CHENNAI: Ranga, a boy from a conservative tambrahm family in Chittoor, goes back to school to find that he’s the only boy in class who still wears half-pants. To make matters worse, his arch-nemesis torments him every day and makes a move on his friend-turned-crush, Kaivalya. But that’s not all. Prasad, a strapping young man who stood up to the ‘area dada’ is waging a battle of his own. And when their worlds collide, you get Ranga Half-pants by Suman Kumar.
The setting for the tale, says the author, is all real. Growing up in Chittoor in the 1980s, Suman, himself from a tambrahm household, says he loved town life. “From the guava tree in Ranga’s house to the part about swimming in wells, the setting was inspired by the times. When my dad left Chittoor in 1993, the rent was `750,” he reminisces.
“I moved on to bigger cities like Chennai and Bengaluru, but never could let go of that part of my life because of the simplicity of town life,” he smiles.
Until recently, Chittoor was a very violent town, and Suman and his friends had their own encounters with those on the run from cops — they had to get these delinquents food packets, bedsheets and pillows, all without the knowledge of their parents. “They would say we were very sweet and advise us too, saying don’t be inspired by people like us, go and study properly,” says Suman.
The book has two threads running in parallel. Ranga, who starts bunking school and roaming the town with his friend who failed SSLC for god knows how many years — the duo even goes to see a ‘bitt’ movie (you know.. the ones with the ‘scenes’). And there’s the underdog who stands up to the MP’s nephew — he’s on a quest to get married to the love of his life. Suman pulls these parallels together and makes them meet. “When two worlds that are poles apart collide, it has the capacity to change lives,” says the stay at home dad who takes care of his daughter while his wife “pays the rent”.
Unlike the conservative background our hero comes from, Suman says he came from a liberal household. “I don’t know if they were liberal or just too lazy,” he winks.
But like the protagonist, he was the butt of several jokes. “You brahmins can’t fight, can’t do this, that — I used to be called a Baapana Kukka (Brahmin dog) often.”
In a town where rowdy elements are rated on the ability to execute the ditchaa (head-butt) and the guduga (knee-butt), not knowing how to fight is of course a disability. And the full pants that Ranga is after, are actually a metaphor for something else — the pants represent the courage to fight back and to tackle his ‘love life’ (or the lack of it).
I realised I was a storyteller in Class 3. I was thrown out for slipshod shoes. I used to make up stories like the battle between the red and black ants
Reading James Hadley Chase in Class 7, my dad would say why can’t you at least hide it behind a newspaper and read
Reading whatever was printed on the paper cone that they used to pack groceries in — it could turn out to be anything!
Started blogging in 2002, wrote stories about the town. Later started series called Tailors of Chittoor
(The book will be formally released in Bengaluru on June 4 and a Chennai release is in the pipeline. Meanwhile, you can get the book on Amazon.)