If you ever find this book, don’t read beyond this point. If you do, please don’t disown me. You know I love you.
And so begins 25-year-old Varun Agarwal’s breezy How I Braved Anu Aunty & Co-founded a Million Dollar Company, a true story about entrepreneurship and going after your dreams. As young adult fiction flies off the shelves quicker than one can keep count, it helps to have an honest story to tell, feels the Bangalore-based first-time author, whose book (Rupa, Rs 140) had an initial print run of a healthy 20,000. “My novel is inspirational, it’s meant for anyone who wants to know how to start a business. The new trend of campus novels and publishers going after them has opened up avenues for people like me,” says Varun, a recent BTech who’d rather not be clubbed with those writing “silly love stories”.
He’s of course referring to the new-gen pulp fiction writers, too many of whom want to join the Chetan Bhagat bandwagon with an eye on the bestseller list. An overdose of engineering or management jargon and campus romance is an all-too familiar mix on bookshelves today. And that doesn’t make spotting real talent easy. Delhi-based literary agent Kanishka Gupta, who struggles with an increasing number of ‘aspiring’ manuscripts every week, has become weary of the derivative writing piling up, the imitation Twilight or The Lord of the Rings mish-mash. “It’s an aspirational generation but at the moment, I’ve signed only three young writers, and it’s because they had something unique to offer. Most young adults are writing only for fame, with no regard for language or creativity in theme,” says Kanishka, who founded the literary agency and editing service Writer’s Side four years ago.
One of his more promising finds is Asbah Shams, 23, a medical student in Bareilly with a charming small-town tale to share. Asbah has bagged a deal with Penguin and her book, Mast Bunkers Bindass Scholars, will be out later this year. “We have so many novels set in the metros. What makes Asbah’s book worth putting out is that it’s set in a place rarely written about,” says Kanishka. Asbah is already halfway through her second novel, part of a trilogy she has in mind. “I wanted to write to humanise doctors and their journey,” she says, adding that she plans to hold book readings in medical colleges across the country to promote her book.