Alone in Tango – Completion of a Milestone

Friends of A Clean Board,

I have often, in my general rantings over here, referred to Alone in Tango, the new book I am working on. With some of my friends, I had even shared parts of it. I now wish to give an update on the progress of my work so far.

It has been a period of testing for me. I had often abandoned the work and thought I would never come back to it again. But then, some of my friends would ask me, “Hey, what’s happening with AiT?” I would worry then. Was Alone in Tango going to be one among the several unwritten works of mine? It is at such times that I would eventually get back on my feet and let the surge of my words flow into form. So, I only mean to say that I owe my friends and family for much of what has been written.

With time though, an undercurrent has caught me unaware and I have been lost in the depths of this book, exploring the minds of these characters, as the story unfolds and as it would, I hope, capture each of your interests too. About two nights ago, I accomplished my first milestone – the end of Part One. At 22,600 words or so, it is approximately half the length of Living with Smoke, the other book which I rant about. To give you some perspective of where Part One stands in the whole of AiT; this new book will tentatively consist of four parts and might have anywhere between 60,000 and 80,000 words once completed, which makes it bigger than Living with Smoke. And Part One could be anywhere between one-third to one-fifth of the book.

I have to thank several people for helping me reach my first milestone. But, I will save that for the time when I shall complete the entire book. Insha Allah. I am posting here an excerpt from Part One, so that some of the readers here can get a taste of what AiT is going to be.

Emad had been busy. He was working on designing a hill resort, far away in Munnar. It was purely his project. The client had already shot down several concepts from CDP before Emad got on board. With the first look he gave to the drawings that were already made for the project, Emad knew what was wrong. The first design was very original. There was some substance to it. The only thing that was wrong was that it had hardly anything to do with the client’s brief. If the owner had blindly carried out a competition to get the best designed resort for the piece of land he owned, this design would have won the award.

However, the owner was very clear on what he wanted. He was technically literate. He wanted a resort that would displace as little of the earth as possible. When he first showed the photos of his property to Sunil, he would point out at the gaps in the greenery and say, “Ideally, the resort must fit into the gaps you see here without disturbing the greenery that surrounds it.”

That was not all. He would point at the photographs and show how streams of light landed through some of the gaps between the trees. “When it starts raining, it can get very dark here. At least during the day, the light would come through these gaps and there… You see this point. Yeah, just imagine a bedroom sitting at that part, which is bathed in sunlight or as much of it that can get through.” He would immediately also point at that exact position in the site plan.

At first, Sunil thought the crazy ideas would die out as soon as the man would see his firm’s proposed plan for the resort. The concept behind the plan proposed by Sunil was so very wrong though, as Emad would discover soon. It was against what the owner had in mind, which was why the plan got rejected the very first time. What Emad found ridiculous was that the plan hardly changed after that. They were just corrections and revisions on the plan submitted at first, but there was no new thought which would go into the drawings. Windows would keep changing their positions. The building itself would keep changing the orientation. And what was once a bedroom would now be a kitchen, in the revised plan.

The owner was no fool. He could see how a firm of repute was taking him for granted. After a while, he had already decided that he would go to a new architect somewhere in Kochi, who would obviously come cheaper compared to an architect from Bangalore. This was the point at which Emad first visited the site in Munnar. The place was on the verge of being rediscovered for its true beauty. Only people from nearby places like Alleppey and Kochi, and sometimes from other parts of Kerala, were familiar with Munnar at the time. People were yet to know the worth of this alternative to Ooty.

Hari Namboothiri, the man who envisioned a resort in his very beautiful property on the slope of the hill, was very courteous with Emad even as he remained a client who was almost cheated of his money. Emad was surprised by this behaviour. But, he was wary at the same time that no kindness can be expected from this man. Sunil had given specific instructions to Emad that there must be no mention of anyone from CDP having made a mistake in planning the resort.

Emad captured some images on the camera which was given to him by the office. He had already used up four rolls of films, when Hari asked, “I have given plenty of photos to your office. Hasn’t Sunil shared any with you?”

“I have seen them. They gave me a good idea of what to do for the concept. But, there are certain angles which were not there. I hope to cover those angles, which will help me when I sit down for the detailed design.” Emad explained. He noticed that Hari’s eyebrow had risen in question, as Emad spoke.

“What concept are you talking about?” Hari asked, slightly amused but looking hardly interested.

“The new concept which I have prepared. But after seeing the property, I feel it would require some refinement. So, I will share it with you during our next meeting.” Emad said, continuing to capture more photographs onto the fifth roll.

“Wait! You mean to say you have brought drawings and you wish to leave without showing them? Will your firm ever stop being so secretive about everything? I’m the owner of this property and I believe I have the right to see what I am spending my money on.” Emad was caught unaware. He had not expected a loud reaction from Hari.

Hari guided him out of the property, to a wayside tea shop. It was a shack and the cold weather was so very appropriate for a glass of hot tea, just the way it was served in the region. Things were quiet and still. Emad wondered what it would be to live in such a place. He could already sense the growth in Bangalore and how the city was getting louder and filthier as the days passed by. Munnar meanwhile was still untouched, a virgin of the most flowery nature. He felt uneasy that he was going to contribute to the destruction of that serenity in a very small way. But he also sensed that the resort would be in good hands. Hari Namboothiri would take good care of it, give it the attention it deserves. That much was clear from the brief.

As he opened the drawings and spread it out on the table in the teashop, he noticed a change in Hari. The man just smiled after a while and closed the drawings. He did not ask Emad to explain the drawings. He motioned for Emad to follow him. Both carried their glasses of tea with them as they walked to a point from which the entire stretch of Hari’s land was visible.

“This is an angle from which you can see the entire resort once it will be built. I don’t know how much time it will take to build what you have shown in your drawings. But, today I feel it doesn’t matter. From this point today, I can see what it is going to be like. And it will be worth the wait, if it is built the way it is planned. To my untrained eye, it cannot be any better than you have already shown. I don’t know why you need to make more changes. You have already changed my life, young man.” Hari said this after a long silence.

Emad did not know how to reply. He had seen this sort of exhilaration in people when they see the shape of their dreams. He had seen people cry sometimes when they see the plans of the house they intend to build and when they discover the exactness with which it matches their vision. This was the feeling he wanted to give people when he designed their buildings. At the point when Hari said he had changed Hari’s life, he could feel all his bodily hair stand up in ovation. He could not say if it was the chilling wind or the pride in his heart that caused it. There was only silence for a few moments after that. The air seemed to speak between them, but there were no more words exchanged.

After a while, Hari broke the silence again. “You can go ahead with the plans. I am okay with it. Send the final concepts once you have done with the tweaking. Tell Sunil one thing. Tell him he probably had no idea how close he was to losing this project, but that you have changed the scenario.” There was some amount of talk at a personal level, after that. When evening came, Emad returned to Kochi from where he would travel to Bangalore the next day.

© Suhail Rasheed, 2012

This was not from the beginning of the book. It was more towards the end of Part One. The context would be evident only when you eventually read the book. For now, this is all I can say. The hill resort was Emad’s first project with independent charge. I had shared another excerpt, a poem from AiT, in an earlier post, which would tell you that AiT revolves around the lives of a few architects. Hope you enjoyed reading both excerpts. Good Day! Good Night!


4 thoughts on “Alone in Tango – Completion of a Milestone

  1. A Period of Transition « A Clean Board

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