What inspired you to start writing?
Intermittent nudging from my inner self to let out the creative juices, constant advice from wife and friends and Chetan Bhagat’s success.
Most importantly the beautiful phase of life in thirties where finally the world and you stop bothering about each other. You realise that no matter what happens, both the world and you will be disappointed with each other. So best to have fun.
What did you like to read when you were a boy?
Anything that was lying around like Raman, Chacha Chowdhary, Mandrake etc.
I was a typical desi middle class boy who loved his Spiderman cartoon show every Sunday. Nothing intellectual or heavy. Yet, they resonated with all the youngsters then.
What is the greatest challenge in writing a book?
I think it is the discipline required. The way we are brought up; we only like to do things in which results are guaranteed. So much so that amount of effort we put in is in direct proportion to the quantum of expected result. When you are writing a book, you have no idea of the end result. When you will finish, who will publish, who (if at all someone) will buy, will they like it… there isn’t an answer to any of these and yet you have to dedicate hours every day on your manuscript. That way, writing as an exercise is spiritual. It is only your pure intention that carries you through.
How much research do you do before writing the book?
Not before, but I research while I am writing the book. Lazy by nature, I try to pick as much as possible from what’s happening around me so I don’t have to work hard. Still, while writing Child/God, I spent a lot of time in Kamathipura (Mumbai’s biggest red-light area) and understanding The Holy Geeta commentary by Swami Chinmaynanada.
What motivated you to write the book “Child/God”?
Rian, my four year old son, motivated me to write Child/God. I was always against the notion of having children. Twenty years of ceaseless investments and efforts without any guarantee of results. After all, Osama Bin Laden was also somebody’s child.
But the moment Rian was born, I realized my foolishness. I fell in love with my child in a way I had never fallen in love before. In an instant, my perspective of life totally changed. Today, Rian is the epicenter of my life. I see the world from his eyes. I also see many of my male friends going through similar emotions and yet no story or book has been written about how fatherhood changes men. Child/God is my tribute to the emotions men feel when they become fathers.
Can you tell us more about the book “Child/God”?
This is a story of thirty-something man who is struggling to find the right way to live life. He initially tries to find success through typical means like sucking up to people, working hard and pouncing on all possible opportunities.
He gets a few painful jolts. He then swings the other way. Becomes a ruthless, selfish recluse lost in brothels, drugs and gambling. But he becomes lonely. Meanwhile, his wife is about to deliver a baby and that’s when someone tells him that God comes in every home to show how it is possible to be supremely happy in the very home, family and circumstances adults find extremely stressful. So if you want to find true happiness, don’t teach the child. Rather, learn from the child. The second half of the book is about the father aping the child’s attitude to turn his life around.
Do you share any insights/ideas about your upcoming books with your brother Chetan Bhagat?
Me and Chetan work independently. We have no plans to collaborate.
Who are your favourite authors?
Honestly, I don’t read much. A lot of people assume writers read a lot. That’s like saying all actors love watching movies, or all singers love to listen to songs, or all body builders love to ogle at other men working out.
But I love reading masterpieces of authors. For example, Chetan’s ‘Two States’ was a delightful read. Salman Rushdie’s ‘Midnights Children’ is pure work of a genius. Arundhati Roy’s ‘The God of Small Things’ taught me a lot. Every artist in his lifetime produces one work that truly surpasses his own talent. That’s what I cherish.
How much time do you dedicate for writing on a daily basis?
I write the way we brush our teeth every day. No measurement but its part of my daily routine. Some days I write more, some days I write less… I never bother much about it as long as it’s happening every day when I am into writing a novel.
When you are writing a novel, it’s like being in a relationship with someone. No measurements, no rules… just need to ensure the relationship is alive every day. Even the days when you don’t want to see or hear the person.
What words of wisdom would you like to give to aspiring writers?
Please do not write to become rich and famous. The odds are really low for writers; even lower than those of struggling singers and actors.
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