Ex-adman Gangadharan Menon on his second book, 'Tales of a Driftwood'

By Anirban Roy Choudhury , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | June 03, 2016
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The book comprises 36 tales about his trips across different locales.

A wild elephant targets him while he is wandering around with his wife and a guide in the middle of a forest. The elephant chases him and manages to penetrate its tusk several inches inside his back, but the victim miraculously survives. An inch here or there, the ivory would have at least managed to paralyse the victim, but he has a lucky escape as he's back on his feet to continue to travel.

Gangadharan Menon

The victim, to have had this lucky escape, is ex-adman Gangadharan Menon, who has earlier worked with agencies such as Trikaya (where he began his career), Rediffusion, Ogilvy and Mather, Mudra, PSL McCann, and Chlorophyll.

"I asked myself why the elephant left me alive. Perhaps, it wanted me to write about my travels. So, I took to writing and started recollecting my travels, eventually documenting them," says Menon.

After giving the advertising profession almost three decades, Menon pursued his love for teaching and travelling, and came out with his first book 'The Evergreen Leaves', which was followed by his second book 'Tales of a Driftwood'. Published by Partridge, both books contain tales of his travels to various locations and the black-and-white imagery of nature complements the tales.

But, Menon did not intend to write the books initially. It was on the insistence of a friend who was most impressed with his escape from the elephant, that he decided to put pen to paper and recount his adventure for a magazine.

"A friend of mine who is a specialist in wildlife told me that my encounter with the elephant is one of the rarest escapades that he has ever heard of. He then insisted that I document it so that he could publish it for the Bombay Natural History Society's (of which he was a member) in-house magazine Hornbill," says Menon.

"I documented the incident and a few other lucky escapes that I've had in the past, and he published it. But, eventually the article ended up featuring in The Hindu, a publication that I have immense respect for. This motivated me further and I wrote more," recollects Menon, who followed it up with several more travel tales in numerous publications.

But, disappointed with the final copies published in newspapers and magazines, Menon decided to compile all his articles into a book. "The problem with those articles was that they are chopped beyond repair in order to accommodate more and more advertising. That is when I decided to take the book route and that's how 'The Evergreen Leaves', and 'Tales of a Driftwood' happened. Most of them are already published articles, but I still believe people will read the book as it is without the chopping," asserts Menon.

Tales of a Driftwood

Tales of a Driftwood

Taking the book route was not that easy for Menon as the manuscript was rejected by many publishers. Publishers were apprehensive that there was only a niche market for books on travel, and the readership would be really limited.

"It was then that I came across Partridge, a print-on-demand publication, which print only as per order. That meant none of my books would go to the 'raddiwala' (garbage collector), and be available when needed," he adds.

Menon feels being a journalist at one point of time in his career helps him get the stories from the locals. "I talk to people, and listen to what they have to say, and that's where the majority of the stories come from. I went to Assam during the Bodo unrest. I purposely hired a car with a Bodo driver which really helped. A travelogue writer who stays in five-star hotels will never be able to do that. This I have learned from journalism," shares Menon.

His books are targetted at the 10-70 years age group. And, the main reason behind his documentation is to urge people to travel. "This is where my advertising experience helps me. Advertising is all about communicating the message to the target group in a simplified manner. You will see that my stories are not a showcase of my vocabulary. They are written in simple English for everyone to understand," he adds.

Menon is now utilising his fountain pen to author a book that will insist people to think creatively. "The title 'A palette of Ideas' is what I thought of. I read an old saying which goes, "When an old man dies a library burns down with him", and that quote gave me this idea. In this, I will document my journey so far. I also have a dream to charter the route that Shri Ram took when he went to the forest for 14 years and what he did there. That will be a mix of his journey and mine and the title for that would be 'The Forests of Exile'," reveals Menon.

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