Imagine yourself mounted on a weed, taking in the magnitude and abundance around you with all your senses . . . that’s what we are for the initial days at the Seagull School of Publishing, a seagull, set against the backdrop of the Kodakcolour blue sky that adds hue to the seascape, framed as if in a postcard.
Day one at the School brought with it nervous introductions, reassuring words by a group of amiable mentors, a bagful of goodies, and the unexpected yet much appreciated sandwiches and lemonade. The batch this time consists of a handful of nine students from Switzerland, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta. And as we took turns with our ‘blurbs’ (not a cover blurb I guarantee but one closer to the oral tradition) to introduce ourselves, to convey to each other the story of reaching Seagull, and then went on to hear similar stories from our mentors, we realised that we were a roomful of professional and aspiring publishers and editors who had all come across this phase of their lives by ‘accident’. Believe me, I am glad to have met with such an accident, an accident that has already begun to change the way I look at books with the realisation, as Sunandini puts it, ‘that they don’t just happen’.
I often dream of a room which has bookshelves for walls. The Seagull School of Publishing space is an extension of this dream. The space in itself inpires creativity, becomes your ‘muse’. To be truthful, finding oneself surrounded by such visual delicacies in a classroom (which neither looks nor feels like one) was of much distraction initially. It took me some time to overcome the mesmerising effect and the overpowering presence of the space that surrounded us, as if each of the inanimate object had come to life waiting expectantly for you to listen to the fables they had in store for us.
Subsequently, over the three weeks what surfaced recurrently like a refrain was that publishing is more than a business endeavour; it is about how you build relationships with people you interact in the process of putting together a book. This is the spirit that is extended towards the students here as well. The warmth with which we were welcomed at Seagull is commendable: ensuring outstation students find proper accomodation, enquiring after their comfortable stay, the refreshing coffee breaks between sessions, the little surprises in the form of books compiled exclusively for the students and handed to us as we sit with closed eyes and outstreched palms like eager kindergarten kids, an exciting field trip to the printing press, a cake for the birthday girl. Need we ask for more? A disarming smile, a heartfelt greeting every morning, a patient ear to our insatiable queries, a deliberate erroneous typing out of assignments (mind you, by editors) to facilitate our learning, characterise our faculty. Need we anything better? And this is just the beginning of a journey, a journey towards our individual dreams that fulfills the dream of another, an author, to present the world with what we call a book, that which one can hold, smell, read, comprehend . . .
Hopefully at the end of this journey the seagull within us, which now sits in awe, will be ready for its flight towards new horizons.