Thursday, February 24, 2005

Short Takes

So many things have been happening in the past week, I can barely believe it's been six days since I last posted. It feels more like a month. Mostly it's that the three previous weeks of frantic activity are gradually paying off in the form of Work Done rather than Work In Screaming Loony Progress.

Most satisfying perhaps has been the re-printing of my "Tree of Life" poster -- I named it "LET IT GROW" when I first printed it but everyone who saw it referred to it as "your Tree of Life poster" so who am I to resist? -- at my friend Sunita Paul's press. My main purpose was to print a special commemmorative edition for the Tiger Haven Society (about which more in a moment) but it's also been part of a scheme that Sunita and I have been cooking up for a while, to print cards and posters based on my designs. Since I have never managed to be commercially viable, yet have always WANTED to sell my designs in the form of posters/cards, having them printed by Sunita on her off-set machines was a dream that I hardly dared hope might come true. With the new Tree of Life it HAS -- and I will say without a blush that it looks gorgeous. It's smaller than the original edition, but printed in black against a soft metallic gold backdrop. The graphic (for those who don't have a clue about what I'm referring to -- most of my friends have seen this poster since the early nineties) is the silhouette of a vast tree, roughly raintree shaped, filled with animals, birds and fishes. The gold-background version is available only at a special price as a donation to the THS but non-gold versions are also available. I've not decided at what price, possibly Rs 150.

Aside from the poster, what also got done was Billy Arjan Singh's book "A Tiger's Story" -- he was very keen that it should be reprinted but the original publisher, HarperCollins, had pulped 106 copies of their edition (without prior notice to the author) and were disinterested in reprinting it. So I went to Anuj Bahri of Bahri's bookshop in Khan Market and asked if he'd like to take on the book -- he's been publishing a number of titles under his imprint TARA (also INDIA RESEARCH PRESS) -- and that seemed especially auspicious, because Tara was the name of Billy's beloved tigress, the subject of his book. Anuj most graciously agreed to take on the book -- and we were off, chasing after very tight deadlines. Anyone who knows about the book trade knows how many gaffes can occur between the start of a book-project and the end of it, many weeks/months later -- but this one absolutely raced to the finish-line: in literally about three weeks, we managed to get all the material together and it is right now under printing. According to Anuj, I should have the book with me this weekend. He is most fortunate in his production manager, a very quiet, but well-organized person called Ravi Kumar.

Okay -- the Tiger Haven Society: as may be recalled, I spent Christmas at the home of Billy Arjan Singh, near Dudhwa National Park, in northern UP. He is a wonderful and powerfully inspiring personality so it's no surprise that I was easily caught up in the desire to help him in his quest -- which is of course to save whatever we can of India's dwindling wild-life. The THS is an association built out of his family and friends, which aims to support and to continue his life-work after he is gone. It is as yet only a very modest association and at the end of next week (on the 4th of March) they are hosting a small fund-raiser, based around Billy's recently received 2004 Paul Getty Award. Invitees have been approached from amongst friends who are willing to be dined and entertained (with a short film and a chance to meet Billy) while being encouraged to donate a minimum of Rs 2000 at the event -- for which price they will receive one copy of my poster and will be able to buy Billy's book at a special (low) price. If this event goes off reasonably well, they plan larger versions of the same.

If this wasn't enough, I was also working overtime on getting pages ready for the May pub-date of the next Suki book -- this time based on DOUBLE TALK, my first strip, that appeared in Bombay's Sunday Observer in the mid-80s, as well as the cover for my children's short story collection (three stories, too short to be referred to as a trilogy!) called URMILA THE ULTIMATE, for Puffin. I don't know why it all came together during that one week, but it did. And FINALLY -- on Monday of the week (i.e., the 14th) I discovered that a vague deadline that had started up the previous week, had suddenly become a howling tornado -- I HAD to write a 200-word "letter" to the potential young readers of "MOUSE ATTACK" because there was a chance that the book would be part of a Virgin Trains Easter special promotion -- in which case 12,500 copies would be printed and distributed over the Easter weekend in late March-- by mid-week, i.e., Wednesday. It didn't mean much in the way of revenue to me, but it would certainly be amazing exposure -- 12,500! That's more books than I've ever published, I think, all my eight titles combined -- and I simply couldn't afford not to at least try to make the date.

Phew. So ... we succeeded -- I, my agent Kate and editorial assistant Hannah (both in London) -- with no help, initially, from Hotmail, which caused an unholy delay, initially -- ah,ah,ah, -- but it's over now and the book will be used.

Is this enough? But no, there's one more event! In mid-last week -- on the 15th, I discovered to my major shock, that a book-launch at which I'd been invited as the First Recipient -- was a month earlier than I THOUGHT it was -- in February, rather than March. OUCH! I would have missed it altogether, had not someone called me the day before to tell me they hoped to meet me at the venue (the IIC). I am terribly uncomfortable at public viewings, so had NOT been looking forward to this event -- had been fretting about it ever since I'd been requested to attend -- but it all went off rather sweetly. The book is about the work of cartoonist MAYA KAMATH who died four years ago -- it's very unfortunate, as she was a gifted cartoonist -- and that rarest of rare beings, a woman POLITICAL cartoonist, whose work appeared on the front page of the Asian Age -- and when her daughter Deepa got in touch with me to ask if I would agree to write a few words about her mother's work for the book, I was very willing to do so. That's what made it impossible for me to refuse to be present at the launch. Anyway, like I said, it all went off without a hitch, the book is interesting and well-produced and extremely well-priced -- Rs 750 -- called THE WORLD OF MAYA.

And now I must stop! I'll have to return to correct proofing errors at some later date ... they're there, I'm sure of it ... but not NOW, Kato, not NOW. (PS: I have now up-dated and corrected a few of the errors in this post, but I love making references to Kato, so I'm leaving that in. I suppose there ARE still a few people left alive who know what I'm referring to?)


Quizman said...

omg! Maya Kamath dead? I didn't know that. I used to love her works. R. I. P

Marginalien said...

I'm so pleased to read that reaction -- yes, she was definitely an unsung hero, goodness knows WHY ... but it happens woefully often. The publisher is SPARROW and I strongly advise anyone who ever enjoyed Maya's work to buy the book -- address: SPARROW, B-32 Jeet Nagar, Versova, Mumbai 400 061. Thanks for your speedy response, Quizman.

Marginalien said...

Please note, I incorrectly reported the price of MAYA's book as Rs 75 -- it's Rs 750 -- but still an excellent price, for a large format book with colour pictures of Maya in the first section and the rest of it full of her cartoons.

Amrobilia said...


Marginalien said...

*sigh!* It's TOO obscure -- I know, I know -- but it's from Inspector Clouseau in the PINK PANTHER films, and Kato (or maybe CATO) is the name of his Japanese/Korean butler, a karate expert who is forever trying to tackle Clouseau by surprise by leaping out at him from e.g. inside his refrigerator, at EXTREMELY awkward moments, whereupon our intrepid French detective has to scream, "Not NOW, Kato, not NOWWWW!"