destination india

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

what ails indian writers

Bengali authors like Tarashankar Bandopadhaya, Bimal Mitra, and Sunil Gangopadhaya have churned out masterpieces. Whether the novels are historical ones or they deal with the fluctuating fortunes of modern day living, it goes without saying that they had to put in hours of study of the past (by referring to authentic documents) so that readers are not able to find faults in the information that have historical importance. Just like film directors who, while presenting the era of by gone days, strive to ensure correctness even in the dresses worn by the people involved – distortion of history is never acceptable. That is why, when large publication houses decide on a subject that is to be handled, the author is given sufficient time to familiarize himself with the background. From information gathered, it seems that at least six to eight month’s time are given, along with a suitable compensation package as incentive.

Unfortunately, all writers do not have it so good.

In this age, unsolicited writings are not welcome. They find a one way ticket to the trash can. It is well nigh impossible to enjoy the privilege of seeing your name in print alongside the torch bearers. But, the creative half of you cannot close the pen - write he must. Just to get it off his chest, he puts pen to paper. He even sends the manuscript across, following all the laid down guidelines hoping against hope that, this could be the break he is waiting for. Unfortunately, in a majority of the cases, his dream remains a dream. Unknown to him, his work may get printed somewhere and, when he goes to enquire about the manuscript that he had submitted, he would return empty handed, with the standard reply – ‘it is lost in the huge volume of letters and stories that come into our office every day!’

As a result, they turn to little magazines that sprout whenever the situation so demands and vanishes once it loses its patrons who are invariably drawn together by a bond of giving to the world something to chew upon. I remember a racket that was popular in the seventies – I was involved in one of them. The publishers had a wonderful business going, they had the license of a monthly magazine. In each of its issues, it would carry the translation of a crime novel. The page numbers were adjusted such that they matched with the page numbers as in any book. In those days, composing of pages was done manually. So, once the matter was composed, they would get a few hundred copies of the magazine printed and then go for printing books also! All they had to do additionally was to get a cover printed. The magazines were priced at two few rupees each while the books went to around twenty rupees. These were mostly distributed through the railway book stalls. Based on the feedback of the stall owners, the covers would be changed if they did not appeal to the readers.

(to be continued…)


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