from his father's grandiose plan to get him an upper caste wife and a secure government job. Unable to go to the United States, Neel settles for second best - a job at a call centre where he assumes an American identity. But he soon tumbles into a faraway romance that will transform his life.

"Neelesh Misra is one of the best young storytellers of the new India," Bhatt was quoted as saying in the statement.

"Neelesh comes from the real India, and captures it extremely well with the various tools he uses as a storyteller: in his work as a journalist, a songwriter, and in his books. He has the soil of the faraway India on his boots, and sparkling, ever new dreams in his eyes."

First Published: Aug 24, 2006 18:00 IST