When Gitanjali Chandrasekharan was hardly 10 or 12-years-old, she, along with her two friends, co-wrote a mystery story for their gal pal who was down with chicken pox to cheer her up. “We were very inspired by Enid Blyton’s stories and thought of ourselves as the Fabulous Four,” she recalls with a chuckle. As a grown up, Chandrasekharan continued her passion for writing as a media professional.
Last year, however, she gave her storytelling a new form with Talered, a customized service that lets the customer tell their story the way they want. “It all started when two of my cousins, who live in San Francisco, had their respective babies a few months apart from each other. I wanted to gift them something that was personalised and what nobody else would do,” says the Mumbai-based creator.
Weaving stories around the childhoods of her cousins and their respective spouses, Chandrasekharan came up with e-books for both the babies. “While these were fictionalized stories steeped in facts, the family memories will last forever now,” she says. Thus, was born the idea of Talered and since then, the former journalist has created several books gifted to someone as young as 7 and someone as young-at-heart, aged 71.
What makes Talered stand out among the plethora of book customisation services in the market, is the level of personalisation it offers. Chandrasekharan conducts detailed interviews with the clients to understand what is the story they are looking to tell. Right from the genre of the story to its tone, and even the size of the font, everything is discussed. It also takes into account if the client is looking to include customised illustrations or photographs on the inside pages or on the cover.
Chandrasekharan shares the update with the client at each stage and the entire process can take up to a month. “The client’s responsibility does not end at only ordering the book. I ask a lot of questions, show them the story at every stage to gauge whether it is up to their liking and to cross check factual information. I want the stories to reflect their life in as much detail as possible,” she adds.
From creating a mystery story for a seven-year-old girl residing in Virginia to a romance for a Bengaluru-based couple and even a biographical retelling of a septuagenarian’s eventful life, Chandrasekharan has enjoyed working on varied genres and stories. For clients residing outside Mumbai, the interviews are conducted either on telephone or Skype, and she requests them to send her photographs or videos to help with the story or illustrations.
Recently, the 40-year-old creator was commissioned by Mumbai-based Phorum Pandya to make a book for her seven-year-old niece and nephew Myra and Miraan, who love their toys. She came up with an engaging tale which included the toys and their involvement in the mysterious disappearance of their favourite ‘Phorum fiya’. “Gitanjali came over and spoke to the twins, to me and my family at length and paid attention to every detail. She noted names of their favourite toys, their likes, dislikes and their imaginary games. This book is going to be passed down through generations,” Pandya says, adding that today’s kids have access to so many toys and games that they are not excited about getting another one of them. “This is the first time in seven years that I saw them leave their iPads aside and lap up a 40-page story in one reading session,” she adds.
The reactions from her customers makes each book such an enriching experience for Chandrasekharan. Adding more people to her team and expanding the reach of her service is definitely on the cards for Chandrasekharan who creates books in English, Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati. She also hopes to extend her storytelling to other formats like customised animation videos and board games among others. “We are constantly telling stories to each other in different ways, so why keep it limited to books?” she smiles.