Alum Authors: 14 Stories and One Rogue – M Gopakumar, PGP 1991

Some things tell you a lot about a person than conversing itself, for example, take the title of the book ’14 Stories and One Rogue’, written by Gopakumar Menon. His personality is as enterprising as the title and book itself. His wit and intellect come through so clearly in his book, which is a collection of short stories about different facets of life.

Mr. Menon is not new to writing, he started writing during his days at the institute. Short stories – a genre that is considered one of the trickiest to write come naturally to him. Life is quite serious as it is, hence Mr. Menon tends to take the path less traveled and enjoys satire, humor, farcical over others.

A humorist at heart, in an exclusive interview with Mr. Gopakumar Menon.

Please tell us something about yourself.

I finished up at IIMB in 1991 and then worked in the Venture Capital business for about eleven years, never aspiring to be competent unless left with no choice.  In 2002, I joined Navgati to facilitate workshops in influencing and negotiation and continue to do so (everyone is just so sick of my lurking presence that, if I turned to writing full-time, there would be an office party for a week). Some years ago, River Otter Conservancy was set up by a couple of us to conserve otters in the wild and, of course, I write a great deal; in short, (if you consider my forgettable academic record on campus as well), a Jack of All Grades!

Can you please tell us about your latest book – 14 stories and One Rogue?

Fifteen short stories, written over seven years.  Each has a slice of experience, often from travel or accounts that were read or heard.  The only adage I believe in (and hope it stays that way) is that truth is stranger than fiction, and these accounts often led to the creation of a short story over the years. 

The book’s title is very interesting, is there any special meaning behind this?

Well, the first fourteen stories follow a certain pattern of writing, but the last one is, well, different: that’s the ‘rogue’.  I thought it would be nice to have that because it is based on true events, albeit ones that occurred many years ago.  Some decades ago, Kenneth Anderson wrote a book titled ‘Nine Maneaters and One Rogue’ and, being a fan of his writing, I guess that cast a shadow (the book did, not the maneater or rogue.  One needs to get these things right).

Which is your favourite story in this book and why?

‘Dewormed’ is my favourite.  No real reason really. 

I first thought of saying stuff like, ‘All these stories are like my children,’ and adding some mindless stuff to justify it, but political correctness is not my forte (never has been).

How did you get interested in writing? What was your written piece about?

My dad was a writer in his spare time as well, so some of that is imprinted on the seventeenth gene.  I began writing a blog twelve years ago about interesting people I knew, environmental issues and development economics, and published my first book of short stories, Walk Through, in 2013 (now out of print and I am not complaining).  More recently, I have been fairly active as a writer (not forwarder, if you see what I mean) on Facebook, where instant gratification is more or less assured, unlike a blog. The pieces on FB are short ones – around five hundred words – and it wrecks my mood to accept that humanity does not classify this as literature, unless I paste it in a book someday and get a celebrity endorsement.

What have been your learnings from your experience, as a writer/ author?

The biggest learning has been that publishers should be designated a sub-species of homo sapiens, monitored carefully for signs of normal human behaviour and given a notebook in which they write, “…and I have learnt that there is a difference between an author and indentured labour and the latter is now abolished” one hundred times a day.

Any memories or instances at IIMB you would like to share.

I particularly enjoyed listening to Prof Indira Rajaraman – her sharp, acerbic sense of humour made economics much more fun to study.  My batch was the first to be put up at D Quarters, an outpost on campus that is only a few minutes from the Siberian hinterland.  The fifteen of us at DQ became great friends and have remained that way, one clear testimony being that we are yet to create a DQ WhatsApp group, sparing each other the trauma with touching compassion. 

A book you are currently reading.

Two books: one a PG Wodehouse (he’s generally around the bedside table) and the other an utterly brilliant book on evolution titled ‘Improbable Destinies’.