1. Before starting anything about the book, please tell us a little about your life as a service man.
I joined the National Defence Academy after my boarding school and then it was a tough training and after its completion I got my commission in the Indian Air force. Life as a service man is very interesting and fulfilling. One tends to have a routine and also there is a sense of pride in wearing the uniform.
2. OK. Now, a little about your book and the concept.
The book Ode to Dignity is written in ballads and is a romantic novel. It is about a young lieutenant who goes for war and fights alongside a Major. Despite winning the war , the Major dies and the Lieutenant goes to inform his widow. Over three days they share their thoughts and their aspirations. It is about the sense of loss the lady feels and yet her poise in times of tragedy and her dignity. She shares her love for her late husband and how he was a wonderful father to their daughter and a loving husband. The Lieutenant too shares his life, his growing up years and his aspiration for the perfect woman who would come into his life. And as they share their thoughts, a wonderful bond develops between them. The book has 1645 ballads which follow the meter and this is the first time an Indian writer has written a full length novel in ballad form.
3. What exactly are these ballads verse? (Or whatever it is… Please correct me)
Ballads are four line stanzas which follow the meter abcb. They also have a lyrtical intonation to them . Over 700 years ago in England these ballads were sung in family functions around a fire. The are also called the traditional english ballad.
4. A service man entered the creative field and written a book with one of the most unique concepts in India. How was the journey?
Yes, it is a unique happening for a serviceman to write a novel in ballads. Infact there are just a few servicemen who have written fiction related novels. So it is breaking a ceiling for me personally, though you have people from IAS and IFS who have. I was always inclined towards literature and I felt the time I had over weekends or after my work hours could be put to use following my passion. Also with time, I felt I could possibly write a book and then realised that a novel in entire rhymes had never been done by an indian except Vikram Seth’s The Golden Gate which is in ianbic pentameter. So it was a challenge I took upon myself little knowing if I would ever be able to write the book. But then I kept at it.
5. Does the book have specific target readers?
The book can appeal to readers across the spectrum who like good reading. It is lyrical and we all love music, so its like a musical book in a manner as the words will also give a sense of music. We all have grown up with reading english poets and so we will find a strong resonance to the book.
6. What about the commercial side of the book?
I think any book which is good will have a commercial viability. True there is always different genres and trends, and yet this book has a classic value and appeal and anything classic endures the trends and stays for longer. This book is not a modern trend or fad. It is about dignified love and feelings which always live on.
7. Please tell us something about the plot of the book.
As I mentioned, the book is about the conversations of a young Lieuteant and a Majors widow and how despite the tragedy of losing her husband she shows strength and takes it in her stride. It is also about two people sharing their thoughts on how they have led their lives and what they foresee in the future.
8. What after Ode to Dignity?
A commercial fiction novel is on the anvil . So it would be coming out soon.