Friday, June 9, 2017

Book Launch of 'TopDriver, Car and Bike Handbook' by Naresh Raghavan

Naresh Raghavan, the author of  the just released 'TopDriver, Car and Bike Handbook' and I, go back a long way to when we studied Intermediate together at St. Alphonso's Junior College during 1982-84. We shared many common interests - music, books, movies. More interestingly Naresh had a TVS 50 which we used to ride to my place on days when we had free periods. On other days we'd head to his place and listen to some music on his awesome deck (Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' was one of the first) or just go to Sangeet to catch a 145 show for an English movie - it did not matter which.
Notion Press, 226 p, Rs. 249
Naresh always had this thing for Cars and Bikes (he would switch on an imaginary turbo engine on the TVS 50 on empty stretches and it would zoom through at a ridiculous speed - or ludicrous speed as Mel Brooks would say) and when we were studying engineering he raced in the prestigious Sholavaram circuit. I remember he won a prize for a bike race in Hyderabad - a tough one. He went to the US to study his MS and then came back and started his garage called 'Carz' before going back to the US again. If there is one big love or passion in his life I'd say it is cars and bikes and driving. It was and continues to be constantly at the back of his mind.
Naresh posing for the photographers before the event
Almost a decade or more ago he had conceived this idea of writing this handbook for safe driving and wrote down a first draft. We tried to get some illustrations done and then the idea was to approach a publisher. The manuscript it still somewhere with very amateurish illustrations drawn by some friend of mine. The idea and the manuscript went into the back burner then but somethings just have to see the light of the day. So it was no surprise to know that Naresh completed his book this year and got it published and voila, his dream project came alive.
Naresh making a point during his presentation
Naresh currently resides in the US and works as a SAP consultant. He is down to launch his book and it was a fine event organised at the Taj Banjara today. His guests were Mr. Amer Beg, professional circuit driver and safety advocate, Mr. Md. Khaleeq Ur Rahman, founder of the NGO, Youth Against Speed and the Chief Guest was Mr. T. Krishna Prasad, IPS, Addl.DGP, Railways and Road Safety. The event was well organised in a quiet hall overlooking the lake and lots of greenery, a fine back drop of the book cover and some fine eats for the guests and the press.
Amer Beg in his wonderful speech
Shobha, Anjali and I landed up early. LG, Sujatha, Deepa, Rithika, Kartik were some of the familiar faces I could see. Sunnie came by and bought a copy for CK. The show got rolling at 1145 or so with good attendance from the press. Naresh began with a neat little presentation on his laptop about the reason why he wrote the book. The figures are staggering - there are 150000 deaths every year on Indian roads which translate to about 410 a day. Naresh, who is certified in Defensive Driving in the USA, feels that safe driving is a science and not a matter of chance and with some education and inputs, can prevent many avoidable accidents. He is targeting the youth, who he feels are more prone to speed or drunken driving, and who get into a good percentage of road accidents. The presentation covered some important aspects of the book such as safety, stopping distance, safe lane changing, child safety, defensive driving, free left and many such interesting aspects that we in India are not too bothered about. Just following what he mentioned in that small presentation would have bought down the average of the accidents by half perhaps. He spoke with ease and conviction, the presentation was crisp and gave a good account of what the book was all about.
Khaleeq Ur Rahman speaking about Youth Against Speed
Amer Beg spoke next with great panache and sophistication and a fine sense of humour. He spoke of how racers were considered rash and even criminal but were actually bound by the highest safety standards. He expressed his distress at the number of youth who die in road accidents needlessly for want of driver education. He felt it was a pity that India lost so many lives which could potentially be great superstars in so many fields. He pointed out to basic errors that drivers and riders do like not switching on indicators, not having their rear view mirrors in place you invested in them, so use them). Overall a fine speech that was well laced with humour and Anjali loved it.
Chief Guest T. Krishna Prasad speaking 
Khaleeq Ur Rahman is someone I know from my days in the bank and also as Azhar's brother in law and it was touching to see his distress as he recounted the untimely death of his young son who passed away in the fatal accident on ORR along with Azhar's young son. He spoke with great feeling about the need to improve road safety and how Naresh's book came at the right time. He has started an NGO called 'Youth Against Speed' and they educate and sensitise young children against driving at high speeds and also against drunken driving. His speech touched a deep chord with everyone in the audience. He even sent a message to Shashi Tharoor about the book and got a congratulatory message back to Naresh while on stage.
'Top Driver' released
Mr. Krishna Prasad, the Chief Guest spoke last, and with great passion and energy. He has been instrumental in making serious inroads into the road safety aspect and he reeled off figures after figures emphasising how many more road accident deaths there are to death by murder (seven times), about drunken driving, about arresting drunken drivers and how the measures have resulted in a sharp drop in road deaths. He spoke of the media and its proactive role in presenting road deaths which he believes also led to a safer road. He commended Naresh on writing a good quality book which was very useful for the young driver and rider. He mentioned that the Department was also bringing out a book on road safety to be part of school curriculum from next year on. It was obvious that he was very passionate about his work and that he had brought in many positive changes in the aspect of road safety.

We met up old friends and had a cup of tea, a mirchi bajji, a chicken kati roll, a pastry. Naresh gave a few interviews at the end. It was one of the best book launch events I have attended. Normally these events are all over the place and no one seems to know what is happening. But in this event the panel was perfect, everyone spoke well, the time was just right, content shared was relevant, venue well chosen and well, practically, the ideal way to launch a book perhaps. I was very impressed and so was Ritika who had just one word 'Amazing'.

Fabulous job Naresh and I hope your book is received in the right spirit by the right market. There is not doubt about its relevance and its need today on Indian roads and I hope it is soon adopted by the schools, colleges and other safety institutions and organisations as a part of their reading curriculum. I am sure you will ensure that the book will reach the readers it was meant to. It's a long journey but if the amazingly impressive start is anything to go by, 'TopDriver' is set for a great ride. All the best old friend.

To order a copy of the book click on the following link.


Unknown said...

Thanks Hari. What and beautiful write up of the event! Thank you my old friend for your kind words. I do hope that colleges and schools join me in promoting this concept so together we can get our teenage drivers to read this book and improve their safety on the roads. I sincerely believe that good driving is science and not chance!

Harimohan said...

My pleasure Naresh. I really hope so too. If even one life is saved thanks to your effort it is worth it. I can hear your voice over my shoulder now when I drive. Fabulous effort. :)