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In The Company of A Creator - By Madhuri Kotak

Birds begin to chirp away sweetly as the day breaks. Cocks and hens appear to be playing a hide-and-seek outside on the street, as tiny chicks get tangled amidst their playful activities. At 4 am, flute notes are heard in sleep. Instead of waking up, I yearn to lie on bed and savour the sweet melody. The music however stops and instead, the flute touches on my shoulders and I wake up with a start. With a mischievous grin, Kotak whispers in my ears, 'Madhu, get up now, or the flute can be used in more ways than one'.

Morning walk is our daily ritual. While sipping tea, we plan out the day's programmes, especially which article of his is to be prioritized, who are scheduled to visit during the day and who to meet etc. For, it was pre-decided between us not to disturb him after he sits down to write.

Like morning walk, another regular ritual was to take children out to the sea beach in the evening. Since camera was always handy, I too had chance to learn a bit of photography. While Maulik, Bipin and Ronak would be engrossed in doodling away on sands, we would soak in the natural beauty that lay around. At such moments, Kotak would conceive imageries or metaphors for his novels. He would intone away and I would listen, in rapt attention. Listening to him was a great pleasure.

As evening falls and the gentle musical sound of the waves spreads in the air, I stare at the setting sun when Kotak asks, 'Madhu, what ideas do you get looking at the evening colours?

Most people would say, 'it is time to go home as it is already past sunset,' but as if his creativity rubbed on me, I said, 'it looks as if the sun is placing itself on the forehead of the earth and promising a lifetime association.'

'Nice,' Kotak said. 'In other words, the sun while on its way out is giving a goodbye kiss to the land as a mark of its love, leaving the red stains on its lips which we tend to describe as, 'wow, what a beautiful evening!'

Kotak's connect with Nature was often so total that it would seem as though he was dwelling in some distant, divine universe.

In the room no 5 on the ground floor of Ramrao Sadan in Mumbai suburb Matunga, we had fixed a partition in the 6 X 10 verandah to create a writing room for Kotak. On one side of the door was his table and on the other his seat. On his table was always placed an idol of Buddha. In the midst of fragrance of incense sticks and jasmine flowers, he would write away.

When Kotak sat down to write novel, I would, at the interval of one or an hour and a half, stand behind him with a cup of tea. Once I noticed that so involved was Kotak in his writing process that instead of cigarette, he put a matchstick in his mouth and was about to light it. In a panic reaction I involuntarily slammed the cup on the table and the thud interrupted his writing. Chuckling, Kotak said, 'Madhu, you drove away all my relatives (novel's characters), but no issues, the chapter is about to end, now sit down and hear what I have written so far.'

And he would read out the chapter in his characteristic style and also seek my reaction and this would overwhelm me with joy. In fact, even I had got addicted to reading parts of his writing on piecemeal basis. I scarcely had patience for him to complete his chapter. His readers too shared my impatience.

From a tiny incident, he would weave one whole novel with ease. From Kolkata, one of his readers had sent a 2 x 2 newspaper cutting, asking him if he could write a novel on the basis of the true story reported in the paper. And this led to the creation of novel Doctor Roshanlal.

Once we had gone out for a stroll and based on what had happened then to a beggar, he had created a novel Manavatano Maheraman.

It is also interesting to know how his earlier novels were named.

Publisher N N Thakker was readying Kotak's debut novel Ramkada Vahu. For writing on the opening pages of the novel, he asked Kotak, 'give me the names of your future novels.'

Laughing, Kotak replied, 'Nandlalbhai, it is not proper to talk about future now. Had I had the temptation of having my books published, I would have begun this work a long back. I am not interested in it nor have I thought about it.'

Nonetheless, Nandlalbhai insisted saying that it is the norm to publish such a list, 'tell me what you have written so far.'

'I have not written anything. Just playfully I wrote this Ramkada Vahu and you made it into a book.'

Why? You are writing Prabhatna Pushpo, Karsankaka, short stories and humour pieces on regular basis. Aren't you?

'So what? That is on piecemeal basis and how can you make books out of them?'

'Yes, we can..'

Kotak replied, 'I do not want to write. You may add as many names as you want but I cannot guarantee if the books will be published as written.'

Trusting Kotak's creativity, Nanlalbhai went ahead and published on the inside jacket: The author's forthcoming books: Pabhatna Pushpo, Karsankaka (Shaherma Farta Farta), Buddhina Brahmachari, Juvan Haiya and Gharni Shobha.

Ramkada Vahu, Juvan Haiya and Gharni Shobha were published in Kotak's presence. The bundles of Ansuna Toran were lying ready, properly bound, for they were preparing the jacket. Kotak always insisted that L M Pomal would create his jackets.

Compiling his articles in book form demanded hard work and devotion of time.

Harkishenbhai and I began to compile some of his articles and thus prepared Ghondu-Pandu, Shaherma Farta Farta, Chandarvo, Galgota. And lastly the collection of Prabhatna Pushpo was published in 1966.

What looked impossible got accomplished, because of Kotak's inspiration, perhaps..!!