COVER STORY

India Today - - LEISURE - by AMRUTA PATIL who is a writer and painter, and the au­thor of the graphic nov­els Kari, Adi Parva and Saup­tik

I have al­ways known what the book cover needed to be.

One of my writerly peers starts each new project by writ­ing the blurb that will ap­pear on its back cover. I start with the cover it­self. Of the var­i­ous as­pects of my graphic nov­els, text is the most ex­act­ing. The art­work inside is more free­wheel­ing but needs much more down­time to re­alise. The cov­ers, how­ever, re­veal their true face im­me­di­ately, well be­fore the books get writ­ten, with a cer­ti­tude that can only be de­scribed as ‘gut-know’.

Some­where in the mar­gins of what­ever jour­nal is at hand, my fu­ture book’s cover will ap­pear, a scrib­ble no more than 2 inches high, akin to a foetal ul­tra­sound—a book must surely fol­low. There will be non­stop work­ing, culling and edit­ing in sub­se­quent months, but I have never known those mar­gin scrib­bles to be wrong when it comes to de­cid­ing the book’s pub­lic face.

The curve of the frac­tal ser­pent’s hood (Adi Parva: Churn­ing of the Ocean) cor­re­sponds with the golden ra­tio math­e­ma­ti­cians know so well; the ef­fect is pri­mor­dially com­pelling be­cause pri­mary red sits ad­ja­cent to pri­mary blue. The flow of Drau­padi’s white sa­ree pallu against a red­pink-orange back­drop (Saup­tik: Blood and Flow­ers) forces the eye to glide to the back cover where a va­jra bolt prom­ises dis­so­lu­tion. The eyes of Kari, their whites spot­lam­i­nated, call from a book­shelf, their an­gle and place­ment forc­ing you to look at the book’s ti­tle. The dense fo­liage on the cover of my forth­com­ing book will se­duce and daunt in equal mea­sure. As with all sto­ry­telling, per­sua­sion and sub­tle ma­nip­u­la­tion are im­plicit in cover de­sign—but ra­tio­nal­is­ing and de­con­struc­tion ap­pear as af­ter­math, the plan­ning stage is all in­stinct.

My friend Chris­tian Moste­fai has an old jew­eller’s ta­ble in his garage on which he crafts bold, im­per­fect one-of-a-kind bi­joux for peo­ple about whom he has what the French re­fer to as ‘le feel­ing’. Com­merce has noth­ing to do with th­ese projects, and Chris­tian is too crabby to be ca­joled into mak­ing things that don’t stab him with le feel­ing. In sim­i­lar spirit, I do the oc­ca­sional cover for special-themed mag­a­zines or other writ­ers (I’m cur­rently work­ing on one for Qur­rat­u­lain Hyder’s Chandni Begum and am dis­pro­por­tion­ately chuffed about it). Com­merce has lit­tle to do with any of this ei­ther, given the minis­cule bud­gets pub­lish­ers al­lot. All my book cov­ers have been for writ­ers who hap­pen to be women. Com­pletely un­re­lated in pre­oc­cu­pa­tion and spirit, each book struck a per­sonal chord. Giv­ing it a pub­lic face was an act of af­fec­tion and sol­i­dar­ity. An im­per­fect jewel-gift, lov­ingly crafted on my ta­ble.

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