By Aminah Sheikh
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?
I write because I love writing. It makes me feel great, perhaps even releases Serotonin in me. Maybe, Oxytocin even. And, why? Can’t pinpoint the precise reason. It’s like being in love – only feelings, no reasons.
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
The Jeera Packer (published by Finger Print). It takes up the internal struggle of a man who thinks he has missed the greatest opportunities of life and is now cursed to a limited, confined, boring life sans achievement. And that angst pushes him on a dangerous journey to build his own Taj Mahal, fulfil what he feels is his mission in life. And then, closely meshed is this story of deadly gangsters and goofing politicians, who he was once a part of and into whose company he is dragged in again.
The ultimate point being – we are microscopic in this giant game of cosmos and we get very little time here and spend a bulk of that in hate and regret against equally microscopic others.
Describe your writing aesthetic.
Writing to me must move, evoke a reaction. The job of the writer is to break thought and speech boundaries – to think the unthinkable and say the unsayable. Find perspectives that are hidden in plain sight. Show what we generally miss. That’s why you need a writer.
Who are your favorite authors?
Vladimir Nabokov, Salman Rushdie, Khushwant Singh, Jerry Pinto, N.N. Taleb, Haruki Murakami. Granddaddy Shakespeare. Stephen King. Hemingway. Charles Bukowski.
What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.
The sex scenes in The Jeera Packer. I rewrote them quite a few times but was still not getting it right. Finally, towards the end of the editing process, wrote through two days and one night to get the first set of those 300 words right. The rest too took multiple rewrites and a lot of midnight oil.
The reason was this delicate balance – to make it read like a sex scene and yet not become porn. To make it exciting, maybe get a few heartbeats racing but still stay classy. I started off with playing it ultra-safe – perhaps burdened by this ‘don’t become Mastram’ dictum running in my head. It took some effort to realise there was a lot of space between a tepid ‘CBSE class VIII text on sex education’ and a full on raunchy Desi Baba porn.
Yeah, those 2-3 days were challenging.
What’s your idea of bliss?
Family and the sea. Family and the hills. Friends, a couple drinks and music. Friends, many drinks and some special songs. Hills and my Enfield Bullet. The digital screen and a story scene in my head. My little boy and I.
What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?
Haven’t been smash-the-china raving mad in a long time. Guess the journey to my second-degree karate black belt took away a lot of anger. There’s perspective, there is perhaps a better understanding of the world, of how people operate but very little anger. Perhaps, only residual.
What books would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?
The original Mahabharata, Sanskrit has been on my reading list for a long time. Procured the entire set a few years ago but haven’t yet gotten around to finishing it. A three-month retreat would be the best chance to do it. Also, because I somehow suspect the Mahabharata is the mother literature for all times. That there hardly can be a human story not already covered in the magnum opus.
Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?
Laptop, phone and wallet. Car keys. If enough time, then the chargers too.
Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.
Be happy. That’s the only goal of life. And happiness is different from comfort. Happiness comes from working hard, going out of your comfort zone, putting yourself out there, caring for something madly and doing shit for it. The daily sweat – that is happiness. That is the goal of life. Its philosophy.
Prashant Yadav graduated from IIM Ahmedabad and IIT Kharagpur. He is an entrepreneur in digital education and consumer space. He heads BodhiSutra.com which provides mobile-based English training to consumers and enterprises apart from advising a couple other startups. He loves reading, movies and travelling apart from being a regular student of Okinawan karate.