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Time for tales



Sudhir Thapliyal, the author of "Hello Mr. Tee" in New Delhi. Photo: S. Subramanium.

THE EASE with which he weaves word webs, the manner he sweeps past to steer the present can put any raconteur to rest, no wonder Sudhir Thapliyal calls himself a storyteller. The veteran journalist and activist is out with the first of his trilogy, "Hello Mister Tee". Treading three generations from 1960s to the present day, the first novel tells the tale of a businessman, grandson of a British colonel, settled in Calcutta. Set at a time when Red was belligerent to be the flavour of the city, the man finds his business empire falling to the Left movement with apparently no fault of his.

"He is a genuine man. He hasn't hurt anybody. It is just the communist ideology symbolised by union culture that is spoiling his business interests. While sketching his character and the surroundings, I have taken cue from the real settings of the time like Naxalite movement and the Swimming club incident," says Thapliyal, who has spent a good period in the Left bastion, reporting with The Statesman.

"When I shifted to Delhi, I also had similar feelings like you can't survive in the journalism profession without resorting to corrupt practices. One powerful minister presented similar suit lengths to the press people after a conference and interestingly a few days later media people were found lined up in the same dress at a reception hosted by the minister," he recounts with a hearty laugh. "I just failed to cope with such system and shifted base to Mussoorie, made documentary films and worked for social causes."

Back to the tales, the mandatory sex spice is there to keep the reader engrossed with the protagonist falling for his own illegitimate daughter, a prostitute. "Our mythological epics are full of bastards, so I don't think I have done anything new. He goes to brothel when everybody including his wife is scheming against him. And meeting with the daughter turns out to be final spark. He calls a member of the thug community from U.P., whom his ancestors patronised and gets all his adversaries vanquished. He flees to a hill station and turns a recluse where again he finds a woman, a sanyasin, who takes him to the peaks of spiritualism."

Associated with the Uttarakhand movement, Thapliyal finds that the movement has not been high jacked. "Every movement has his life and it is not necessary that those who have started it must reap its rewards. For instance, nobody from the current dispensation at the Centre worked for the freedom movement," he remarks. In fact, the next part of the trilogy, which Thapliyal has already completed, deals with similar issues when another illegitimate soul is forced to turn to politics. "When the feudal lords lost their power situation forced them to turn to politics and their subjects at large supported them." The storyteller however doesn't formally conclude the story and leaves it to the interpretation of the reader. "As they say, tomorrow is another day."

ANUJ KUMAR

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