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Adman Cyrus Daruwala's arty rant about Mumbai's pain-in-the-neck residents

We've all wanted to scream at the jaywalker and the paan-spitter. Cyrus Daruwala does that officially as author of a new book

All the characters in Cyrus Daruwala’s books are fictional. Any resemblance to a real person is purely coincidental. Said no one, ever.

Alok Nanda
The creative director of Alok Nanda & Company feels the characters in his new book will resonate with residents across Indian metros. Pic/Bipin Kokate

In his 2013 title, I Take This Train Too, 32-year-old Daruwala sketched eccentric people he ran into on his daily journey on the Mumbai local from Andheri to Churchgate. His latest is an ‘angry rant’ (his words, and ours) on the nausea-inducing, hair-splitting, expletive-provoking residents of India’s metros (in the hope that it will induce behavioural change).

There is for instance, the Criss-Crosser who jaywalks, across highways and railway tracks — “train motormen be damned”. There’s also ‘Wrong Turn’ — people who drive like raging bulls on the roads, overtake rashly and have no sense of lane discipline.

Criss-Crosser
One of Daruwala’s pet enemies is the Criss-Crosser who makes a 100-metre dash on railway tracks or highways “because taking the foot over bridge is just so last century”

“For them, lanes are a like a game of Temple Run. And most of us have come across them. Hence, it merited a double illustration of a man and woman,” adds Daruwala, who works as a copywriter for Kala Ghoda advertising firm Alok Nanda & Company, which also published the book. “I certainly haven’t picked on a particular person. In fact, I had so many characters in mind, that it was tough cutting the list down to 20,” he jokes.

Late Goer
The ‘Late Goer’ represents the large mass of people for whom the clock is just another accessory. “Time, after all, is relative”

While the first book was specific to Mumbai, Daruwala says this one should resonate with everyone, everywhere. “It’s part of the same genre, in that it’s full of humourous observations and illustrations. The characters, however, are totally different from those in the first that was specifically linked to a certain experience; the train journey. This encompasses a broader spectrum,” he adds.

But, its readers may be numbered. The book, he shares, is limited edition with only 1,000 copies, because the 94-pager, he says, has been entirely hand-written. “Since it is about what bothers me, I wanted the book to have a personal touch, and what better way than writing out the copy by hand?”.

However, he had to digitally enhance his handwriting, which he doesn’t find legible enough. The illustrations were created using hand-stamps for each character. “The sketches had too much character to be printed. So, each illustration was individually stamped on paper,” he says. The creative process of ideation and sketching took him six months, but the final product was ready in a year.

Research was more about conversations and observations than in-depth study. Daruwala says he would make caricatures on his phone with a stylus, spend his weekends sketching, and even sneak in a couple of hours of drawing at work. “Fortunately, I have the freedom to pursue my creative passion at my workplace, as long as I meet my deadlines. My boss doesn’t breathe down my neck, and that helped me finish my work,” says Daruwala, who claims to have no formal training in art.

However, don’t expect another I Take This Train Too, where the illustrations were the highlight. In this book, Daruwala wants his rant to win you over. “The sketches are mostly black and white. I felt the writing had to be the hero in this particular book. The illustration is simply meant to complement the experience,” he says.

Another departure is that the illustrator has consciously chosen to steer clear of crowd funding the venture. “The last time, a lot of people thought the money was going into my pocket last time, which is not true. It was entirely used for funding the book.”

And he is already planning his next book. “It may be a graphic novel. It’ll surely be different from my previous work. Let’s see where it takes me,” he smiles.

Before we leave, we have to ask: which character does he find the most painful? “I’d rather let the reader figure that out. But it’s evident in my writing. Some of the write-ups have more angst than others,” he says. Now, that’s some homework for you.

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