From the days of living on farms in his grandparents’ village to currently living in Dallas, USA, this author has come a long way. Rajeev Saxena did his Bachelor of Technology from IIT Kanpur and his career with a large international company provided him with opportunities to visit a multitude of countries and cultures, out of which Barbados in the Caribbean, Johannesburg in South Africa, Mexico City in Mexico and Nassau in Bahamas reminded him the most of the country he grew up in. In a candid conversation with Chirdeep Malhotra, the author talks about his debut book, why he chose a scientist to be the protagonist of his book and the current scenario in Indian English writing.
You are from an IT professional, yet you have authored a book in the fiction genre. Were you inclined towards writing from the start?
I’ll be very frank with you. Profession is something which you choose to make money, to earn your living. In school, we used to have extracurricular activities which were the best part of our school days. So you can say that writing is something like that for me, where I’m free to choose what I want to write about. Could I have written a book about IT? Yes, of course. But that wouldn’t have given me tremendous satisfaction. I love telling stories. I’ve a lot of stories within me. Fiction is the best way to communicate that. At the same time your question is very relevant. Coming from a technical background, I’ve several facts, anecdotes and events which are coming from technology field.
Can you provide us a brief overview of your book “Pinto has an idea”?
Pinto comes from a lower middle class background from a small city, struggling hard to make it to a prestigious engineering college, IIT. Later he starts working as a professor in MIT. He has a love-hate type relationship with his girlfriend Lavanya. Eventually they get married but their family life is full of challenges. One day he is suddenly enlightened that the research he is currently involved with, may not be implemented in his lifetime so it’s better to focus on issues impacting day to day life. Some of these things are very basic in nature but nobody has thought about them. While solving these issues he comes across serious challenges as well as funny encounters. In this pursuit, he finds out a very innovative solution which would eventually wipe out all the VIPs and hence the corruption from our country very naturally without any violence. To execute this he joins politics. How Pinto handles these ups and downs is what forms the storyline.
Do you write about urban India with all its vagaries or rural India with all its vulnerabilities?
I believe that a writer is an actor. Just like an actor can play any kind of role whether it’s a sophisticated rich guy or a poor truck driver or a goon, the writer gives the character a life. Similarly I write based on the plot and the story. My book “Pinto Has an Idea” starts from a village and then moves to big cities. Writing comes from imagination. One does not have to be a part of the place to describe it. At the same time your experiences do reflect in your writing from time to time. I’m lucky that I’ve seen several places around the world and have been very closely associated with villages in India as well, so I get an advantage.
Why is a Scientist a main character in your book?
There are a couple of reasons. Scientists do so much for our country but they don’t get the kind of recognition they deserve. Also I wanted to write a novel which is non-traditional. I feel that recently a lot of authors have talked about romance in Engineering or medical colleges a lot. Readers need something new. This is my effort to start a new trend. Romance is an integral part of the novel but there is a lot outside romance- a desire to revolutionize the world using technology. And eventually Pinto implements his ideas in Indian politics also.
In your book a scientist forays into politics? Isn’t it strange?
On a side note, why would it be strange? We need to consider a scientist to be the part of mainstream. At the same time, Pinto comes to politics by accident. His wife Lavanya often tells him to run errands. Pinto is a lazy guy and he doesn’t like household jobs so he finds out solutions for that so that he doesn’t have to spend his precious time on them. I’d keep the suspense alive so don’t want give a lot of details here. But let me give you one or two examples. Pinto doesn’t like to buy grocery. Lavanya wants him to buy grocery only from big stores not from his neighbourhood shops. After a few funny incidents he gets bored and finds a very innovative grocery distribution solution. Similarly when he is caught by the police for wrong reasons, he decides to find out how to curb corruption and wipe out VIP culture from India. He finds a very unique solution so that several VIPs will give up their VIP status willingly. How will that happen? You need to read my book for that. But that’s the whole reason for him to enter politics. When he doesn’t find support from any political party, he forms his own to implement the solution
What do you think of the current scenario in the Indian literature arena? Do you read Indian authors?
Frankly speaking I haven’t read a lot lately. During my student days, I used to read Premchand a lot. I’ve also read Chetan Bhagat and Ravinder Singh. I think it’s really a golden period for Indian authors. In spite of having so much exposure to electronic media such as TV and Internet, young population is still reading a lot of books. Authors are being made celebrities. The only problem is that one needs a lot of marketing to become successful these days.
Is getting published traditionally really tough? What are your views on self-publishing?
Yes, it’s in fact extremely tough. For me it took almost one year to find a publisher. I can probably write a book about it. Big publishers have credibility. Readers have an image of the quality of the book if it’s coming from a big publisher. It’s extremely important to go for a big publisher especially when you are a first time author. I think self-publishing has its pros and cons both. You have full control on self-publishing, starting from the cover design to sales. As the quality control is also in author’s hand, I’ve seen some self-published books with several spelling and grammatical errors. I think authors can go for self-publishing once they are little known and if they have really good editors, designers and support staff.
What are your other interests apart from writing?
I try to keep myself busy. Though I’m just a little better than a bathroom singer, most of my friends ask me to sing old Bollywood songs and I don’t disappoint them. Of course they request the song when the party is about to end.
I participate in various volunteer activities. At one point I used to run a small charity organization for poor children in India. It became difficult for me to run it sitting in USA but it was a great experience. I also travel a lot.
Are there any new literary projects that you’re currently working on?
Yes, of course. My writing journey has started. My final destination is far away but I’ve several great spots on the way. I’ve started working on my next book. Books are like start-up companies. You plan something but the final product is very different. So let me not talk about it right now.
There are many new writers there who are aspiring to get their work published. What would you say to them?
First, write something that you like, something that you and your family can read, something you are passionate about. There will be several obstacles but don’t give up. Finding a publisher takes a long time and it’s also a very frustrating process. But keep in mind that you have nothing to lose. If nothing happens, self-publishing is open for you.
Written by: CHIRDEEP MALHOTRA