I was born and grew up in Bihar in the 80s, where you’d grow up to become either a doctor or an engineer, and later an IAS officer regardless of what happened to your chances of being a doctor or an engineer. I could become none of the three. Primarily because I, luckily, had parents who were willing to put trust in me and back my career and life choices, even if they sucked.
Not that I didn’t try to become an engineer, and I wanted nothing less than IIT, but once I knew that Chemistry won’t allow me to go anywhere near, I decided to look around and beyond Resnick-Halliday and Morrison-Boyd. And my eyes stopped at Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. Not because I was a great connoisseur of classic literature, but because my father was (and is) a professor of English literature and these books were lying around in our house.
Suddenly I had desire to write stories and not solve equations. I asked my father about these folks and ended up discovering that many of them worked as journalists or columnists in newspapers in their early lives. And bingo, I wanted to be a journalist.
I ended up being one, but a TV journalist, and got disillusioned in little less than 3 years. I also discovered that my plan of being author was totally derailed. But there were many other things that contributed to this disillusionment.
I went for higher studies, did my MBA, and the plan of being an author was even more derailed as books started meaning balance sheets. But soon I came somewhat nearer to my original plan as I tried my hand at writing along with entrepreneurship and management consulting. I started writing short satirical articles, and thus was born Faking News.
As Faking News grew in popularity, I was approached by a couple of people – one publisher and one literary agent – to write a full length book and not just stick to short articles. The idea was enticing, and promised to fulfil my original desire, but either I was too busy strengthening Faking News as brand or I was just lousy and I couldn’t pursue the book idea. Faking News was later acquired by Network18 in 2013.
And then I discovered that my rivals, guys who founded The UnReal Times (URT), had published a book just ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Buggers! One of the founders of URT is my MBA batchmate and a good friend, so I was even more jealous. Add to that my wife telling me, “see, he could write but you did not”.
It’s believed that taunt of a woman made Kalidas a learned man and he wrote exquisite books thereafter. But my thick skin could easily take taunt of my wife and I continued with my life as if nothing happened. Soon, Twitter spoiled whatever discipline I had and killed any chance of me writing a book. Instead I got busy writing tweets, which became increasingly political, ideological, and combative, sucking me even more into it.
Then OpIndia happened, where my Twitter avatar helped shape the brand and the business (which is still evolving, so please support). OpIndia is still in growth phase, but suddenly one day my original plan, or rather desire, of writing a book was back. I tweeted this:
Not that this tweet went massively viral and I started getting string of fan mails beseeching me to write, but I had in a way zeroed upon this topic for the book. I had planned in my mind that I’ll try to finish and get it published – even if it means self-publishing – ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections (and show my URT wala MBA batchmate that “Hey bugger, I can do it too!”), but I got busy with OpIndia and couldn’t get myself to wake up an hour or two earlier than usual to take out extra time for this.
However, the literary agent who had got in touch with me during the Faking News days gave me the feedback that this was a good idea and it could get some publishers interested. He asked me to prepare a book proposal, which I finally did after weeks, and now he says that a publisher is interested.
It might look like a premature celebration/announcement, but I decided to put it out in public to put pressure on myself so that now I do start and finish writing it!
So wish me all the best, and please say you’re dying to buy and read the book. And yes, you can send me money at helprahul@icici 😉 – no not now, but when the book is out, do buy it, please! 🙂
Following is the part of the book proposal that I had made, which will give you an idea of what the book is about, if the earlier embedded tweet couldn’t give it:
Working title of the proposed book:
Memoirs of a Sanghi (who never went to a Shakha)
Book genre: Non-fiction, Memoirs, Politics
The idea: With Narendra Modi returning to power with a even bigger majority in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, a debate has been going on if India has ‘fundamentally changed’. The shade and spread of this debate are often ideological, with people wondering if the long established ‘idea of India’ – epitomized by Nehruvian secularism and socialism – has been replaced with Hindutva, a term identified with politics and philosophies of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The new India appears to have embraced Hindutva, and well, Modi incidentally talks about making a ‘new India’.
If India has indeed fundamentally changed, it means Indians have changed. Especially those Indians, who might not have identified themselves with the RSS earlier, but who are now supporting and voting for Modi, and by extension, who have now no issues with the RSS. Ideally the debate should be about this change. Debate should be about circumstances and factors that made people change their beliefs. Unfortunately, the debate – in the established circles – is still around Narendra Modi, BJP or the RSS, not about the people. Worse, a section of the debaters is busy berating the people who have changed, instead of understanding what brought this change in them.
The book: With this background, the book attempts to document and analyze such a change that the author experienced for himself. It tells the story of an ordinary Indian, who had no special attachment to any political party or ideology, warming up to the politics and ideology of Narendra Modi and Hindutva. Someone who never went to any Shakha, but was called a Sanghi more often than not.
The proposed book is a memoir that captures the journey of the author from childhood to adulthood, with his ideological positioning evolving and aligning with a particular side; ‘the dark side’ as per those believing in the old ‘idea of India’. The book recounts events from school days to college days to professional life of the author, all of which played a part in this ideological journey.
Apart from ideological and political commentary, the proposed book also has value of nostalgia as it recounts incidents of that era when India was fast changing. It also talks about the news media industry and author’s experiences that goes beyond the usual ideological binaries.