Books: The unexpected author
Businessman Amrish Kumar had originally conceived his debut novel as a movie! The Kolkata-born and Delhi-based son of designer Ritu Kumar on his book
“This book was conceived as a movie and written scene by scene, many years ago when I had finished grad school in Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood!” says 44-year-old, Kolkata-born and Delhi-based Amrish Kumar, son of senior designer Ritu Kumar, about his debut novel, Gods of Willow: A Coming of Age Innings published by Roli books.
“At that time, I really wanted to be in the film and entertainment world. But I did a business degree and was heading in a direction that I wasn’t sure I would actually end up in. So, I just wanted to write a coming-of-age story, something that would be a little bit about where I was from and a little bit of the kind of stories I like to tell. I don’t know how the ideas came about, but I scribbled them in a notebook which stayed with me for the next 15 years. I still have it,” recalls Amrish, who runs Ritu Kumar’s business.
“And then, when Covid happened, work stopped and we were all in lockdown, I sat down one day and said to myself, ‘let me try and write this as a book. Then I sent a few pages to an editor at a publishing house and she kept encouraging me to write more and more. Before I knew it, it was a hundred pages already... and then I had to finish it. But I had to redo the ending a few times as I had only really conceived of the beginning,” he clarifies.
The book took a little over a year to complete and is set in Hyderabad—a city Amrish doesn’t know at all.
“I’ve visited the city only once or twice, but I used it as the backdrop as it seems to be the right microcosm for this kind of story. So, I researched and studied the history of the place. The setting of the book needed to be an ancient place, a place with the fabric of a mixed structure of society, and Hyderabad works for that!” he explains.
Amrish chose cricket as one of the themes of his book because he wanted it to be light and meaningful at the same time. “When I say light, I mean a little witty and humourous,” he adds as a disclaimer. “As a cricket fanatic in my teens, I went through that process of euphoria mingled with despair that a sports fan goes through regularly and it was so woven into our communities and cultures that it just became an interesting device to use. It sounds scientific but, in the beginning, I didn’t know what I was doing.”
In the book, the protagonist believes that his fortunes are linked with those of the Indian cricket team. When they win, so does he, and when they lose, so does he.
“For him, the divine is built around cricket. And cricket also has a construct in Indian life, one in which spirituality plays,” says Amrish. “Willow is essentially the tree from which cricket bats are made.”
Another quality that makes this book charming is the era it recreates. “That, I think, is important. Anyone born in the 1990s will go back to a time when kids went through a very significant change between how their parents grew up and how they grew up. There’s another generation shift happening now, in which we will be left behind. So, the story was always supposed to be a homage to nostalgia,” Amrish reflects.
He never saw himself as an author and is still amazed that he managed to write a book. “I’ve always been creative. I had a record label and wanted to be in films. But I never thought I could write. But I read a lot, so I suppose that helps,” he says.
But films are still his first love and if he could make Gods of Willow into a film, he would be the happiest person on the planet.
From HT Brunch, September 10, 2022
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