I could only do that in October 2000, when I began work on it full-time. The first draft took 9 months, but there were many subsequent drafts after that, till 2004.
It's a story about a man who voluntarily decides to live on a local train in Mumbai. He works in a multinational ad agency at night and thus leads two dramatically opposite lives. Setting a story in the advertising world (or at least part of it) is anathema in the publishing world, and with its contemporary “rock and roll” tone, not exactly brimming with the exotica that contemporary Indian fiction is so sadly full of (which is another, pretty significant, story).
I was lucky therefore that G. Sampath of Indialog (New Delhi) liked it and took on the manuscript for publication. Local was officially released on May 30, 2005 at Prithvi Theatre in Juhu, Mumbai.
I have also attached a few reviews below, basically for my own record.
LOCAL - an overview
Twenty-eight-year-old Akash is a new entrant to the city of Mumbai in mid-1996. He has come from Madras after a severe personal setback, to start life anew.
To rid himself of a number of problems – financial, physical and (primarily) emotional, he finds a solution that somehow addresses all of them together. He decides to live within the city’s most chaotic, most indispensable institution – the local train.
He plunges himself into his career during the day, but finds the nights giving him a conflicting perspective. During the day, he helps create artificial wants (in a multinational advertising agency) but at night, unconsciously dismantles his own desires (in the train). Globalisation and consumerism are his preoccupations during the day, exactly the opposite in the night. This gradual tussle between an aggressive corporate life and a deliberately passive inner life results in an involuntary transformation within him.
Akash’s story is the main narrative in the book, which is punctuated by stand-alone vignettes about people he meets, most of whom are going through some kind of emotional crisis (but away from his gaze).
This format (which can also be seen as stand-alone short stories punctuating a novel; metaphorically acting as stations in a railway journey), besides innovatively contributing to character development, ultimately fleshes out the big picture of the book.