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The Cover Story: Author of ‘A Year of Wednesdays’, Sonia Bahl, on what went into the beautiful, minimalist cover

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Author Sonia Bahl has always spoken about her cherished collaboration with the editor of both her novels: Pooja Dadwal, Deputy Managing Editor—Fingerprint! Publishing. We asked both of them to take us behind the scenes and unravel some of the workings of how A Year of Wednesdays came into being.

This is what Pooja Dadwal had to say.

Someone impossibly wise once said that knowing that now is all there is, and living every now for the rest of all your nows, is all there is to it. And if you do this now right, the rest will follow suit.

The story of A Year of Wednesdays began on one such now. But not between the characters. Not yet. The first now happened hundreds of Wednesdays ago, between the writer and her editor.

The editor who had collaborated with the writer on her first book. The writer who had never thought of writing a second one. And yet she did. The first book introduced the two, the second solidified their collaboration. But there was that in-between—there always is, isn’t it?— in which the editor, one fine February afternoon, finally coaxed the writer to send her anything, even a paragraph, of what she was writing next. No, not one of her screenplays, she said. (The author writes for the screen too. Or mostly for that.)

Pooja Dadwal (Editor)

The writer wasn’t, not on paper anyway—but aren’t we all writing stories in our minds and hearts always. And so the writer humored her—with an opening line sent in the space of a few minutes. Which the editor gulped down in a moment and asked for second helpings. Legend has it that the writer humored her editor again. And again. And again.

Lines, paragraphs, chapters, shared initially over WhatsApp, soon gave way to mail. The length increased, the story continued, but both never mentioned publishing. Not that it was a foregone conclusion—it wasn’t. Even though both now belonged to the same universe of books, publishing the story as a novel had never formed part of their conversation.

The story which had started as a message in February came to its conclusion in November. Only, it couldn’t. For that’s the other glorious thing about being in the now. After living in every now you manage to gather so many of them that they shine brighter than a thousand suns. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Specially so in the case of A Year of Wednesdays. It is the most superlative testament of the writer’s genius. And her heart. 

Sonia Bahl (Author)

And so the editor, who understood the literary weight of what lay in her hands, asked the writer if she’d consider bringing this out as a book. The writer, Sonia Bahl, agreed, eventually. And so started the formal literary journey of Seat 7A and Seat 7B, two strangers who meet on a flight from New Delhi to New York and end up talking through most of it. Actually all of fifteen hours and thirty minutes of it. Touchdown, and they go their separate ways . . . only, something stays. Something that refuses to leave. There are some knots which cannot be untied. Some bonds which cannot be explained away. All you can do is honour these. A Year of Wednesdays explores this very rarefied bond between people.

Heart aching and achingly familiar, the story gently manages to fuse itself not only into your thoughts but also into the very spaces between your thoughts. And in the bargain leaves you with an incredible wealth of emotions. Of being human. Of being alive. Indelible marks on ephemeral us. 🙂

A Year of Wednesdays: Behind the Cover

We asked author Sonia Bahl how the stunningly simple and Zen-like cover came into being.

“If the process of writing is a dream, the book cover represents the awakening.”

  • Jhumpa Lahiri, The Clothing of Books

The cover for A Year of Wednesdays was a protracted, meandering, getting-lost-more-than-found journey. Here I must acknowledge the design team at Fingerprint! Publishing for working with me to find my way home. We started at point A, skipped point B, forked into dramatic detours, screeched into dark alleys, changed direction, and finally reached a destination we had definitely not anticipated when the journey began.

The book held so many themes. A moment in time when two unlikely people, from polar opposite worlds and world-views, are hermetically sealed in a common world for fifteen hours. A long haul flight. A forced  interaction due to a bizarre, near-absurd reason. It’s an amalgam of crackling moments of stiletto-sharp bantering and a brazenly honest sharing of what matters and why. Mostly, an uncanny, inexplicable connect that is entirely borderless. Age, time, place, religion, childhood, financial status, marital status, likes and dislikes don’t matter when you are sealed together for fifteen hours, never to meet again. The big one, which you don’t realize until it is much too late: the person will stay with you forever . . . maybe even change you incontrovertibly. Unconsciously paying homage to the Japanese notion of ichi-go ichi-e. Every encounter comes just once in a lifetime. No one encounter can ever come back. But it could last forever.

The cover art’s journey was almost as multi-diverse in thought as the journey of the two protagonists. It began with images of the sky. We worked relentlessly to communicate why it means much more than just the literal meaning of a plane in the sky. No matter which way we visualized it, it lacked in the richness, the fullness of the story. There were obvious, sometimes unimaginative, attempts to play with seats on a plane. Or a plane window juxtaposed with an unexpected view. Everything ended up being uni-dimensional, showing exactly what we were saying. Unable to create the perfect equation where one plus one will add up to the ah-ha of three. Seat 7B’s favourite number. Still, it felt imperative to acknowledge the sky. How could we not? There was such an undeniable role played by stars in their lives (without revealing too much). So we kept clocking up miles, kept moving down the star-studded flight path. The arresting beauty of a night sky, a stylised star map, a view of the changing skies across a long haul flight . . . all visually staggering. Some covers looked clichéd, others looked like they were textbook pictures for celestial lovers. We acknowledged it was time to opt for a dramatically different change in direction to get out of the loop we’d gotten stuck in.

Where was our true north? It’s A Year of Wednesdays. What can organically and emblematically embody the moving of time: one whole year? A year can contain multitudes. The passage of time, transformation, the cyclical nature of life, the ups and downs, the routine, the unexpected curve balls in the routines, birthdays, celebrations, important dates, daily minutiae, love, loss, redemption. And the inevitability of things. 

Nature. It says it every day, every month, every year. Naturally, eloquently, immutably. An artist’s impression of a leaf changing through the year became the understated, poignant symbol of all that we wanted to say. A subtle grey background, gave us the minimalist, Japanese aesthetic. A quiet nod to ichi-go ichi-e. The gold signature by the author, a suggestion from the editor, was used instead of typical font, to make the intimate story even more intimate.

We had landed. Home. To use Jhumpa Lahiri’s words, again: “The right cover is like a beautiful coat, elegant and warm, wrapping my words as they travel through the world, on their way to keep an appointment with my readers.”

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Books & Authors

Nitish Raj Receives Advance Royalty for 25,000 Copies

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The acclaimed author and literary critic, Nitish Raj had received an advance royalty of 25,000 copies for his upcoming masterpiece, Love In Modern Times by P.R Productions and Publishers. Mr. Raj had also earlier published a novel. His columns and literary criticisms have got published in various media houses of national and international repute. 

In the words of Mr. Raj; “There is no shortcut to success, inspite of that we need to be  consistent. Today’s youngsters are good when it comes to hard work but they lack direction. If we understand what we are running for in the current time frame, the destiny and destinations are not very far.”  Prateek Sharma; Founder, P.R Productions & Publishers says, “This book of Mr. Raj contains 20 different stories which had touched the depths of the emotions of the mere mortals. And I more than sure that readers will fall in love with it.”

This deal has been facilitated by Literia Insight and his Founder, Vikash Saxena says, “I am very happy that our author has received an Advance Royalty of 25,000 copies which is a unique feat in itself. The budding writers should focus on writing something which could be a torchbearer to the society. It should be at a level which could help us to understand the difference between the right and wrong aspects of society. Writers should be focused towards quality writing. I hope that young writers would understand this fact and will enrich us with quality writing.”

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Short, Not So Sweet – Jatin Khandelwal revived the art of storytelling

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You read a story either for the content or for the style of storytelling. Seldom, you do so for both. Author Mr. Jatin Khandelwal , in his book ‘Short, Not So Sweet’ had been able to put a collection of fourteen such stories which appeal for both their contents as well as storytelling style.

Though stories with a twisting end are the most popular of the lot, constructing and deconstructing such stories are the toughest of jobs one writer is presented with. Mr. Jatin Khandelwal unlocks this complex trick with ease. He had taken the art of telling thrilling stories to the next level by keeping the length of the narration just about perfect and by adding the right degree of twist to end the story.

One story that stands out is ‘Abracadabra’. Through a magical path of its own, the story revolves around multiple emotions effortlessly and in the end leaves the reader with a sense of hindsight thought. The other stories too are written equally well by this young, adept writer Mr. Jatin Khandelwal.

To end, all we can say is ‘good luck’ to the super talented ‘storyteller’ – Jatin Khandelwal.

Buy Short, Not So Sweet From Amazon For Just Rs.150

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Etchings of the First Quarter of 2020: Sabarna Roy’s Latest Book Explains Mankind’s unconscious mind

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Is it that the dead Freud lives in every biological man alive?

Sabarna Roy’s latest intellectual venture Etchings of the First Quarter of 2020 makes a bold attempt to find an answer to this very uneasy note of interrogation. This book certainly is one of the boldest attempts to simplify the psychoanalysis that still plays its role in today’s industrial society.

In fact, this is the question that had been tormenting some extraordinary human minds including Leo Tolstoy, Vladimir Nabokov and Gustav Flaubert. The result, of course, was creation of immortal fictional characters like Ana Karenina, Madam Bovary and Lolita’s obsessive lover Humbert Humbert.

Etchings of the First Quarter of 2020 may one day find itself as one of the best modern work on psychoanalysis. In the recent times, no author like Sabarna Roy has made bold attempts to dissect the unconscious mind or the split personality of human mind.

This, perhaps, is the best work of modern times in which we find the how people suffer from the syndrome of unconscious mind that attracts them towards darker aspects of human life.

Such chapters like A Letter to a Step-daughterA Letter to Suranjana and Nocturnal Conversation between a Step-father and Step-daughter over desserts and coffee really carry our train of thoughts not only about man-woman relationship but also gives you glimpses of the dark comedies taking place in our industrial society every day, every moment.

To understand this particular work of Sabarna Roy, let us begin with Part-A of the book titled A Letter to a Step-daughter. The very title evokes massive curiosity among the readers. The stepdaughter of the father Babazula is Tulip. 

Here, the step-father Babuzula writes to step-daughter Tulip among other things of “Dark Side of the Mind” and the Idea of Duality. The step-father’s love for his step-daughter Tulip finds its supreme expression in a particular paragraph which is very touching.

This is: “I am your step-father, but at some level I do think, I am your father, because I would like to believe your creative-self would not have bloomed the way it has, had I not been a part of your growing up years. Now that you are grown-up and a creative woman, I seek validation of my art from you.”

The Part-B of Etchings of the First Quarter of 2020 is A Letter to Suranjana. In it, Sabarna Roy makes an honest attempt to simplify the scientific distinction between pedophiles and child molesters in the light of Vladimir Nabokov’s most controversial novel Lolita in which Humbert shows a split personality as far as his mad infatuation for the character Dolores Haze, a girl of 14, is concerned.

The most intellectual observation that Sabarna Roy makes is that Humbert, the Dolores-lover, may be a split personality but he is capable of feeling guilt thus trying to bring to light the fact that not all pedophiles are conscience-less.

This chapter, a letter to Suranjana with whom the step-father had a “wonderful session” on “Dark Side of the Mind”, rakes up the old controversy about pedophile Humbert. The author’s exoneration of Humbert as a pedophile and not an absolute child molester, of course, opens up a new vista for literary critics.

In Part-C of this book, we find a very thought provoking “Nocturnal Conversation between a Step-father and Step-daughter over desserts and coffee”.

In this intellectual offering, Sabarna Roy tries to say, “In life, there are certain things that are within our control, and a lot many things that are beyond our control. The aggregate of determinate and indeterminate factors makes life indeterminate. Uncertainty is closely associated with indeterminateness as indeterminate problems are likely to have multiple solutions.”

In it, Babazula, the step-father of Tulip, sides with Anna Karenina, the character of the novel of Leo Tolstoy by the same name. Apparently, he again rakes up an intellectual storm and perhaps, inviting critical assessments from literary figures.

Sabarna Roy puts forth a very valuable suggestion: When Anna Karenina was written, the influence of genes on man’s actions was not well understood. This is a very strong intellectual suggestion based on science. It deals with split personality syndrome with which, perhaps, Anna Karenina suffered.

To substantiate his argument, Sabarna Roy gives reference to Nikhilesh, the main character of Rabindranath Tagore’s book Ghare Baire. Nikhilesh too was split in his thoughts that results in a tragedy.

To corroborate his standpoint, Sabarna Roy gives scientific reasons. It runs like this: “Classical physics and how we would think in the years to come would change forever when light was first considered to be wave-particle; gravity a field and not force.”

At the concluding chapter of Etchings of the First Quarter of 2020, we find the beautiful Winter Poems 2020 which is a poem cycle of 21 very sharp and incisive poems. It is all about manifold aspects of human life and vivid confrontation between the poet and his alter-ego.

An engineer by profession, Sabarna Roy is the author of five best selling books. They are: Pentacles, Frosted Glass, Abyss, Winter Poems and Random Subterranean Mosaic: 2012 – 2018 Time Frozen in Myriad Thoughts.

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