Aditya Magal is a writer and blogger from India who runs the popular The Secret Journal of Rakesh Jhunjhunwala blog. His first novel How to Become a Billionaire by Selling Nothing was published by Random House.
NAW- Tell us about your blog. Did you anticipate it would become such a massive hit?
The blog is titled ‘The Secret Journal of Rakesh Jhunjhunwala’ and is a parody blog based on the life of legendary Indian investor Mr. Rakesh Jhunjhunwala. When I started writing the blog for the founder, Mr. Mark Fidelman in 2008, I seriously had no idea it would grow as it has. I thought it would actually wrap up in a couple of months or so, let alone lead to more.
NAW- Do you have another job or do you pursue writing full time? If yes, then how do you manage to support yourself from writing alone?
It’s not possible for me right now to support myself on income from writing alone. Inflation has made very sure of that! I write for a passion and the expectation of money from it at this point is less. My main source of income is by trading and investing in stocks. It’s this which allows me to maintain a bank balance.
NAW- Tell us about your debut book, ‘How to Become a Billionaire by Selling Nothing.’ In India, people don’t really appreciate humour and cases have been fled in the past against such humorous parody accounts. So did you decide to remain anonymous for this reason? And what made you decide to disclose your identity?
‘How to Become a Billionaire by Selling Nothing’ is a humour novel. I’m grateful that Random House have published it. It’s based on the ‘Jhunjhunwala’ character from the blog and follows his adventures while dealing with a man who wants to sell emptiness – NOTHING. I’ve tried to look at consumer culture and human nature with a sarcastic eye and I genuinely hope that everyone who reads it thoroughly enjoys it.
As far as Parody goes, most of the credit for me not being in jail right now goes to the real Mr.Jhunjhunwala. He has taken my attempts to lampoon events through his eyes as a joke and for that I am thankful. I’ve also made sure that I’ve told people from day 1 that I am a parody writer and not an impersonator. My intention is to entertain only and not to offend. Despite this if some people do get offended (and they have) then it’s a risk I have to endure, like every writer. You can’t be scared of saying or writing what you want for fear of repercussion all the time. A writer’s voice becomes muzzled because of that.
I disclosed my identity because it was the right time. I had been anonymous for 4 years and it had run its course.
NAW- How was the response to your book? Any plans to foray into other genres?
The response has been largely positive though some feedback has been negative. The book has taught me a lot about writing and publishing. I want to foray into other genres so that I can entertain and connect with readers in a more personal way. As a storyteller, it is imperative to confront different stories and varied characters. Foraying into other genres is inevitable as it brings this to fruition.
NAW- What drew you to writing?
I’ve wanted to do nothing else my whole life but write. While others were busy preparing for engineering and medical exams, I was busy reading and writing short stories. It is my passion and it comes from the experience books have given me. Many writers with their words have sucked me into a world of imagination and possibility and I want to do the same with my writing as well. That is why I write.
NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?
I am 28, live in Bangalore, India and am an ordinary guy. Like I said, I trade stocks in the daytime to earn an income. When not busy with work I devour junk food, beer and ice cream, watch TV, read, write of course and play videogames.
NAW- Have you met the real Jhunjhunwala? Does he know about your blog or your book?
I had the privilege of meeting Mr.Jhunjhunwala in 2012. Since then I’ve been in touch with him via phone. He has been very sporting and has taken my use of his image in a lighter vein. He does read the blog on occasion and I have also sent him the book. He has confirmed its receipt and has told me he will read it when he is not busy. I hope he likes it!
NAW- Can you recount the harshest and the best response to your work till now.
Just the fact that someone has read my book overwhelms me. There is no greater appreciation for me than for a reader to say that he or she has enjoyed my work. I treasure this feedback.
I’ve had a few harsh responses as well, some abusive reviews and some vitriolic. I hope to develop my skills and change the opinions of such readers in future.
NAW- Are there any literary influences that you would like to name?
RK Narayan, Goscinny and Uderzo, Roald Dahl, Jerome K Jerome, Agatha Christie ,Tolkien, Conan Doyle , Premchand ,Rowling, Dickens ,Stan Lee, Kishimoto ,Wilde, Twain and many many many more!
NAW- What are your upcoming projects?
Currently, my next project is to watch the Football World Cup and unwind after spending much of last year and all of this year thus far in writing and promoting my debut novel. I hope to start work on my next book after a couple of months or so. In the meanwhile I am learning to write poetry and am thinking of a few comic book ideas. Let us see what happens.