Sunday, September 9, 2012

Interview: Rituraj Verma, Author of Love, Peace & Happiness

I recently read the book, Love, Peace & Happiness, and its review on my blog: became the most read entry on my blog, in just two days. He is quite tech savvy and understands how to market a book in the right manner. You can check the facebook page about the book at: 

So, here's the interview with the author Rituraj Verma, who's enthusiasm for writing a book has inspired me a lot, and maybe one day, I will write a book of my own. You can check his website: to know more about him and the book.

I just asked him the questions which came to my mind related to the experience of undertaking a writing endeavor. So, here's the inspiring interview of author Rituraj Verma:

NB: Where do you get your writing ideas?

RV: I take inspiration from the everyday struggles of middle class and upper middle class educated Indians. People like us. Most of the characters in the book exist in real life too, and that is why one has been able to bring out the finer points in their personalities. NB: Do you ever experience writer’s block?

RV: Whenever I do, I think of the real life person the story is inspired by, or talk to that person, and that is enough inspiration to remove any writer's block. Also I play the guitar, so at times, the block is easily removed because guitar playing is like a meditative state. 

Only seldom do I encounter that impossible block, the one that dries up all words. At those times, I discuss my problem with my wife and she usually has a way out of the block. 

NB: Is it difficult to be consistent while writing, as in how you ensure the discipline for it for yourself?

RV: Well I try not to do too much at a time. I limit my writing to 500 words a day, I also  keep notes of what I consider "insightful human observations" and I try to bring those delicate observations into the story in some manner. 

For the last story in the book, I decided I would take some time off work and concentrate on writing that last bit. The last story had to be something the readers would arrive at, and in that moment, they would start a process of realization of the nature of contentedness - a final culmination of the concept of alternate endings. 

Then of course, I tend to redraft the story at least three to four times, and remove any passages that drag, any verbosity or cliches. 

NB: Do you work with an outline, theme or framework in mind or just write?

RV: The framework of the book is the most important thing. I plan that ahead of the first word I write. Then each story actually comes to me, and I just put it on my computer screen as it comes out. 

Most of the writing was automatic, but in some places, I have gone back and changed a few things, written additional lines, and yet I felt that a second opinion was needed. So I asked Stuti Sharma to read it and bring in the balance in the work, removing any jaggedness to the writing. 

NB: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you and inspired you to become a writer?

RV: Its a long list- Hemingway, Chekov, Tolstoy, Franzen, Premchand, Bharti, Saratchandra, etc. - but the reason I wrote the book was because my friend egged me on to write a book. So I took it up and started. 

NB:What inspired you to write? 

RV: I guess it was an emotional catharsis of sorts when I picked up the pen again after twenty three years. So it became a sort of self actualization that I was getting deeper and deeper into- there never was any sense in carrying it too far and becoming completely spiritual- but I did have moments when I questioned if I was writing a book that was bereft of human kindness. 

NB: Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

RV: Several - mostly rejections even by literary agents, who refused to take the book up since it was considered dark and melancholic, and of course, rejections by publishing houses, who never got back to me. But I would get friends and family to read the book and they always said that it was fantastic, and that kept my hopes up. 

NB:If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of the book that you would change?

 RV: The one criticism I hear most often is there is too much emphasis on the physical part of relationships, and that should have been watered down. I think maybe that part, even though very essential, could have been worded differently.

NB: Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

RV: Its about 50:50 - some things have happened, but ended differently, and in the stories, the endings are happier than reality. I have tried to liberate the characters in the endings, but many readers disagree with the endings and hence the alternate endings. 

RV: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

NB: The first story is my favorite, its a journey that always stayed in my mind, even twenty three years after I visited the Valley of Flowers. The story is one that stays in most readers mind too, and many weeks later, they remember just this rather interesting journey into the souls of their happiness. 

NB:How did you come up with the title?

RV: Initially it was a working title, and the characters it seemed would struggle with love peace or happiness in the first three stories and that of choosing between the three in the rest and so it just stuck around and I talked to my publisher if he had a better idea and he said, not really, the title was mine to keep. 

NB: Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?

RV: I think the middle aged man in the last story, Rasheeda the clairvoyant woman and Anamika the codependent woman are all fascinating characters with strong choices and maybe they will show up in other tales too. 

NB: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

RV: One person said that he was sorry that he had nothing positive to say about the book and that he could just not get himself to finishing the book, that and some literary types who say that the writing is very average is what I call tough criticism. 

The best lines far outweigh the bad ones thankfully, and many many readers have been touched by it. 

NB: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

RV: Two main words - Perseverance, and Differentiation, or in one sentence - carve your own niche. 

NB: Authors are Dime by Dozen, do you fear the obscurity?

RV: Yes, I do, its scary, but hopefully, it wont be so horrible that I will feel disheartened into not writing any more. But commercial success comes at a cost, and I have to believe strongly in myself so that I can make others believe in it too. 

NB:Which is your favorite movie and why ?

RV: Memento and Inception are my clear favorites - and you can see influences in the book. Both are mind benders and so is the book.

NB: Which Indian author is your favorite author and why?

RV: Oh I read them all, but I like Premchand the most, and somewhere I wish I could write like him. So simple and yet so powerful. 

NB:Which foreign author is your favorite author and why?

RV: I like Hemingway, Chekov, Tolstoy, Franzen, Bellow and the list can keep going on, but I like two aspects in writing the most - one is the ability to keep the plot interesting, and the other is the ability to not put words into the character's mouths. 

NB: Do you consider yourself an intellectual and why ?

RV: I consider myself intelligent, but my no means an intellectual, although that could be called an aspiration. 

NB: Would you like to write a book about current struggles facing India & how India can rise above them?

RV: I am afraid the answer is no, I would not, because I am not one for politics, social work or the ilk of the do good folks, although I enjoy their company. I dont think profit is a dirty word, and I like making my money and enjoying it too. 

Thanks for the interview. And best of luck to you for your book ! :)

Art in Brazil !

Ghalib's Couplets !

मत पूछ के क्या हाल है मेरा तेरे पीछे, तू देख के क्या रंग है तेरा मेरे आगे

रही ना ताक़त-ए-गुफ़्तार और हो भी
तो किस उम्मीद पे कहिए कि आरज़ू क्या है?

नफरत का गुमन गुज़रे है मैं रश्क से गुज़रा, क्यों कर कहूँ लो नाम न उसका मेरे आगे

हर एक बात पे कहते हो तुम कि तू क्या है?
तुम ही कहो कि ये अंदाज़-ए-ग़ुफ़्तगू क्या है?

Mirza Ghalib

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Love, Peace & Happiness - Review

This book explores the theme of the relationships in this modern age through short stories. If we compare the relationships of the older times and the ones formed in this modern age, the one glaring thing which comes across is that relationships have become too practical or too difficult to manage. 

This book tries to bring out those difficulties being faced, the complexities of this real world, the chaos in which we live, the uncertainty, the aimlessness and the lack of direction being faced by young people today.

Maybe, we know how to pursue our careers, but we don't know how to work on our relationships. I think it happens, because of the lack of experience we have, and the kind of dichotomy of the world in which we live.

We are stuck between the generation which had happy arranged marriages, and our next generation which will be more of a society which encourages and accepts free love.

One of the problems, is not finding someone good enough for yourself, as it comes across in the first story itself: "A high, like Heaven". When the guy Ashish tells Sneha "You are just very very average", it sort of resonated, as we keep on trying to find the perfect right match, the soul mate, the person who should be a clone of our inner self at an intellectual level. It's so important to be able to talk to and to be able to understand your companion. This story brings out how a lack of understanding between two persons leads to a loss of the relationship.

The real life is the one which we live, which is a constant struggle to achieve "Love, Peace and Happiness". It's a pursuit to achieve what we consider "The Perfect Life". 

Like the Beatles said, "Love is all you need". And I sure believe that at times, it's true, that we all do, what we do to find love. Our emotions are the true reasons for our actions, which we then try to rationalize through logic.

And the real life has no straight forward rules, no perfect story line to follow, and the melancholic nature of the stories bring them out. The stories work at various levels and I will definitely read them again to understand the underlying messages and themes. 

Is our life a series of coincidences and a result of some of our actions, our choices and the paths we took ? Or is it something ordained by fate? I think, we like to believe in the fateful crossing of the stars which have brought the people in our lives, with whom we are sharing this journey. Author tries to bring out this discussion for us near the end of the book, when the book turns even more introspective and philosophical.

We want our lives to be stories, the stories which can be told like fairy tales. The stories which start with "Once upon a time" and the ones which end with "And they lived happily ever after". The book here brings out more realistic stories, which play out the drama of the real life. Thus, as you can see, this book has made me think, and it's all I want from the book I read !

And the characters in this book aspire to understand the life, and the meaning of life. And everyone in the book as usual aspires to achieve " Happiness, A high like Heaven '.