By P.T. Bopanna
I had never imagined I would be an author one day. As they say, life is sometimes stranger than fiction. I wish to go back into my childhood to give an insight into how the early years shaped my personality. Since my father was working in the forest department in the Andaman Islands, I was left in a boarding school (girls’ hostel) at Virajpet in Kodagu (Coorg) district of Karnataka.
Since my parents visited us only once in three years, my childhood was traumatic. Thankfully my mother shifted to Gonikoppal in Kodagu by the time I reached high school. However, the initial years of insecurity continued well into my adulthood.
I went for my college studies to Madras (now Chennai). It was in the mid-1960s, around the time the Dravidian movement was at its peak and the DMK was all set to capture power. I was influenced by the teachings of the Dravidian movement leader Periyar E.V.Ramasamy Naicker. Those were the days when to be identified with Marxism was a badge of honour.
The ideologies of Periyar and Marx and the reading of books by the British philosopher Bertrand Russell, turned me into a rationalist which I continue to remain even to this day. Despite being a rationalist, it has been a habit with me to read the astrological predictions ‘this week for you’ published in various magazines. Though I know the predictions are just bunkum, due to my inbuilt insecurity, I continue to read them up out of curiosity.
One such prediction said I would do well if I start a website. Since my professional career was not doing well around that time, I decided to act on the prediction. The problem was that I was not technology savvy. But this did not stop me from registering my first domain www.coorgtourisminfo.com in 2005. I developed content for the site on matters of tourist interest. My financial position was tight. Things began to look up after the then managing director of Tata Coffee Ltd, M.H. Ashraff, offered advertisement sponsorship for my website.
I requested writer C.P. Belliappa to contribute a column. I also began posting Kodagu-related news items. Despite initial technical hiccups, the website started doing well and was the first site on page one of Google search for the keyword ‘Coorg’. Those days there was hardly any competition for me as the big players like ‘TripAdviser’ were not active in the Coorg segment.
However, those were the early days when the Net penetration was poor. Coorg was just starting to become a week-end destination of the techies in Bengaluru. And the concept of homestays was becoming popular.
Since the traffic to my website was not much, it occurred to me that I could download the content from the website and bring it out in the form of a printed book. I managed to get some colourful photographs from a freelance photographer H.S. Manjunath and from T. Kempanna of the Karnataka Information Department. Nala Ponnappa did some brilliant cartoons for me and Manavattira Sharada Mandana contributed Coorg recipes.
But the biggest problem was finding a publisher for the book. Most of the good publishers were based in Delhi and they would take months to respond to my mail. I was losing patience and tried to find a publisher in Bengaluru. After most of the publishers turned down my book project, finally I was guided to Prism Books. The managing partner S. Pranesh, readily agreed to publish the book, without so much as a written agreement. Writer C.P. Belliappa suggested the title ‘Discover Coorg’ and wrote the foreword.
I was elated following the publication of the book in 2006. The most thrilling moment was to find the book on the display window of Gangaram Books, then located on Mahatma Gandhi Road. I walked the road up and down a few times in excitement. A few days later, the book was also displayed in the showcase of Higginbothams.
‘Discover Coorg’ was a runaway success. I brought out two more editions of the book, each time adding more content. The book was also translated into Kannada. Finally, I had arrived as an author. I still read the astrological predictions, knowing fully well they are nothing but hogwash. But sometimes they seem to work!