Of a novel that takes you back to the Madras of the Seventies

“Children go through everything that adults do: jealousy, pain, love and even lust… The one thing though that's the exclusive bastion of adults is nostalgia.”Ice Boys In Bell Bottoms by Krishna Shastri Devulapalli

“Nostalgia is the reason I wrote this book,” said Krishna Shastri Devulapalli. He recently launched his debut novel,Ice Boys In Bell Bottoms, at Vivanta by Taj, Connemara, in an event presented by The Madras Book Club and Harper Collins Publishers India.

In conversation with artist and writer Parvathi Nayar, Devulapalli discussed the joys of growing up in Chennai in the Seventies, a time of garish bell bottoms, groaning Ambassador cars crammed with extended family and glossy Hollywood movies at Minerva.

The book's child protagonist, Gopi, like Devulapalli, grows up in a colourful creative family, and the story is seen through his eyes. “Children rarely get a voice of their own. They're puppets. So I thought, let him have his own voice.”

In this coming-of-age novel, Gopi's life is defined by his maverick, temperamental and popular poet-grandfather and talented but elusive artist-father. Growing up negotiating between opinionated siblings and eccentric neighbours, he becomes what the author describes as a “Hollywood obsessed, pulp fiction reading, know-all, willing to twist the truth for a movie ticket, and gamble it all away for a good time.”

Devulapalli is an illustrator, cartoonist, graphic designer as well as writer. So the book took him two years of work, all done between juggling his various other assignments. “I discovered I could actually sit down and complete something,” he says, triumphantly, talking of what the experience taught him. It did come at a cost though. “We didn't always finish our projects,” he chuckles, “Some of our irate clients are sitting here. That's why we invited them!”

Nevertheless, it's all worked out. AndIce Boys In Bell Bottomshas spurred him to plan two more books, and make this a trilogy. “The second one will be set in the Eighties,” he says, “I'm thinking of calling it ‘Rally Days and Disco Nights'.”

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