R.V. Rajan, author of three books in four years, on how his passion for writing has kept him busy post-retirement
A full house, at a Madras Book Club meeting held recently, eagerly listened to R.V. Rajan, author of three books (Courage My Companion, Don’t Flirt With Rural Marketing and This & That… Then & Now), as he spoke about his experiences of donning the writer’s hat after retiring from a successful career in the advertising industry. In the talk, ‘Getting hooked on writing post retirement’, Rajan, who founded Anugrah Madison Advertising and is currently the chairman of Anugrah Rural Marketing Academy, spoke of his journey from a chawl to winning accolades for his rural marketing campaigns and finally, writing about life.Humble beginnings
“I was initially writing in Tamil and was a very active member of the Bombay Tamil Sangam,” said Rajan who grew up in Mumbai. “I wrote and got published in small journals and even acted in plays back then. So my writing career, in a sense started as a youngster!” he said. After his education, Rajan took the unorthodox call of working in the advertising field, as a client servicing executive. “In those days, advertising as an industry was practically non-existent. I had stopped writing in those days. But I never stopped reading. I have been a voracious reader and that has not changed. If you want to write, you must read a lot,” he said. Rajan had the audience hooked with his humour, humility and inspiring story. “My youth was a turbulent period. We lived in a chawl in a 225 sq.ft. home. That was the first 26 years of my life,” he said.Writing courageously
After retiring successfully from his 45-year career as an advertising professional, Rajan went back to his first love — writing. This time in English. It was only fitting that Rajan who grew up reading many autobiographies and biographies made his debut as a writer with his autobiography, Courage My Companion. “I wake up at 4 every morning and write. I find that some of my best writing happens at this time. I also write very well when I travel — because in hotels, when you wake up at 4, you have nothing else to do. At home you pick up the milk and make coffee, etc. But in a hotel you are completely free!” he said. “After retirement I wrote courageously because I had nothing to lose. If I can do it, without any social power or money power, anyone can do it. I also write in a light vein in simple language,” Rajan explained.From ideas to books
“Whenever I have an idea for a topic, I note it down in one word immediately — in a diary or even my mobile phone. Afterwards, when I sit down to write I expand on it,” he said. Rajan, who is well-known to the great artist R.K. Laxman’s family, has the cartoonist’s rendering of him as his autobiography’s cover. “When I was looking for a cover for my book I remembered that I had this cartoon and immediately decided to use it, which also hooked in a lot of people!” he added. Rajan also candidly spoke of the deals he struck with his publishers to get his books out. “While my publisher was not really convinced about the fact that an autobiography would sell, he said he would do it if I promised to make my next book about rural marketing,” he smiled.
This is how Rajan’s next book, Don’t Flirt With Rural Marketing was born. “There is nothing wrong with asking people if they have read your book. You can’t be shy and become a writer,” he said as the audience laughed. “I am not doing this to make money but to reach out to aspiring youngsters. Today, the e-version of my autobiography is available for free online while my second book has gone in to re-print.”
“I always share what I write with people and take their feedback. I accept their suggestions and the help of those around me to perfect my language before sending the manuscript to the publisher,” Rajan said. “I realised that I had arrived as a writer when I wrote an article for the Open page of The Hindu on the 106 divyadesams that my late wife and I had visited. The feedback was tremendous. Hundreds of calls and emails poured in. That gave me a lot of confidence! You must send out your articles to publish, somewhere. Even if it is just a small journal. There is nothing like seeing your writing in print!” Talking about his third book he said, “My new book This &That… Then & Now, is full of my impressions on different aspects of life. It is a book that you can relate to and relax with.”
As parting words, Rajan said, “Getting published is a time-consuming and often frustrating affair. But these days there are options like print-on-demand and offers where publishers, both in Tamil and English, are coming up with good deals, where you can even self-publish. Once published, work on getting your book reviewed, use social media but most importantly, pursue your dream relentlessly.”