Small-Town India of the 1980s had many problems but one can hardly deny the charm that it held. It is this very nostalgia that Adithi Rao’s book, 'Left from the Nameless Shop', tries to capture.
Talking about the past, Rao says, “The past was not a perfect time. But it was a more humane one. Now people often don’t know their neighbour’s name. We’ve eliminated the trees, the animals, the air, all to the greater glory of progress and yet nobody is content.
There are more people now but less humanity. We live, but there is little life. Perhaps that is the reason for the nostalgia, the yearning to regress to an era where the world was gentle and meandering, more tactile, less virtual.”
Ask her where she found inspiration for her book and Rao says, “From my grandfather, to whom this book is dedicated. From my childhood days spent in a large joint family. From Bangalore of the 1980s and a neighbourhood peopled by odd, magical, lovable, (and sometimes not-so-lovable) folk. From Shankar Nag’s beautiful televised rendition of Malgudi Days, and the rustic song that preceded each episode. But most of all, to Anant Nag and his moving portrayal of Jaganna in The Vendor of Sweets”
Love is the running theme in the book. “I think this book is about the deep romance that exists between a human being and his or her own deeper self. This inner journey is what abides and endures through the book.”
Rao shares that while the writing was effortless, the challenge was in getting publishers to read it. “The genre of short stories is not well-received because they don’t sell, I am told. So literary agents and publishers would take a look at my email with a collection of short stories and hit the delete button!”
Talking about the stories in the book, she says, “The Awakening was inspired from a Marathi bhajan in the tradition of Natya Sangeet. The bhajan captivated me. The next thing I knew, this story appeared. Decent Haircuts was inspired from a tiny barber shop in Oorgaum, in Kolar Gold Fields. The walls of the shop were dotted with old framed photographs. One frame was empty and had a dusty garland around it. The visual grabbed me and another story was born.”
For The Story of Rain parts I and II, Rao needed to familiarise herself with simple and interesting rainwater harvesting techniques, “I turned to the little town of Idkidu in the Malnad region of Karnataka for inspiration. There, the people used every last drop of ingenuity they possessed to capture every last drop of rain! Travelling to Kolar Gold Fields, exploring the place, was a research in itself. It was like going back in time into a world that time itself had forgotten.”
Rao’s next titled Candid Tales: India on a Motorcycle is due to come out sometime early next year.