Published: 10th July 2019
This Chennai author's 'pursuit of happyness' led him to write a book. Here's how
Marketing professional Hari Ram Narayan’s debut novel promises to take the reader on a journey peppered with elements of fantasy, adventure and discovery
Have you ever just laid in a hammock, arms and legs stretched out, eyes staring into nothingness, pondering the meaning of existence? No? Okay, even if you haven’t done this, can you say for a fact that you have never, even once, wondered what happiness is and whether you will ever truly be happy in life? While most of us prefer moving on to eating some ice cream or watching Youtube videos of puppies to instantly gratify our quest for ‘true happiness’ and then get busy with other things in life, Hari Ram Narayanan, a Chennai-based marketing professional went one step ahead – he wrote a book on the topic, not just any book, a fantasy novel. The Happy Fruit Adventures published by Readomania revolves around two nineteen-year-old boys who set out on a journey through a jungle called ‘Life’, in search of the ‘Happy Fruit’. The twist is - both of them take different paths. What happens to them, their encounters with different characters from Insight – the owl with unique powers to Monster Pessimism – the giant snake with legs, forms the rest of the story. We caught up with the author for a tête-à-tête. Excerpts follow:
Did you always know that you wanted to become a writer or did it happen overnight?
I was raised in a house filled with books - they were in every room! Clothes were folded away in a corner in our wardrobes to make room for them. You could even find them in boxes under the bed. And it was not just about quantity, but also the quality. There were classics by authors like Dickens and Kipling and books on philosophy by Bertrand Russel, Aldous Huxley, and J Krishnamurti. It was impossible not to write after growing up in such an environment. If I have to talk about one incident, it was something which happened when I was in school. I wrote a satirical piece about the internet (which was still new and alien at that point of time) and send it across to a leading newspaper. I was surprised to find it published on the front page of their supplement. This gave me a lot of confidence to write more articles and eventually take up writing seriously.
What makes The Happy Fruit Adventures unique when compared to other fantasy novels?
First of all, it is an allegorical novel. Allegory is a literary device in which a character or event is used to deliver broad messages. The characters in this book are metaphors for struggle, sacrifice, pleasure, etc. I think very few authors have experimented with using allegory in the fantasy genre. Either they go all-out in the employment of fantasy or become preachy and deliver life lessons without being subtle. What I have tried to do is achieve a balance between the two, without being overly preachy.
Who is your target audience?
Seeing that the protagonists are youngsters and the theme is a journey through a jungle, it is easy to assume that the book is for children or young adults only. But in fact, it caters to both young and mature audiences. Youngsters may take the happenings quite literally and enjoy the adventure side of it, while older people may try and decode the inner meaning. It’s all a matter of perspective.
Can you describe your writing process?
First, something inspires you. It can be an event, another book or movie, or just a random thought that pops up in your head. Then you spend a lot of time forming the story. I prefer to do this locked in my room sprawled in bed, but often I don't get that luxury. Only when the whole story or at least the main structure is complete, do I begin writing. So I rarely face any blocks at this stage, because much of the struggle is already over. I like to test my writing to make sure it works, I am lucky to have a bunch of friends who review whatever I write. I also spend a good amount of time editing. This is like a process of chiselling, it is mostly about removing everything other than that which is most essential to the reader. Editing and rewriting 'The Happy Fruit Adventures' took more time than writing it the first time. It takes patience to do this but, I have realised through experience that the time spent is totally worth it.
Do you personally think that happiness is elusive?
No, not at all. It is really easy to find happiness for those who have the right perspective. Other than the rare times when we face major setbacks in certain inevitable situations, we can all have rich, enduring happiness.
What are your other interests? Do you have anything exciting planned for this year?
I am doing a round of talks in schools and colleges in Chennai and some other places. on the topic 'Thinking long term in the age of instant gratification' and it ties into the theme of the book. I feel this is extremely relevant to young people today. I also get to do a good share of talking and writing through my role as a marketer at Zoho. There will be more books from me, but it is too early now to say on what or when.
What is your piece of advice for upcoming writers?
Invest in becoming a good storyteller. If you are an architect, you could easily imagine many fancy structures in your head. But if one of them has to become a building which stands, it has to adhere to certain norms of architecture. In the same way, an idea that feels interesting in your head need to not immediately be a story that works for the reader. There are certain norms here too, you need a well-constructed plot, raise and release tension at the right times, build characters that the readers want to root for, write conversations that move the narration forward and so on. A great real-life conversation, written as it happened, will not often turn out to be a great conversation in a story. It needs to be restructured to fit this context. Writers need to master such areas before they can become successful storytellers.