What do you get when you cross a witty educationist and a passionate cartoonist? You get the Crazy Desi! Book and a lot of buzz about it! Open the book and you’ll be greeted by a whole new world of ‘man’imals — animal cartoons who have got a take on everything Indian, from the ‘paneer muck-nee’ served at roadside dhabas to “naturalist” men who water the trees on the roadside ‘pee-s’ fully. The ardent passion of the duo behind the book, Nidhi Jaipuria and Ananth Shankar, is quite evident when you hear them talk about the book.
“The idea behind the book was to bring animals to life and through them, add a quirky sense of humour to the India we see around us everyday,” says Ananth. He believes that cartoons are “attire for satire”. For Ananth, the Crazy Desi! book is a stage of evolution from his earlier book, the Bisi Busy Bangalore that carried the perspectives of a stray dog, Sam (an acronym for ‘Swalpa adjust maadi’), about the city of Bangalore. He loves animals and has been cartooning them for almost 20 years now.
“This book captures the crazy chaos of India through a tribe of wild protagonists who use intelligent humour, not the slapstick comedy that is common today,” says Nidhi. She is the educationist in the story who supplies the witty wordplay and poetry to Ananth’s hand-drawn beasts. “The book features quirky animal characters such as ‘Rat-Appa’, ‘Ullu-da’, ‘Cat’reena, Yo!Bra, Woof’adar Bhai, Durga Murga, Goa‘tee’, KA Raddy and ‘Cow’alli, who share the grumbles of the common Indian man but seek to make him chuckle when he reads them. The anecdotes you see in the book are drawn from our observations and interactions with people who have travelled across India.”
What was the inspiration behind the book? “The book is inspired by my dog, Bageera who lost his life in 2012 in a duel with a venomous cobra. The void that he left behind compelled me to get my ‘pack’ together and celebrate animals through my cartoons. That’s when Nidhi and I decided to work together,” recounts Ananth. He had earlier done illustrations for books that Nidhi had written and both of them “just clicked together to become bantering buddies”. True to the name, they love taking digs at each other.
The book is only two weeks old but it has already sold a 1,000-old copies, much to the astonishment of its authors. “We had to ask for a reprint of another set in two weeks!” says Nidhi, with a big smile. They attribute their success to word of mouth, their website and Facebook.
What makes their success unique is their marketing strategy. The book is only available on their website www.wagsinthebags.com despite being invited by bookstores across the country. “We avoided bookstores because we felt that the book wouldn’t receive a fair fighting chance there. We wanted a more personal connection with our customers, who are our ‘Farmily’ today. So, we put in more effort in the details such as customised packaging. We promise three Cs with our product: Customisation, Convenience and Cost,”says Ananth. The book is door-delivered to their customers and is hand-signed by the authors. They also request their customers to send them their pictures with the books, which are put up on the website for a week to celebrate their ‘pack mate’ (the customer). The book is the first in the series of four with its focus on Travel, and is priced at Rs. 300. The next book, slated to come out by September 2013, will encapsulate anecdotes on shopping.
Will their book actually help animals? Of course, they say. As they grow, they want to use their book as a platform for creating a fund to provide basic funding to people who care for stray animals but cannot afford to. That surely brings to life the pun and the metaphor in ‘Wags in the Bags: A ‘Paws’itive product company’, don’t you think?
You can buy your own copy at >www.wagsinthebags.com . The authors are also available at 9845013936 (Ananth) and 9845844442 (Nidhi).