Books corner: The Empty Pedestal And Other Stories by RM Rajgopal

  • Ambica Gulati

A debutante author normally likes to narrate a long tale and has many characters but RM Rajgopal has taken a classical route of putting together short stories. His stories reminded me of short serious episodes, the kind that makes for a Shyam Benegal or even a young Mahesh Bhatt silver screen drama—serious, detailed and revolving around a single character. The book has 21 stories and each one has a theme. In an era when everyone seems to thrive on long sequel stories, this book is a surprise. I was so reminded of that story about the last leaf.

So let’s get to know what the author was thinking when he decided to turn pen into print. An email conversation with RM Rajgopal:

How did the journey begin for you as an author?
I always knew that I could write. In the midst of building up a hectic corporate career, writing took a back seat. I wrote ‘middles’ for The Times of India two or three times a year. In 1990 I started writing short stories. My attempts met with approval from friends. I also wrote a single page column for Outlook Magazine titled Business Travelogue.The watershed came in 1995 when my wife and another dear friend purloined one of my stories and entered it in a National Short Story Competition. To my surprise, I was listed in the Top 10. There were, I believe, 4,500 entries. This recognition gave a great boost to my confidence.

Between 2000 and 2010 there was no progress in this area, since I was diagnosed with a serious neuro illness. It was in 2012 that a concerted effort was made to gather the stories (23 of them) and put them in presentable shape. I live in Bangalore. Dronequill was a local publisher, small but with an excellent reputation. We decided to work together.

Your stories are very speculative and pensive. What inspires such depth?
Most of my stories and characters are from real life. When I write, I in a sense become that character and try to experience what the character is going through. The writing of fiction in my case is an arduous and draining task but the reward you get of a beautiful story is worth the effort.

Is there a reason you focussed on short stories? Most authors like to work on novels as their first time work.
I started with short fiction because in the kind of ‘running to stay at the same place job’ I was in, a short story seemed somewhat more manageable. Then I discovered that I liked it and was adept at it. I stayed with it.

Who are your inspirations and favourite authors?
The two inspirational figures I look up to are completely contrarian: Mahatma Gandhi and Winston Churchill. My favourite authors are Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene and Paul Scott.

What are the future plans?
I have recently finished my second book, tentatively titled Retro. It takes you on a tour of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and helps you understand how life was lived. The presentation is in the form of vignettes of which there are around 70.

Book details
The Empty Pedestal And Other Stories by RM Rajgopal
Pubisher: Dronequill
Pages: 183
Price:  Rs 295


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