How Neelam Kumar Got Her Graphic Novel Funded By Ratan Tata and Amitabh Bachchan

Posted on 27 May, 2016 by Team Wishberry

Neelam Kumar Neelam Kumar’s life story is one that’s a lesson in courage and relentless perseverance. She faced widowhood and single motherhood at 35, battled cancer TWICE all through this and lived to tell the glorious tale. And what a tale she tells! She wrote an incredibly joyous book on fighting and surviving cancer, called, ‘To Cancer with Love’ which went on to become a success internationally as well, especially among those fighting the disease. But this was not just another survivor story, it was one filled with wit, humour, joy and optimism.
Neelam explains what brought about the need for a humorous graphic novel, “Having battled cancer twice, I realised how grim and terrifying the journey can be. All the books on cancer that I read had the protagonist put up a brave fight only to succumb an inevitable death. I was looking for courage, but found only too much grimness”.
  Her relentless determination to create her own happy ending gave rise to her first novel. But it was only a matter of time before she realised that not everyone has an appetite or attention span for reading novels, but almost everyone enjoys graphic novels. This gave rise to a graphic novel version of her book, for which she turned to crowdfunding. Now, anyone who has opted for crowdfunding will tell you that it is not an easy task. The road is full of its fair share of hurdles and challenges. Neelam’s crowdfunding journey was no different. However, we all know by now that Neelam is not one to easily give up. Looming deadlines often drive people to do crazy things. It drove Neelam to do what most people would call downright mental. 1_PageConcept (1)
“Every 50 seconds we lose one Indian to cancer. We need more awareness and a new attitude towards battling cancer. It only seemed fair to give India its first ever graphic novel on cancer”, she justifies.
  She wrote to none other than Ratan Tata (yes, THE Ratan Tata) asking for his support. Neelam explains, “I managed to get his personal email id and wrote to him saying ‘You of all people understand the value of something like this’”. Time went by, but Neelam, without losing hope, kept waiting. A few days later, she got an email from the man himself admiring her for her indomitable fighting spirit. Another few days later, she got an email from TATA Trust saying that Mr. Ratan Tata had sanctioned Rs. 10 lakhs for her graphic novel. But her journey still had some miles to go. Out of a crowdfunding target of Rs. 13 lakhs, she still needed Rs. 3 lakhs. And time was ticking away. Obviously, when your dream project is at the mercy of a deadline, anxieties kick in. So, acting on the advice of her 86-year-old mother, she did crazy act #2. (Stick with us, it gets better.) She reached out to Mr. Amitabh Bachchan (yes, THE Amitabh Bachchan). “How did you get his attention?” we ask, incredulous.
“Call me crazy. But I won’t stop at anything to make sure my graphic novel is made” she laughs and continues, “I looked up his residence number and gave a call. His staff answered and I narrated to them all about my life, my book and the graphic novel, and - can you believe it? – they actually listened!”
  She was asked to drop an email (“but I made sure they would send it to Mr. Bachchan!”). On the May 19, with two weeks left for the crowdfunding campaign to end, she wrote another email to Mr. Bachchan, hoping for the best. 2_PageConcept (2) Soon enough, she got a call from his office, “Mr. Bachchan has seen your mail. He will get back to you soon”, and unlike most messages that go that way, this one actually fell through. Almost immediately, she got a call from his office saying, “He has agreed to fund the remaining amount of your campaign, but you will have to come to our office immediately”.
“How could I let go of the opportunity? I rushed to their office!” she quips.
  A few discussions later, documentations were done, signatures made and she walked out of there with a cheque worth Rs.3 lakhs. We’re impressed, unsurprised but massively impressed. Neelam is gushing, “I keep telling, magic always works, if your heart is in the right place! I had sent my books to both the men and they actually took the time out of their lives to read it and tell me about it. And they actually came forward to help me. I’m beyond grateful to both, they’re such huge personalities and yet so grounded.” Neelam has only further reinforced our core belief that anything is possible if you only ask.
So we ask her what’s her word of wisdom for those too afraid to ask, and she promptly replies, “All you need is a lot of patience, immense faith in your own work and the courage to do what it takes to make your dreams come true, and you will get what you want.”
  We’d like to add a generous amount of craziness to that list of qualities. And always remember, ask and you shall receive!  

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