He travels around the country without reserving train tickets, works whenever he runs out of cash and tries to sell his books in his free time. That’s K Hari Kumar in a sentence!
With a little more description you will be knowing that he is one of India’s youngest authors. At 24, he has published a novel, his five short films have been released and he has been nominated for several photography awards.
The young author was in Chennai for promoting his book, ‘When Strangers Met’. Initially rejected by most of the top publishers, it soon hit the markets under Srishti Publications. Impressed with the response that the book received, his publishers have now decided to go in for a second edition.
Hari Kumar is hardly a conventional author who sits by the side of his writing table waiting for the world to discover him.
“It’s not like those days when the author just had to write a book and the publisher took care of everything. It is much easy to get a book published today. In Delhi, for instance, there is a publisher in every corner. But on the other hand, the competition is high. Every month, 20 publishers bring out two books each. The distributor hardly knows what to do. So the author has to take the responsibility,” he says.
So, what does he do to reach out to his readers? “Oh! Everything. In Kerala, I went from one distributor to the other. They don’t have anyone to give the books to them so this is the only way to reach them. In Delhi, I’‘ve tried selling T-shirts that read ‘Stranger’ and that was a little too crazy, as people found it weird (he chuckles). I have knocked on the doors of all local book shops. But many of the young authors today have gone through much more and that inspires me a lot. If you believe in your book, you will be able to do it,” he says.
But none of this comes easily. Finding time to promote his books means a lot of multi-tasking and cutting down on daily expenses.
“After my engineering college days, I worked for one and a half year in an ad agency. I had some savings. Half of that has already been spent on marketing my book. But I make sure everything is done as economically as possible. I travel to all places by train, often on unreserved tickets, wherever possible. Whenever possible, I walk distances and I can do without luxury in most of the time. As long as you are feeling positive and hopeful, these cuts don’t put you off,” he says.
But life has not always been stress-free for this young man. For one whole semester during his college days, he could do nothing but stay in his room, sick and frustrated. “After school, engineering was the only option. So I went with it. But it was really bad. By the third year, I was completely frustrated and angry and I got sick. I couldn’t attend college for one full semester, so I merely sat at home. I was angry with everyone, especially with my dad for doing this to me. But it was then that I first began writing. It was first in the form of a screenplay which I later developed into a novel. So in some ways, now I think, if my dad hadn’t put me into that engineering college, I would have never written this.”
True to his life, the story, which is about 40 per cent autobiographical, is a take on a father-son relationship. So what next? He doesn’t know. Now he is a freelance assistant director for commercial ads and is also a ghost screenwriter for the ads. “So I don’t get the credits but the money,” he says. He is a part-time short film maker and one of his short films has been nominated for the IFF Melbourne and his photographs for the Nobel Memorial Photo Competition organised by the Swedish government.