Thursday, April 11, 2013

A path to happiness

Everything is connected: New Delhi teenagers, a London freelance animator and the Foundation for Universal Responsibility of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

(Or how my pet Illustration project suddenly got published)


In 2010 I discovered a YouTube video of the Dalai Lama called a "A path to happiness" which laid out the principles and difficulties of achieving happiness.
It made a lot of sense to me, I wish I would have heard it earlier in my life, it would have probably saved me and some other people some painful experiences.
That's why I wanted to share it with my friends and family.
I felt though that it needed to be presented in a slightly different form in order to appeal to them.

Firstly, I thought it would be essential to present it in a secular way, with added scientific examples plus some lighthearted illustrations.

The first step was to write it down which in itself proved to be a challenging process.
The Dalai Lama was teaching in his "broken English" as he himself calls it, so as I am not a native speaker either, this was a first hurdle. A Tibetan teaching in English and a German trying to make sense of it!
The teaching is very much rooted in an alien culture to me; the 2000 year old Indian and Tibetan way of thinking and living.
At the end of 2010, I finished a first draft and started to think about a style for the illustrations.

For my last 2 books, "Winning Ways" (written by Roy & Carol Gillett) and my 120 page Graphic Novel "Brixton Knight", I had developed a style similar to traditional woodcuts by scanning ink drawings and refining them in Illustrator. This time I was keen to experiment with a combination of 3d Maya renders and ink drawings.

By mid 2011, I had a first version of the 40 page booklet. I asked my friends at my local Buddhist Center, Mike Murray and Gabor Reder to give this version a first proof read.

The result was not really what I had hoped for: both pointed out that the illustrations were too upsetting and in this context not appropriate. In addition to this, I had misunderstood some of the concepts.

A long process of fine tuning started, re-editing the text, coming up with new ideas to illustrate the complex ideas in a simple way.
Also, other work left me little time to work on the project; "Sherlock Holmes: A game of shadows", Aardman's "Pirates!In an adventure for scientists" to name but two.

By August 2012, I finished my 6th version of the book. Little did I know how many more there were to come.
But at that time I was quite happy with it: in the end it was just a little book that I was to give to a close circle of friends and relatives.

I thought it would be a nice gesture to send a copy to the gentleman who produced and directed the original film I saw in 2010 on YouTube.
Searching the web, I finally found his contact details: His name is Rajiv Mehrota, he lives in New Delhi.

I sent him a copy and included a letter expressing my gratitude for producing the film and inspiring me.

Some weeks later Rajiv send me an E-Mail telling me that the Foundation wanted to publish the book.

I was glad I sat down while I was reading!
Over the next month I worked feverishly on the proofreading and fine tuning of the book, alongside the Indian publisher Hayhouse in close collaboration with CEO Ashok Chopra and Rakesh Kumar.
Aeshna Roy designed a cover especially for the Indian market.

Sometimes I had to do this process in rather surreal circumstances, like in December 2012, when I was on a freelance job in the mountains of Switzerland: having no computer or Internet in the rental flat, I was using the Free Wifi on the local buses to proofread and send off files on my phone to India and London.
Luckily with a bit of help of my friends: I could not have done the proofreading without the tireless feedback of my friends Gloria Churchill, Michael Raasch and Katie James.

On the last weekend of April 2013, the Dalai Lama gave a teaching in New Delhi (pictures below) and a couple of days later, I received these two E-Mails :

"..........The event was a huge success. We hosted 500 children who were each given a copy of your book. We are distributing a further 3000 copies.........
Rajiv Mehrota Trustee & Secretary for the "Foundation For Universal Responsibility of HH The Dalai Lama" ( "

"Each student was given a Foundation's bag with reading materials including the book.

My fiancée, Rinzing Doma, who is a teacher at "Cambridge International School" in Kolkatta, is already experiencing the popularity of the book among her students for class 3 and 4. She has kept the book in their library and each student is eager to take home to read in turn. One of the parents also called her saying their son was reading with so much eagerness.

Thank you for such a wonderful book.

Kind regards
Thupten Tsewang
Director - Administration
General Manager - Programmes
Foundation for Universal Responsibility of His Holiness the Dalai Lama"

You can order a copy of the book here:

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