Memories for keepsake

Personal narratives

It was Namit Maheshwari’s grandmother’s 70th birth anniversary and he wanted to present her with something “special”. Finally, he decided to gift her a book of hand written letters, penned by her near and dear ones; and the result, he says, was beyond imagination. “She was in tears when we presented this Pandora’s box of memories. She believed that those letters gave her all the respect that a person looks for in life,” he says.

This event made Maheshwari realise that every person yearns for acknowledgement, and led him to conceptualise ‘Kagaz ke Phool’, an initiative that specialises in writing private biographies, in 2013. “The idea is quite simple. We strive to preserve the essence of a person in words, to chronicle their stories for future generations.

At face value, such a description seems to paint the product with a client base of seasoned people with grey hair sipping tea, narrating their life. However, our product is much more flexible. We write stories that people want to share with their loved ones. We weigh stories not in terms of their temporality, but in terms of what they mean to the people who have lived them,” Maheshwari tells Metrolife.

The process of making of a memoir, called safarnama, comprises several stages, each of which is handled by a person who specialises in their line of work.

 It begins with meeting the client and showing some samples. This meeting is crucial, says Maheshwari, as it is then that the structure of the book is chalked out, interviews are planned and customisation of particulars is done. It is also a chance for the client to meet the team of interviewers and the editor, who will be working on the book.

This is followed by a series of successive interviews where the client is asked about the memories and experiences they wish to incorporate in the book. After this, the recordings are sent to the writer and the editor, who have already been sent a detailed plan of the structure of the book and its narrative. Based on the recordings, the writer pens down the client’s story. “Direct contact between the writer and the client is not encouraged in order to prevent the interference of personal prejudices or perceptions in the writing of the story,” he says.

 After this the book undergoes editing, proof reading, designing and reviewing by the client and if approves enters the final stages of printing and binding, and is then delivered to the client in a wooden case. The process roughly takes three weeks as each book is handcrafted and customsed according to client’s needs. The books, whose cost varies, generally comprise of 100 to 150 pages.

 But the process of writing a memoir is not an easy one, as Maheshwari says that since it is a real life story, the team works within boundaries.

“We can’t create a fake climax, and yet it should be a pleasant read. It is also taxing to give word pictures to the characters of the story. We are extremely cautious with the phrases we use as they describe our clients and their near and dear ones. Every inch of the book is customised. “Chapters are named keeping in mind the title of a favourite movie, or the illustrations are made with musical notations if the client happens to be a music enthusiast. We try to preserve the essence of a person in the books that we make, like capturing a storm in a bottle.”

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