Ketan Bhagat’s debut work is Complete/Convenient. He lived abroad for many years before returning to India. He works in an MNC in Mumbai. NAW chatted with him about his second book, Child/ God. Learn more about him and his work here.
NAW- How was the feedback after your first book?
My first book Complete/Convenient, much to my pleasant surprise, was well received by both audience and critics. Everyone had scared me so much about being battered brutally because I am Chetan Bhagat’s brother, I was actually expecting to be stoned in public (smiles).
NAW- Tell us about your latest book Child/God. What is it about? How did you get the idea for it?
Honestly I had thought I would publish one book and vanish. I was so prepared to be torn apart by the audience. But the love and encouragement people gave for Complete/ Convenient felt so good, I decided to write another book
The idea of Child/God was born the moment my son was born. The surge of emotions I felt when I saw my son for the first time was cathartic. Almost spiritual. Life became crystal clear to me. That’s when I decided to write Child/God.
The premise of this book is that God comes in every house and family as a child to practically show how it is possible to be supremely happy and pure in the same environment. When I saw my son (Rian) grow, I realized the same house and family members can also be a source of great pleasure and happiness. And here I was constantly finding faults in everything. Rian became my guru on the correct attitude towards life and thereon emerged the novel.
NAW-Tell us about the character of Raghav Malhotra. How did you develop the character?
Raghav is a lot like most men in their thirties. A phase in life where you begin to realize that real success has eluded you and time is running away. So you work extra hard, adjust extra hard, basically do whatever it takes for you to leap forward. Raghav butters his bosses, cajoles his wife, takes non sense from his extended family and yet spends many sleepless nights in the hope that his life will soon turnaround and he has already lost many opportunities in the past
it was easy for me to develop this character as Raghav is there in all men of my age. I took a little bit from me, a little bit from my friends and peers.
NAW- Both your books have explored relationships for example the relationship of Raghav and his brother. What made you decide to structure both your books on such serious overtones even though most authors tend to write racy reads these days?
I took to writing to tell stories that happen with everyone and yet are never explored in stories. Men, their emotions and the dynamics around their relationships are areas where I feel there is a lot to entertain, learn and make a point. This is the common theme in both my novels. I don’t want to write anything that I feel has already been written before.
NAW- How do you write your books? Do you write in fits and spurts or plan the entire plot line beforehand.
I don’t plan any plot line at all. I just write regularly everyday. For me, writing is philosophy. So in my mind, the philosophy keeps on playing for months and then I somehow discipline myself into writing notes around that philosophy on a regular basis. then slowly characters emerge and then incidents around those characters. it is really a mad process. A lot of people ask me what I am writing when I am writing and when I answer honestly that I don’t know, they think I am just being witty. But it is a fact. In both my novels, the eventual story has been something even I couldn’t have imagined. For example, when Rian was born, the only idea I had in my mind was that a child is an instance of God who should teach rather than be taught. How the rest of the story happened, I myself don’t know.
NAW-Indian publishing is going through a lot of transition and there are now more opportunities today for New writers. How was your experience with Indian publishers with your twin books?
There are a lot many publishers today. This is good. So it is easier to get published. however, the quality of publishers and the writers has a lot of room for involvement. Everyone is looking for the next Chetan Bhagat or Amish Tripathi. The writer wants publisher to make him that and the publisher wants the writer to become that. Nowadays, I plan my writing career without expecting anything from the publisher. To be honest, it is tough to be a publisher as well. There is too much competition and changes happening in the business model itself
NAW-Can you tell us a little about your next book?
Too early to talk about my next one.
NAW- What do you do when you are not writing?
I have a full time job that ensures my bills are paid but my time is pretty occupied. I used to do yoga but am into long walks nowadays. Occasionally, I also take motivational sessions for colleges and corporates. Nowadays, I am also trying to become a poet.