Chartered Accountancy, a degree in Law and a degree in Commerce later, Sujay discovered the little writing bug entrenched within him. He comes from a family of legal professionals and his extreme passion for writing made him the winner of MyStory Contest of Tata Literature Live, The Mumbai Litfest 2017. A resident of Mumbai, Sujay enjoys reading, playing table-tennis, taking long walks and listening to music. Let’s get to know him more-
- Tell us something about your recently published book Different Beads of the Same String.
Well, Different Beads of the Same String is basically a collection of ten short stories. Now the thing with short stories is that it gives you the liberty to explore genres and topics which may be completely disjointed from each other. But if you look at all the stories; as different as they may be from each other, there is an underlying essence embedded in each of them which you may feel connected to. And that is precisely why I have the words, “Different” and “Same” in the title. That, incidentally sums up what the book endeavours to achieve.
I have always believed that stories are nothing but a reflection of the times that we live in.
Hence you will see that in “Different Beads of the Same String”, each story is telling you
something, something about our society, about the ethos, about the values and about how
we look at people and things around us. Inspiration for the book came from all that I saw around me. And as I said earlier I didn’t want to rant about it relentlessly. The interesting way to do it was through stories and I love the idea of short stories to say what I have to. I have tried to ensure that ‘Different Beads of the Same String’ tells you something without raving and overtly preaching about it. At least that’s the attempt and also where I draw my inspiration from.
- When did you start writing?
That’s an interesting question. I have actually tried hard to ask myself that question, but I can hardly recall the start of my journey as a writer. I guess I always had a creative skew as far as writing was concerned, since my schooling days. Somehow languages bailed me out in my results always. I remember I was scared to the hilt of Mathematics till eighth standard and was absolutely atrocious at Art and Craft. But the three languages were my saviours always. Being in Mumbai my three languages comprised of English, Hindi and Marathi and I had a penchant for literature in any form. As introverted and aloof as I was, I loved participating in Elocutions and Creative Writing Contests. I remember one of my essays in school exam got selected to be published straight into the school magazine and it was one of my proudest moments. That was probably where the seed of the dream to write was implanted.
But as they say, life intervened. I got involved in trying to shape up a conventional career for myself. I did my Graduation in Commerce and went on to do Chartered Accountancy. I also acquired a degree in Law. Somewhere along the line, writing fell by the wayside. But I used to write sporadically. It started off as poems and four liners in Hindi and English. I loved the idea of conveying a thought or an emotion in just four lines. But as I said it was intermittent and unstructured. But at the same time I also realised I was completely myself when words flowed out of my pen (or as the case is now – from mobile phone touchscreen or keyboard :-) The idea of a book and stories had started to germinate but somehow I couldn’t ensure that it was given an opportunity to perpetuate.
As I started to realise the happenings in and around me, awareness dawned and as some people would say, life happened, for the umpteenth time. Writing was a release. It allowed me a platform. It allowed to present my emotions which I otherwise found hard to exhibit. I am usually critical and honest of myself whenever I do a task or engage in an activity, but when it came to writing I thought I probably did a decent job. If only I could hone it and structure it better!
My stories will always resonate the social fabric and human persona and character, just the way I see it. I figured that instead of just raving and filling pages with stinging words, a better idea may be to give a touch of realism yet maintain a fictional status to a story. Ironically fiction and reality intermingle at times and I loved that idea. Gradually I started looking for public writing platforms and took to reading extensively. Hence, as you can see there is no concrete answer to when my journey started but this is what the journey is all about. I do hope it continues endlessly. I guess it will keep me going for everything that comes my way – this intriguing journey of being a writer.
- Interesting! What is the purpose of your writing?
Well, the purpose is largely two- fold and these two reasons, as diametrically opposite as they might seem, are the reasons that words flowing out from my pen or keyboard embalm me. First and foremost I write for myself. Now as selfish as that may sound, I believe one can do a good enough job only if the writing is unadulterated and unabashed. If you write to suit others around you, then the writing gets diluted. I know it works for some writers but I choose to follow my own way here. I think if your writing can appeal to you, chances are it may appeal to most others if not all.
And secondly I write because I sincerely think that it does have the power to influence lives. How many times have we heard of a book changing people’s lives or the way they think! Or even simply recalling the message that a particular book conveyed. History is replete with such examples and I do believe if I can prompt my readers to understand my message and thoughts through my books then I think that would be pretty fulfilling. The meaning of entertainment has changed but I do believe that reading is still one of the more productive forms of entertainment. The message imparted to the readers through the written word has the ability to stand the test of time. Hopefully this learning process will continue for me too and help me keep evolving.
- Given the novelty, do you see a movie based on “Different Beads of the Same” being made?
Well, the subject matter of my stories are pretty off beat, and I use the term off-beat for the want of a better word. But movies are changing with the masses desiring newer ideas and newer concepts. They are lapping up novel themes. So yes, it would be great to get adapted into a movie or multiple movies or even web series for that matter.
- What is your idea of love, family and relationships on the whole?
Love and relationship is a process. And like every process it must be nurtured to survive. It is important because whatever you do in life, the backdrop is your family and support that
they bring along. Having said that, it is imperative to have your own space and your own identity. One must strive to get better every day. I say this because I see a lot of people getting stifled by relationships instead of the relationship egging them through.
But on the whole if you have a great family then more than half the problems are resolved then and there. There are people who have shone through despite stuffy family atmosphere but that is, more an exception than a rule. Most of them end up succumbing to the eventuality and are left lamenting about what might have been in only…
- Which of your works have been published so far?
This is my first book. I have also been a winner of “My Story Contest” by the Mumbai Literature Festival i.e. Tata LitLive in 2017 for my short story “Just Legally“. I have been published in an anthology too which is called “Twisted Fates – Break Free”. Besides I have three more stories published on the writing platform of Juggernaut Books App. And hopefully i should have my new book out in early 2019 as well for which I’m working on right now.
- So how was this journey of becoming a published author?
Well I’m learning the tricks of the trade even as I give this interview. So yes, it has been enlightening and quite exerting because it was an unchartered territory for me, as a newbie. My career path has been different and publishing process was a whole new ball game. But I learnt a lot and am thankful to my publishers Notion Press for their work on my book.
- Have you self-published your book or followed the traditional approach?
I have self published this book and I am pretty satisfied with how it has undergone so far.
- Which approach is better according to you: traditional or self-publishing, and why?
I think there are pros and cons to both the approaches. The key is to understand both the approaches and go with what works for you. Personally I would like to go with traditional publishing for my next since, I do believe that the credibility factor that traditional publishing brings is satisfying and motivating. Having said that, there is nothing wrong in self- publishing. So many authors who were self-published initially, are all bestsellers today.
I think how you publish is important but a critical factor also is, how you market it. Marketing a book is often misunderstood and an understated phenomena. I believe marketing a book is important because if you have a fabulous product then you should also have knowledgeable buyers. Otherwise the goodness of the product is a nullity and helps no one.
- What should the beginners do today?
Read a lot and write a lot. It is as simple or as complicated as that. Also it is important to understand what your strengths and weaknesses are. Once you know what you can and cannot do and understand yourself in the bargain, things are easier to deal with. Beginners must also learn to be patient. Instant success in writing is rare. You need to stick in there, hone your craft and improve. If you can do this, chances of being recognized and commence a satisfying writing journey increases.
- What is your take on book publishing as you see the current scenario?
The problem with current publishing scenarios is that practically everyone wants to be a writer. While that is quite welcome, people are becoming or trying to become writers without even going into depths of what writing is all about. I say this with great respect and utmost caution, since I’m a newbie myself but having read some of the books myself I believe that even basic aspects like grammar or sentence construction or even punctuation is being conveniently ignored. Let alone development of character or the depth of literary quality which literature is supposed to deliver in the first place. That is why it is important to separate grain from the chaff. I think it is important to understand that storytelling is an art and has to be nurtured. You have to devote time and effort. There are people who encounter success too, but for me I would want to ensure my books touches in essence to people and the message intended hits them. Idealistic but then I would want to write and continue to write for these and these reasons only.
- What are your forthcoming writings?
There are some unstructured ideas in my mind which I intend to give more shape to. I love the short story segment but I do have a distorted novel idea too, which I do hope will see the light of day soon. I do hope to give a more structured response to this in the months to come and hopefully I should be on track for that.
- What are the four top most things you take care of while writing a book?
First and foremost is that I write what comes to me and what I want to write about. I do not try to alter it just to suit a more populist or so-called accepted form of writing. I do that because I do not want to lose the very reason for which I started writing in the first place. I believe that readers are good enough to understand, that the content that they are consuming is told from a particular perspective.
Secondly, I am particular about the language and grammatical attributes that my writings have to offer. I believe that writing must reflect the thoughts, and thoughts can be communicated through the language and the finesse ingrained in it. If you can choose the manner in which the sentences and thoughts are constructed then a simple sentence can be beautiful too. This is not to say that I am perfect in my language. Which is why, I believe a lot in editing and re-editing to fine tune my writing. I usually end up editing my stories at least 3-4 times before availing the services of professional editors to ensure that the book is error- free and reader friendly. There may still be errors which may creep in but I believe I must take as much care as possible to ensure a reader-friendly experience for my readers.
Thirdly, I try and not stick to a plan. What happens is when an idea germinates, I know vaguely where my story is heading but somewhere in the middle I tend to realize that if I do not stick to a pattern then may be I can tweak certain portions suitably. I try to be flexible and not stick to the initial version, a pattern I have done with lots of stories. This may not be a guaranteed solution but if sure has the probability to succeed.
And finally I try and write as regularly as I can. It is a process and needs to be inculcated as such. I enjoy it and till I continue to enjoy I think it will hold me in great stead.
- What is your favorite genre and why?
Curiously there is not favourite genre. I read what I can and whenever I can, depending on my mood. Thrillers, History, Romance, Self-Help, it all depends on what I like to read at that point in time. But one thing is for sure, I try and read regularly and ensure that there is consistency in my reading.
- What / Who is your biggest source of inspiration in life?
My biggest inspiration is the spirit with which, the not so privileged segments of society crusade through their lives. I am intrigued by the rigours that they go through and I feel that if they can show so much courage when life can be so challenging then I am sure there are no problems which cannot be overcome. And whenever I am stuck with an issue, I try to think of a solution and not a problem. Of course there are some things which bog me down, but on the whole I try to wriggle out of it in my own way. This thing keeps me grounded, humble and seeking answers always. It also inspires me to be a better person tomorrow than what I am today.
- What is the biggest challenge you have ever faced and how did you overcome it?
I have gone through a bout of depression early in my life and that has made me what I am today. Very few people supported me through it when I was in the midst of my battle with it. Eventually, with the support of a few well-wishers and my own determination I came out of it. I harbour no ill-feelings about it against anyone, but you do realize that people around you can be fickle-minded and uni-dimensional.
This is a long story but to cut it short, I had to take the onus on myself to come out of it or simply choose to plummet deeper into the vortex. It is easy to say all this today, but while I was going through it, every day seemed a challenge to simply get through. In fact a day was too long. Every hour possibly every minute was hard enough. It has had some ever-lasting effects since it lasted quite a while but I have accepted the fact willingly and I am happy it taught me many lessons which I otherwise wouldn’t have learned. I have realized that if there is a problem in life then more than finding a solution, the key is to have a strong will to find a solutions.
If you keep wallowing in self-pity and immersing yourself in the problem itself then you are only making things difficult for yourself.
- If you had to live a day of your life as one of the living or dead personality, who would it be and why?
I have immense admiration for Harsha Bhogle, the Cricket Presenter. I have seen a lot of his shows and I am simply in awe of him. His talks are inspiring and I have personally derived a lot of strength from it. I like how he has carved a niche for himself in a world where he was perceived to be an outsider. A lot of people call him the Sachin Tendulkar of commentary, I choose to call Sachin Tendulkar, the Harsha Bhogle of Batting. I may be castigated for this, but that’s how much I admire the man. His humility, commitment and desire for excellence appeals a lot to me. So if you were to ask me what I want to achieve in my field I would say that if I come even remotely close to achieving what Mr. Bhogle has in his field I think I would have done myself a real favour.
- And finally, any message for the readers?
Read a lot. Read a lot of right stuff. And finally read my books. You may like them 🙂
So that was Sujay for you, author of “Different Beads of the Same String“.
You can get in touch with Sujay directly at: email@example.com
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