Souvik and Pingal are the co-founders and partners of Ashlar Law, a law firm with offices in Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata. Souvik and Pingal graduated from the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata, in 2008.
What inspired you to start writing?
Souvik: I wish I could say writing has been my passion or that I always wanted to be an author, but it was nothing of that sort. We got an offer from Rupa Publications for this book, and considering the current state of the majority Indian writing in English, we felt we can surely write something readable.
Pingal: As lawyers writing per se is part of our day to day work. As for writing a non fiction book, when the opportunity came along on its own it seemed like an interesting challenge.
What did you like to read when you were a boy?
Souvik: As a kid (and even as a grown up), I loved the works of Rabindranath Tagore, Sukumar Ray, Arkady Gaidar, Jules Verne and Charles Dickens.
Pingal: Roald Dahl, RK Narayan, Charles Dickens, Enid Blyton, Issac Asimov ( I still read some of them) and all the three generations of the Rays ( Upendro Kishore, Sukumar and Satyajit). I have read and liked Tagore’s short stories, some of his poems ( not read all) and his autobiographical work. I continue to maintain more than an arm’s length from his novels.
What is the greatest challenge in writing a book?
Souvik: The greatest challenge is definitely finding time to sit down and write the book, while managing professional commitments.
Pingal: I don’t know about other books, but for a non fiction, making sure it communicates the facts in an unbiased manner with your audience and let the facts in themselves make the reading enjoyable. When I read the book now, I think we can do better- readers’ feedback that way is a fantastic teacher.
How much research do you do before writing the book?
Souvik: This book is a non-fiction based on real criminal trials and court verdicts, therefore, substantial research was a pre-requisite for starting to write the book. Luckily we had a group of very motivated and helpful team of young lawyers who helped us with it.
What motivated you to write the book “Red-Handed: 20 Criminal Cases That Shook India”?
Souvik: When we discussed the preliminary concept of the book, we realised that the readers in this country get their information about a criminal case on television or newspapers, whose accounts are often sensationalised. Not many people would get the opportunity or would be interested in reading the judgments of the courts and see for themselves what was alleged and what actually was proved. Therefore, we wanted to bring out the factual details about each case, explain the legal concepts in a simplistic manner that were intrinsic in such cases and effectively help our readers get a glimpse of the real story behind each such trial.
Can you tell us more about your latest book “Red-Handed: 20 Criminal Cases That Shook India”?
Pingal: The book covers twenty of the most sensational and decided criminal cases of the recent times which had captured significant amount of the public discourse. The idea was to neutralise conflicting reports and sensationalism and put the cases up for what they actually were in facts and through the eyes of the Courts. We hear a lot of misconception and see a lot of emotion around these decisions yet criminal justice is a carefully balanced and extremely technical area. Through course of letting the facts of these cases speak for themselves in our chapters we were hoping to let the cases directly communicate with our audience. Our role as authors was to be facilitators by simplifying the legalese and explaining certain concepts and sometimes we will also provide the socio economic context of the case.
Who are your favourite authors?
Souvik: There are way too many to name. But apart from the ones I mentioned above, I like reading Leo Tolstoy, John Steinbeck, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Sadat Hasan Manto, Anthon Chekhov and O Henry.
Pingal: Well authors who have left a massive impact on me as an adult would be Milan Kundera, Albert Camus, Gabriel Garcia Marquez to name a few.
Among Indians writing in English, I really like Amitava Ghosh, R.K. Narayan ( he was a leader of sorts in this field), Naipaul ( don’t if one should classify him as an Indo- Anglian author), Jhumpa Lahiri.
How much time do you dedicate for writing on a daily basis?
Souvik: Neither of us have been able to write every day or even every week. But we have somehow managed to finish the book after missing a few deadlines.
What words of wisdom would you like to give to aspiring writers?
Souvik: Ah well, I don’t think I am wise enough to dispense wisdom yet.
Pingal: I have no clue but given the some of the writing that goes around these days even in the fiction genre, may be reading good writers could be a start. For nonfiction I think restraining your own influence over the facts is important.
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