MP-What countries have you found your books received the best response?
RJ-Its too early to tell but I guess it would be India, US and the UK primarily, but also Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The book has a publisher in India, but I am currently on the lookout for an international publisher for the overseas markets. The book releases in paperback in India on August 1, 2012 through Leadstart Publishers.
MP-How do you hope your stories will change the world?
RJ-The book presents the world with a new concept – it empowers readers to choose the endings according to their belief systems, and at the same time sets them thinking about their own choices in life. The book’s central design is an extension of the Zuckerberg principle to literary fiction, and could form the basis for many refinements in hitherto unexplored areas of reader preferences and tastes. The question for the world today is – how will literature change if readers were to read books primarily on e-readers? I hope the book provides a path breaking way to answer that question.
MP-How did you come up with the idea to have readers come up with their own endings to Love, Peace and Happiness?
RJ-The book did not start out this way. As I wrote the stories, I got some close friends to read the stories. I realized that each story had many layers, and each reader would interpret the storyline and the choices the characters made according to their own set of values and beliefs. I also noticed that the less information I gave the readers, the more affected they were by what happened in the end. So I started to make the stories in the book progressively darker, creating a larger disturbance with each story as the book progressed. This disturbance or dissonance prompted an even stronger reaction, and my friends started to suggest alternate endings. Building a website to support such a craving was just the technical part of putting the concept together.
MP-Has the interfaith relationship between your characters caused negative backlash?
RJ-No, there is no adverse reaction as yet. My publisher in India has put the book through the “advisory board” and he does not anticipate any major problems. Internationally, though it would be interesting to watch how the book would be received by people of different faiths. The book attempts to cut through national borders by creating a universal set of choices that the characters face, and the added delicacy of having characters cross over into each other’s stories brings the whole point of the Zuckerberg principle home. So Hanif in the third story is perceived as a highly negative character, but in the seventh story, the reader understands the world from his perspective and then magic happens as you choose what should or should not happen to him in the story, aptly called ‘The Facebook Stalker.”
MP-Is faith a struggle for all your characters?
RJ-I prefer to think of the character’s struggles as a larger all-encompassing belief system re-orientation, rather than just faith oriented confusion. Though the Almighty does have a role in several stories, sometimes appearing in person, I have deliberately kept the metaphysical implications to a minimum and instead focused on the character’s responses and re-orientations of beliefs. In a subtle manner, as the reader explores the alternate endings, his/her own belief system undergoes some reorientation, transferring the complex richness of the tapestry to the reader’s mind.
Stories surround us. Stories about people like us who make difficult and often complex choices that sometimes astound us. You must have come across some people in your own life who closely resemble the characters in these stories. Maybe you have gone through trying moments in your life too.
For instance, have you ever been bugged enough with your partner to want to leave? Have you ever had to choose between love and money? Have you ever had to compete with your partner? Have you ever felt that your family weighs you down when it comes to choosing your partner?
At times like these, haven’t you wished that things happened differently and that you could change how they ended?
Now you will control how the stories in this book end.
Each story centres on the life of an urban middle class character caught in a set of circumstances beyond his or her control. A Hindu girl living in with a Muslim boy is suddenly in the glare of global media in a reality TV show, a divorced cynical man faces the prospect of committing himself to a prostitute, a highly talented small town girl must choose between life and death. All must resolve the conflicts within their beliefs.
Read the way the stories end in the book, but if you don’t agree with the ending, visit the website www.riturajverma.com for alternate endings.
If you don’t like the way the stories end there either, write your own, and if your ending is selected, see it in print in the next print run with your name in the acknowledgements.
Hoping to change the world, one story at a time…
Rituraj Verma, born 28th June, 1967, is currently working as a freelance retail real estate consultant. He grew up in Delhi and Mumbai and cleared the IIT-JEE in 1984, in which year, he was also selected as a Special Class Railway Apprentice by the Indian Railways. He was the editor of his college magazine, SAM, when he first started writing the book’s first story ‘A High Like Heaven’ almost twenty three years ago.
He later obtained his MBA from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA and worked with Philip Morris USA for five years before returning to India to start his entrepreneurial retail venture, Naya Yug Bazar which he ran for seven years. In 2006, he joined Future group as the head of Consumer Insights, a job which led him to travel the length and breadth of India to ascertain the changing nature of aspirations and expectations of Indian consumers.
He then set up the Retail Agency and Transaction Advisory Services for Knight Frank India, a leading international property consultant. He has recently started out on his own as a real estate consultant. His wife Smriti works for the Indian Railways and he has a son Arjun, aged 17, and a daughter Aradhana, aged 15.
The website contains the alternate endings, excerpts, podcasts, contests, reviews, and updates.