I write about simple things that often miss one's eyes in a very simple language. Striving to be simpler with time and experience.
Started out as a writer. Realised there are no good writing platforms for smartphones. Started YQ with Ashish. Now on a mission to make the world write. Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any help/collaboration.
My last book, Green Mango More: Stories from Childhood (2015), is a collection of 36 funny tales from my childhood. Check it on Amazon below.
My 15 year old cousin, whom I gift books once every year, asked me the greatest question any reading/writing enthusiast could ever have asked. "How to discover great books to read?"
One of the most common problems for every new reader is the absolutely useless recommendation engine of their friends — that only recommend the most popular books. Check any such avid fiction reader's library, you'll find books starting with the quintessential Amish Tripathi to Paulo Coelho to Khalid Hosseini to one by Gabriel Garcia Marquez — mostly Love in Time Of Cholera. Nobel Prize, bro. Yeah, right. In some cases, you can even find the new good shit i.e. Murakami. Don't get me wrong, the last two of these are great writers. But reading just their popular works isn't going to make you a great reader. What you would be doing is not reading, but book-hopping — rather, popular book hopping. Please don't. Stay away from readers with a to-do list for books. That's not how you read. That's how you shop. Don't EVER shop for a book.
Date a book, instead. Have a crush on a book. Wait for it. Catch its glimpse in nooks and corners, in bookshops and airports, flip a few pages, right in the middle. Breathe. Smell. Read the first chapter during the long stopovers and imagine what happens next. While you are away from/done with the book, read about its author. Her life story. The books that changed her life. The books that she's reading. Here's the way to find a book you ought to read. Check the bibliography of the last book you read. I frigging found a gem called "One. Two. Three. Infinity." by the physicist George Gamow in the bibliography of my NCERT 12th Physics twelve years ago. It continues to be the best book on Physics that I read until Feynman's omnibus happened during college. Go find the book that the writer you like the most talks about. Read the author's interview. Paris Review, Google this website if you haven't yet. They publish the most detailed interviews delving right into the mind of the writer. Watch the BBC documentaries of writing maestros, be it Philip Roth or your Murakami boy. It's right there on YouTube. Read about the spats between authors. Be obsessed with them. Don't jump on to the next book until your curiosity is quenched. Why did Pankaj Mishra call Salman Rushdie's "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" anti-literature? Why Rushdie adopted Conrad as his last name during hiding? Why Conrad wrote about Africa? What did David Foster Wallace think of Kafka? While you dig deeper, you will find references to new books. Great books. Not by any of your shopper-friends, but by the writers themselves. Writers that are devout readers, whose taste you can trust.
That's how you will discover a beautiful book called A Free Man by a not-so-famous journalist called Aman Sethi mentioned inside Amitava Kumar's A Matter of Rats. That's how you will come across An Obedient Father that marked the arrival of a writer of great finesse whom not many people know, Akhil Sharma. That's how you will be awed to hear that Jeet Thayil grew up translating Charles Baudelaire's poems from French to English, frequenting his grave in Cimetiere Montparnasse while he was in Paris. That's how you'll discover that the greatest Portuguese writer isn't Paulo Coelho, but an unknown Nobel Laureate named José Saramago. Read his book called Blindness, if you like dystopian fiction. Or you will be moved to know that Alice Munro wrote only short-stories not because she feared the form of a novel, but because she only had as much time. All her stories were written in hours stolen while her child slept or was at school.
All the viral listicles with 100 books that you can't live without reading are filled with bestsellers. Unfortunately the writers of those buzz-fed lists have grown up masticating the very same curd of famous recommendations with friends crooning "Yaar, Jhumpa Lahiri padho yaar. She's brilliant," and you ask, expectantly, "Did you read (her less famous but best-written) Unaccustomed Earth?" and pat comes the reply, "No, The Lowland, dude. It's just epic." Yeah, right. Booker authorities won't get it wrong, would they? They will. Most great works don't get noticed. You have to give them the notice they deserve. Else, the world will be filled with shoppers, never readers. #writinggyaan
The worst period of my writing life was between 2012 to 2014 when I was a full time writer and a freelance journalist. Almost everyday, I fought with editors, negotiating for 1000 rupees extra remuneration for articles and features I wrote. If you're good at something never do it for free, after all. Right? Wrong! Truth is I hate to remember those days. It's a blot on my memory. It made me feel like a beggar more than an artist. I wish nobody has to go through such days.
My favourite writing period is the past one year when I have been writing for myself for free and people are discovering and reading them. It's not that I want to write for free forever, but I will wait and reach scale. Negotiating for a few thousands rupees isn't cool. You know what's cool. A few thousand dollars. Or maybe hundreds of thousand dollars. Or millions. And that will come with the creation of your personal brand. And that will come with time and scale. And nothing helps reach scale better than doing it for free at all the places you can.
"If you didn't read it before, it doesn't necessarily mean it's original. It might also mean you haven't read enough." My editor had once said this to me. I think we should all tell it to ourselves.