AmeyaPrabhu takes us through how The Rock Babas and Other Stories came about and the crucial role lockdown played in it. “I have been a writer for many years and began writing when I was 14-15 years, having penned many plays and short stories. My articles, both fiction and non-fiction, have been published by leading newspapers and magazines. But I never really had the time to write a book until I got the opportunity with the lockdown, as I run a financial services and asset management business and life has been quite busy because of that. So I found myself alone in Mumbai, my parents were in Delhi and my fiancee was in Ahmedabad, that gave me the time to focus and pen it down. I started one day after lockdown and finished it before 17 June.”

The short stories in The Rock Babas and Other Stories  (Westland) are connected by the thread of transformation as the protagonists go through positive and negative transformational journeys. Ameya believes that a series of short stories with a common theme is a better way to capture the attention of today’s audience as web-series with 45-minute to 1-hour episodes garner more attention than full-length movies. “Over the years during my travels or at other times, I penned down my thoughts and shortlisted nine best ideas and wrote The Rock Babas and Other Stories,”  addsAmeya, son of former Union Minister Suresh Prabhu.

‘The Accidental Philanthropist’, based in Japan, deals with ageing Japanese billionaire Takahashi Watanabe who is rich and successful but very unloved, estranged from his daughter, and not liked by his employees. When he is approaching his 75th birthday, his doctor tells him that he has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and donates his fortune to charity. As a byproduct of it, he becomes close with his daughter, meets his granddaughter for the first time, and suddenly becomes famous in Japan. He has fame and love now but as things go by his doctor tells him that he was misdiagnosed and is completely fine. He is caught in a conundrum, he loves the newfound fame and love but wants his fortune back. As the story moves forward, it shows how he deals with it. Ameya informs, “So many of the current billionaires give to charity but what if things flipped around, this idea led to ‘The Accidental Philanthropist’.”

Another story, ‘Memoirs of a Dictator’ deals with an African dictator, who was unseated from power, is writing a memoir from his perspective sitting in jail. He points out, “It’s a synthesis of several dictators, we always know about them from the point of view of the press or the people. But how do they think of themselves ? I believe that even the worst dictators think they are doing good for themselves and the country. The story ends with an actual news article showing the other point of view.”

The Man with the Beard, based on Columbia, presents a serious issue that we faced in the 20th century of the politics of fruit that plagued Central and South America. We know about the United Food Company and the term banana republic came from the fact that some of these Central American countries had a lot of influence of the USD. It’s a fictional story set in a real setting,” says Ameya.

How did he decide upon showcasing human vulnerabilities, the challenges people face, and the resilience shown by them in this book? Ameya replies, “One of the reasons that the stories are set in different places across the world, be it Spain, Columbia, Africa or Japan, I wanted to show that people irrespective of their religion, nationality, culture or race are ultimately the same and go through the same trials and tribulations and have to make the same life choices. We do end up overcoming adversities or falling prey to it. Also, humans have a lot of fortitude as life is not easy and people have their share of challenges. In 2020 the entire planet became united in terms of facing the Covid-19 pandemic, economic problems or losing loved ones. Everyone is facing these challenges but we have the grit and fortitude to face them. I have a spiritual belief that nothing is bad, everything is good and what matters is how we interpret it and react to it. So I wanted to explore that aspect of human behaviour in terms of both positive and negative reactions.”

‘Agent Holder’ is the author’s tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement wherein the African-American agent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Jackson Holder overcomes racial biases to crack a homicide with domestic hate crimes undertones.

Talking about the transformational journey of the Swiss hotelier Helmut Kauffman’s under the tutelage of ‘rock babas’, he says, “He is a haughty, smug, successful rich guy who thinks the world is at his feet. He is a bit arrogant and egoistic. He goes to Kangchenjunga and is caught in an avalanche. It teaches us that no matter how much technology advances or how successful we may be monetarily or physically, nature will always be superior to us and more powerful. The fire of his ego is doused by the avalanche. And he goes through a transformational journey through the beliefs of the ‘rock babas’. What he values earlier is not what he values later.”

On the other hand, ‘The Broken Nightingale’ is a story about negative transformation as the happy chirpy woman goes through despondence because of the situations she faces in life. Not everybody has the grit or the ability to face up to life. But that doesn’t mean she is defeated, her voice and melodies live way beyond her mortal presence. The author wanted to show both positive and negative kind of transformations.

“This book offers a message of hope in a difficult year like this. No matter what life throws at us we will be able to somehow manage it, and most of the stories have a positive ending. I want to convey this message to the readers that we are not alone and are dealing with it together, life will test us but it is up to us if we let it overwhelm us or conquer the challenges,” concludes Ameya.