‘When Strangers Meet’ speaks the language of the common man, says author K. Hari Kumar, about his first book
K. Hari Kumar was in his final year of engineering college when he was bedridden for several months. The illness gave him the time he required to pen a novel that had been brewing in his mind for long. The story spoke of three men from different strata of society, coming together by coincidence to have a conversation that would deeply impact their personal lives. Motivated by the Guns ‘n’ Roses ‘November Rain’ song, Hari began writing in November 2010 to finish in May 2011, his 200-page debut novel When Strangers Meet.
The first 40-pages of the book are true to his life, says Hari. They sketch the plight of a young rebellious boy named Jai who dreams of becoming an animator but is forced into engineering college by his strong-willed father. This idea had earlier motivated Hari to make a short film My Name is Iyer, the detailed version of which now forms his novel. “I was feeling triumphant at having finally finished this book, when I slowly realised how difficult it was to get published.” After doing the rounds of publisher’s headquarters in Delhi for a year, Hari gave up hope of ever seeing his work in print. “I returned to my homeland Kerala, began a job assisting directors with ad films in Kochi, and forgot about my manuscript,” he says.
It was much later that Hari decided to try Srishti Publishers, who accepted his book and published it in May 2013. “I was surprised by their decision because they’re known to publish romantic fiction, and my work was about a father-son relationship,” says Hari. When Strangers Meet was launched at Hari’s alma mater, DAV Public School in Gurgaon, and went on to sell 4,000 copies of its first impression. It is currently mid-way through its second impression.
While getting published was Hari’s first hurdle, promotion and distribution turned out to be his next. “There are so many books being released every week, and stores don’t stock them all. So I’ve spent the last few months going to bookshops across Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Kerala and Karnataka ensuring that they stock at least one copy of my work,” says Hari. Alongside, he has also filmed a short trailer for his book which adds to its online visibility.
Responses to the book have so far been positive with readers especially appreciating the colloquialisms in Hari’s writing style. His characters speak the slang of the places they come from, be it Gurgaon or Chennai. “I’m writing for people in the language they speak, not in flowery English,” says Hari. Other readers however, have pointed out the spelling and grammatical errors in the book, which Hari says will be corrected in the next edition.
At 24, Hari is more than a debut novelist. He is also a filmmaker with two documentaries and six short films to his credit. He is currently working on a screenplay adapted from his novel. “The feature film will be in Hindi and I hope to direct it myself. Now to find a producer!” he signs off.