When I was growing up, short stories by writers like Khushwant Singh and R.K. Narayan especially caught my fancy, because I never thought stories could be set in India and written so masterfully, or in the case of R.K. Narayan, so lucidly. A few years ago, I embarked on writing my first book, Kamappan’s Revenge. It was a grand experiment. I attempted to juggle multiple characters, Telugu and Tamil-laced prose, black magic and made-up places. Looking back, it was probably the case that I had bit more than I could chew at the time. While the book garnered interest, it found no buyers. The book grew old with me, as did the world I had created, while I explored other writers. When I read Naipaul’s Miguel Street, I was instantly drawn to the languid island life and the quirky characters that peopled it. And a few years after that when I re-read Malgudi Days, I had a clear idea what I wanted to work on next: a collection of short stories set in an island told in a simple narrative style. And thus Pleasant Days was born.
Pleasant Days was initially meant to be a writing exercise. A distraction from my fourth novel, that lay typed out, and now demanded editing – a task that I was doing my best to avoid. I would write each evening after work, jot down ideas for new stories whenever inspiration struck. I started writing short stories on my blog to ease into the painful editing process, but soon I found myself enjoying writing these stories, and I shelved my novel.
Madras (I prefer its older name) is no longer what it used to be. Where once the emerald sea was visible from my terrace, only billboards and chintzy buildings can be seen now. I grew up living walking distance from the beach. Whatever troubles assailed me, the beach was always my sanctuary. I’d meet up with my friends, and patrol its length, reveling in the breeze and the ‘fast food’ sold by the vendors. Pleasant Days is my heartfelt ode to Besant Nagar, that portion of Madras that raised me. The tales are meant to draw the readers back to a time when telephones (that’s what they were called) were rare, when flying was a luxury, when Tinkle and Chandamama comics were a treat, and evenings were spent playing outside or chatting with friends. We don’t live in those times anymore, I don’t live in Madras anymore, but my memories of those sweet times remain, which I have attempted to capture through the eyes of my characters.