Ishan Majumdar is a qualified Chartered Accountant and holds a Master’s degree in Management from HEC Paris (Grande Ecole). Born and brought up in Mumbai, he completed his graduation from Narsee Monjee College of Commerce and Economics and moved to Europe for further studies. He has a rich corporate exposure, having worked in investment banking and strategy roles in multinational companies, and presently works with a venture capital fund based in New Delhi. He is also a debutante author, having written the book “The Celeritas Files”, which is a crime thriller based on the corporate world, taking cues and ideas from his own experiences, owing to him being a corporate insider. In a candid chat with Chirdeep Malhotra, he talks about his debut book and the reader’s response to it; why he likes to portray strong, realistic and gray characters in his books; the many advantages of multilingualism; and the research that went into writing his first book.
Tell us more about Ishan Majumdar as a person. How did you get inclined towards writing?
Well, I am a typical finance professional. I have worked in investment banking in Paris, France with companies like BNP Paribas and Credit Agricole and I currently work in a venture capital fund based in New Delhi. I guess being locked inside an office cubicle for 9 to 10 hours each day is the reason why most of my plot ideas centre on the corporate world and crimes associated with it.
With respect to the writing part, I have been a closet writer since many years but never really felt inspired enough to formally release my work. I guess when I started living in New Delhi, a city where I have a very limited social life and where I have enough spare time after work, I finally decided to go ahead with this.
How was the response of readers after reading your debut book “The Celeritas Files”?
Their response has actually been really good. I am pleasantly surprised to see Indian and international bloggers rating the book consistently around 4 and 5 stars. Personally, I had not expected a Goodreads rating above 4 for my first book.
The character portrayal of Shaina Desai is of a very strong woman. What was the inspiration of basing the protagonist as an exemplar of strong womanhood?
I have tried to give subtle social messages through my characters in the book and Shaina was probably the most solid one. The character wasn’t inspired by any individual or event but more so, by my frustration at seeing the status of women in the Indian society. I strongly support the upliftment of the status of women across the country, not just in the cities. I believe that one of the reasons why Western countries are far ahead of us in terms of economic development is because they have advanced socially as well. Strong and qualified women are leading their countries forward (Germany and Angela Merkel are the best example) and are not bound by social taboos. The situation here is improving slowly but I still believe that the Indian society has a long way ahead in this aspect.
Taking this discussion forward, how do you think that the condition of women can be bettered in our society? Should people like Shaina Desai take the lead?
One aspect of Shaina’s nature that I would like to highlight in order to answer this question is her indifference. She didn’t care about what the society thought about her. She didn’t care how people would judge the fact that she had a child outside wedlock. She was so focused on her work that she was indifferent to the people around her except her close friends who treated her like a normal person and not like some societal exception.
In my opinion, this is the way forward for all women. The people in the society are never going to stop talking. If women spend their time listening to societal views, they will continue to thwart their dreams and ambitions and the primitive ideas will continue to hinder their progress. Women in India must learn to turn a deaf ear to anybody who discourages them from pursuing their dreams. They should go forward and start living their lives for themselves and not for the society.
Who is your favourite character in the book and why?
Amaan is my favourite character without a doubt. I always fancied the idea of a negative lead character; more of an anti-hero with shades of dark grey. I believe that in the corporate world there are no whites and Amaan was created as a symbol of a dark, unstoppable force that would go to any extent to meet his objectives.
What kind of research went into writing this book?
For “THE CELERITAS FILES”, a large part of the research was with respect to the MaxCharge technology and its specifics. Also, I worked on understanding the patenting laws and the red-tape involved in India with respect to intellectual property registrations.
What are your favourite books? Can you share with our esteemed readers about the genres that you like to delve into and your favourite authors?
I read for research and not for pleasure, so obviously my favourite genre is crime fiction. My favourite authors are Lee Child, Michael Connelly and Joseph Finder. My favourite novels are the Jack Reacher series, the Lincoln Lawyer series and the Nick Heller series. I rarely read standalones. I guess my favourite standalone novel would be “The Firm” by John Grisham.
The author blurb mentions that you’re fluent in six languages, which include French and Spanish. Which are the others? What do you think is the advantage of being a polyglot in the contemporary times, besides the usual career opportunities?
Well, I speak English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, French and Spanish. The first four languages were a direct result of living in Mumbai for 22 years of my life and having a Gujarati-speaking mother. I was always fond of learning languages. I started learning French after my Bachelors and went on to acquire full professional fluency when I moved to France. There was a point in my life when I was giving interviews in French and doing 80% of my office work in French.
I worked in Barcelona, Spain for about 6 months which is where I developed interest in Spanish. I believe that languages helped me in cultural integration in these countries and made me feel like I was one of the people and not just a foreigner. From a career perspective, obviously they open doors for people into a number of multinational setups.
What are your other interests apart from writing?
To be honest, writing takes up a large part of my day so I struggle to have time for other activities. Apart from crime fiction novels, I also write finance articles pertaining to the US stock market and a large part of the writing process involves research and reading. I don’t realize where my day goes in the middle of all this stuff.
I guess if I have to name one other interest, it would be travelling. It is very insightful to visit different countries, meet people of different cultures, and understand their manner of thinking, and so on. In a way, it is very helpful in the character sketching process.
Are you working on any new literary projects?
Yes. I plan to launch my second book in the last quarter of 2018. It will also be a corporate thriller. Currently, I am working on its proofreading and editing.
Can you give some advice for budding authors who want to write crime fiction and corporate thrillers?
One piece of advice I would give to all budding writers in general is – Write for the love of it, not for fame or money. Write to influence the world with your words and your stories. Nothing else matters.
By Chirdeep Malhotra