Stopovers which blend fact with fiction
BOOK REVIEW: THE STOPOVER
Recently I came across a very unusual book called, The Stopover – a blend of photography, fiction and fact. Written by Ram Prakash and Deepa Pinto, the book takes one on an enchanting journey to uncharted territories through four absorbing stories.
A crossover between a pictorial essay and a coffee table book, The Stopover, as the name suggests, is the result of four stopovers in life. Deepa says, “We both believe that every place we visit and every culture we experience enriches our lives and that at every stopever in the journey of life lies an exciting new treasure trove. To these shared convictions, we added Ram’s passion for photography and story-letting and mine for language and literature. And the end product is this book.”
Ram Prakash is an executive in the advertising and marketing world while Deepa teaches German at the Goethe Institut/ Max Mueller Bhavan. Their book brings alive four stories, supplemented by highly artistic photograph, in locations, as varied as the stories themselves – of Tibetean monks in Ladakh, of Channapatna wooden toys, a Toda settlement in Ooty and a fish breeding farm at Kolathur in Chennai.
“When I started off, I did not have any objective in mind. I just had a large canvas which I wanted to paint with people and stories,” says Ram, a marketing executive-turned-photographer who got together with Deepa to write the book. “After more than a decade in the advertising world, I realised that professionally I was doing well but have failed to experience life itself. Armed with a one-year course in photography, I got in touch with my long-time friend Deepa, who passion for languages is equally supplemented by her desire for travel and exploration. With a vague idea in mind and a yearning for the unknown, we set out for our stopovers,” he says.
The stories in the book are about fictional people set in actual places. Although written in simple language which is easily comprehensible, the stories bring alive actual tales of dreams, despairs and hope. “We chose subjects that were visually appealing and had a deep context so that the story would become like an inner journey. It’s like expanding your horizons and getting to know yourself better. We also had a marketing strategy in mind for if a person is going to pay Rs 495 for a book, it should have good photographs and tell stories which are beyond the obvious and not available in google or any other search engine.”
So we have a story of an ornamental fish-breeding farm in the outskirts of Chennai as well as the depiction of daily life in a Toda settlement. “We came across the fish-breeding farm during our visit to Kolathur and that particular stopover resulted in a strong desire in both of us to portray the interaction between humans and animals. We were writing about the fish so one might as well see things from the point of view of the fishes, right? What these fishes go through and how they are treated form a major part of the story,” says Deepa.
But the stories are set in more realistic surroundings as well. As Ram says, being with Todas was an eye-opener. “The place we visited had around 69 settlements with roughly around 2000 people. Everybody knew each other by their names and money did not have any bearing in their relationships. Whatever we read about in scriptures were all practiced by these people,” he said. “Through these stories we want to tell people about what is there in our backyard, of lives and stories which exist but which nobody talks about and which very few ever know that they exist. In the process, we give something back to society as well.”
Photographs from the book have been put on display at Ranga Shankara’s art gallery in Bangalore. The book is available on Flipkart and more details are available at www.stopoverbook.com.