Suraj Laxminarayan and his debut novel, Elephants in the Room have been making the right kind of noise for quite a while now. With more and more people laying their hands on this book with every passing day, it is time we hear from the author himself what it’s all about and what went behind writing such a massive and entertaining book.
What Inspires Me and ‘Elephants in the Room’:
Watching movies and reading books has always fascinated me. I have been interested in psychology and self-help books since I first encountered them.
I look for stories all around from various sources including books, newspapers, magazines and movies.But I am particularly interested in crime and its evolution and look for such stories everywhere. Perhaps it was only fitting that the idea for my first book falls in this genre.
How ‘Elephants in the Room’ was Born:
It was in 2011 during a lonely trip from Bangalore to Chennai that the idea for the book suddenly popped up in my mind. Traveling alone in the vehicle which was only half full with no TV or music to kill time, I loved the idea when it popped up and spent the rest of the six hour journey working on it. From there on, I worked on that idea for the next six years.
The initial version of the idea from the journey was only a skeleton to the work. It took several revisits and brainstorming hours to refine and structure it into a complete story. This was also aided by constructive feedback from my dear friends who were my beta-readers and helped me improve. The research I carried out on my own to improve my writing and the quality of my work also played a role.
What turned out into the book at the end was vastly different from what I derived on that journey although the premise remained the same.
Elephants in the Room – The USPs:
Elephants in the Room, according to Suraj Laxminarayan, has not one, but many USPs. It is a crime novel that delves deeper into the psychology and execution of crime, focusing on its after-effects and the turmoil every individual involved goes through. A one-of-a-kind story, it is a witty and comical read that recounts absurd life situations and how one’s fate leads to a contrary state altogether.
What’s more, it allows the reader to live under the skin of the characters who may be ordinary individuals representing a microcosm of our Indian society.
Why ‘Elephants in the Room’ Works:
The reason why I believe that Elephants in the Room works is because it is a transformational journey for the readers as they make their own inferences from the story. Added to this, it is an attraction for crime readers as it does not follow a traditional path of the subgenre but tries to redefine the perspective of the reader through plot. An immersive and cinematic experience for readers, it plunges them in the thrill and makes them navigate a rather comic cliff-hanger.
Elephants in the Room is a good choice for a reader looking to diversify beyond the regular genres of YA, thrillers, and plain-Jane romances. It has lovable characters who will remain with the readers long after the book is finished – a perfect mean with all the right ingredients mixed in perfect proportion.
Elephants in the Room – Naming the Central Characters:
On reading the book, I hope the reader notices that all the central characters only have a first name throughout the book. Their last names are never mentioned as an indication of their facelessness in the large city of Chennai where the story unfolds. Portraying this in contrast are a mix of other characters who do have last names, who we notice are from a comparatively more privileged position in society with access to basic needs which our central characters lack.
Elephants in the Room – The Central Characters Themselves:
One of the characters in the book named Assam (whose actual name is Aabheer) is nicknamed as such by his own friends. A discerning reader might notice that this insignificant though subtle name change is an indication of generalising people from the North-east that we commonly see.
As these characters engage in acts of snatching and pick-pocketing, we see the events that they encounter and the decisions they make. My research coupled with imagination helped me to portray such people in authenticity to the best of my capability so that we understand why they do what they do even if we don’t necessarily empathise with the characters and vouch for their victory. Most of the characters exhibit a perennially risky behaviour just to survive and are victims of circumstances if not born criminals.
Elephants in the Room – Explaining Character Arcs:
Here’s a question that I received about the characters and in particular about Nari and Dhantha.
Nari seems to be a decent and promising leader. But you toned down his character as soon as Dhantha came into the picture and Nari didn’t have much role to play in the climax action scene as well. What was the thinking behind doing so?
Each character has an arc and we see this especially in the case of Nari, the pickpocket leading his friends to rob a bank. As Nari’s path crosses with that of Dhantha the seasoned robber, we see Nari’s arc undergo a shift. It becomes clear that neither Dhantha nor Nari can win the battle alone. Although Nari lacks experience, he steps up to the situation and becomes the pivot to Dhantha’s resistance. At a later point when facing certain death, by luck or chance it is Nari’s presence alone that tilts the situation in favour of Dhantha and in turn to himself in away neither of them could see coming.
The climax scene also portrays the synergy between the two as we see Nari’s seemingly useless katta or home-grown gun come to the rescue of Dhantha who couldn’t possibly conceal his larger weapon. Both men are essential to each other’s survival and this is what makes their team tick.
What I Learnt From This Experience:
Apart from understanding the challenges a writer faces in the publishing journey, the book writing process turned out to be a revelatory experience. I have learned a lot about human psychology, more than what’s needed or shown in the book. I have come across numerous situations where crime develops and produces surprising transitions in the characters of people.
It has helped change my perspective towards crime and view it in a new light where we as a society can play a role in minimising if not eliminating crime. I have realised that a simple act of compassion can go a long way in negating a crime that would otherwise originate and go on to impact one or more lives.
Author(s): Suraj Laxminarayan
Publisher: The Write Place
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