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Wednesday, Feb 11, 2004

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Copy to book

FROM ADVERTISING to literature, from framing catch phrases in three minutes to writing stories running to over 300 pages — the transition had been quite slow but far reaching for Kiran Khalap. At Landmark, Nungambakkam, dressed to suit the occasion in black kurta pyjama and free falling scarf around his neck, he read out excerpts from his first novel — Halfway Up The Mountain (priced Rs.295). "I was told that anything less than 70, 000 words is not worthy of a novel, and as an ad guy I found it rather daunting to write over 300 pages of complete serious story." Halfway Up The Mountain, revolves around a village girl Maya, whose life is intertwined with men of exceptional talent. "Of late, I have been writing non-fiction for a few magazines that has helped me pen this novel."

Published by Jacaranda Publishers, he says that advertising has not influenced his writing. "There is a clear distinction between the two in my mind. Advertising is my job and writing more a passion."

The book was launched in Mumbai last December. "I didn't get rattled by the criticisms. It is like delivering a baby. Some might say it has a flat nose or big eyes. But you cannot do anything about it and must learn to live with it." The story is written in second person "in order to get under the skin of Maya and feel the way she does" and for the first couple of chapters there are no mention of names, "For that is how you are referred to by children — as uncle, aunty, sister or brother, before they come to know you as an individual," he reasons.

For Kiran, the book and Maya are the outcome of his childhood influences. His brief stint in Benaras, the Sanskrit shlokas he learnt there are among the main sources of inspiration.

The reading session itself started off with the store playing a Sanskrit shloka that talks about the journey towards bliss, on which the story is based. "Maya means illusion and that's what my story is all about."

A copywriter, teacher, ex-CEO of an ad agency and brand consultant, Kiran says he sees a little of himself in Maya, in her quest for bliss.

Being the winner of the Indo-UK Short Story Competition in 1997, he has already planned his second book, "Two Pronouns and A Verb." This again is left open for interpretation, but my interpretation revolves around the question `Who am I'?"


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