G.B.Prabhat lifts the veil on the city of his childhood in the book Early Indications
Coimbatore was maligned as a drab, hick town with no poetry to it…No outsider could have seen Coimbatore's poetry immediately. It had to be reported by an insider who wasn't distracted by wet grinders or foundries or pumps or money…Then the veil lifted, and the charms of the city became clear.
It's not very often that one comes across a book set in Coimbatore. Early Indications, a novel by G.B. Prabhat, is one such book, in which the city is as central to the narrative as the characters are. The novel begins with the protagonist Shiva's Kezhavi Teacher calling him and his four friends, “Five Geniuses”. Spanning 35 years, Early Indications tells the story of their childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
It is Coimbatore of the 70s and the 80s. Shiva and his friends live in Peelamedu and one of their hang outs is a bakery that sells delicious ‘pups' and coconut buns. “Where else on earth was every third or fourth shop a bakery?,” writes Prabhat, about his home town. “Through the book, I have tried to shatter the myth that Coimbatore is a boring industrial town. It is a place with a distinct subterranean charm. I look at my growing up in Coimbatore with fondness.”
There are references to the once-famous vadais, bondas and the ‘oversweet' coffee served at the Central Theatre, the burrota kadais, Nilgiri Express, Raja Street, Geethalaya Theatre and even the basketball grounds at V.O.C Park. “Much of the Coimbatore in the novel is real, specifically landmarks like the Old Woman's Shoe (at V.O.C Park) and Singapathy Falls,” says Prabhat. “On a recent trip to Coimbatore I took a look at the Old Woman's Shoe after nearly 30 years. I was mighty thrilled to see that its appearance matched my descriptions of it in the latter part of the novel.”
Even though Prabhat says some of the settings of the novel such as CF Engineering College and Neelaveni restaurant are products of his imagination, one can't help but wonder if they were inspired by his alma mater, PSG College of Technology and the then-popular Krishna Café. Ask him if this novel is autobiographical and he says, “My experience with Coimbatore may have helped with the verisimilitude of the novel, but Early Indications is a work of fiction.” But the characters and situations, he mentions, were influenced by real life. “Their precise forms, however, are fictitious. A good work of fiction never resorts to blatant reportage. The author's cleverness consists in transmogrifying real characters and situations and applying the ‘fictional glue' to add hues of imagination.”
Prabhat, who has written two other novels, Chains and Eimona, finds it hard to explain what prompted him to write his third one. Early Indications“My first novel, Chains, is about a Non-Resident Indian family from California returning to India and trying to settle down. Eimona deals with our afflictions thanks to the twin forces of global capitalism and Information Technology. In contrast, Early Indications is an intense and intimate story set in a small place.” Prabhat is currently a senior corporate executive and an entrepreneur, based in Chennai. So how does he straddle the corporate and the literary worlds? “They complement each other quite well. My corporate career gives me the real world connection that is absolutely necessary for a writer to write with authenticity. My career as a writer helps me apply myself imaginatively in the corporate world that is constantly in search of innovation.”
Early Indications is being promoted online through a YouTube trailer made by his daughters Sandhya and Chaaya. “The purpose of the YouTube trailer is to attract young readers.” The book is available on Flipkart. A Kindle version is also available on Amazon.