Ananya: What inspired to choose such a fetching title?
Amrit Sinha: Ananya, to be honest with you, it came very naturally. Comma in ‘Beginning with a Comma’ is the hiccup, not only a pause. One can never imagine where a breath pauses, where adolescence can get acquainted with adulthood, its shadow lines, blurred realities which make the appearance and likeliness a mere binary to each other! I have tried to capture that, therefore, I call it a hiccup, an ‘uncomfortable’ pause- one that either continues till you gulp down something else or vanishes forever, miraculous!
I begin with the comma that remains never to end in a period.
AD: Is the plot of ‘Beginning with a Comma’inspired by your own life events?
AS: Often we write about things we see around us. I wouldn’t call it autobiographical in nature, but having said that, you cannot also segregate the imprints the society has had on you from your writing. Myth, mystery, spirituality, love and religion- sensitive topics within and outside media till date constitute the plot. My relationships as portrayed have been secular, so has the context, the setting, the theme and the mood.
AD: Do you, someday, plan on being a full time writer?
AS: It would depend on multiple factors. It would depend on my life experiences, on how the publishing industry evolves in the coming few years among others. If the universe were my canvas and I had to paint it, I would be a full time writer in the next 3 years.
AD: Did a lot of research go into the formation of the story?
AS: Yes! Though the non-fictional elements that tie up the fictional story are few and far between, they are accurate and it took me 6 years to get here.
AD: Do you have a regular writing regime?
AS: Yes. Writing happens to be the only constant in my otherwise erratic routine. I make sure that the ink keeps flowing. I write articles for newspapers, write blogs and have also contributed to satire columns such as ‘Faking News.’
AD: What are your expectations for your upcoming book?
AS: To put it in Dickens’ immortal words- Great expectations. I have done a lot of research as I mentioned while answering one of your previous questions. There are so many things that one would get to know about our nation, about our society besides the central story. It happens to be a beautiful effigy of the struggle of an Epileptic boy and his boy to man journey.
AD: Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
AS: I haven’t yet faced it and part of it is also because I keep my eyes and ears open. I may only be beginning this journey and I fear I may sound overreaching, but there is a story in everything around us. There is Signal and Noise everywhere. Noise for you could be news for me and vice versa.
Besides, I only write when I want to write, I do not set deadlines, I do not force myself to write and I do not intend to achieve anything but pleasure while I write.
An Engineer and an Executive Program in Business Analytics from IIM Ranchi made life easier professionally and that did not help either. We often need difficulties, a struggle, to realize what we really want. We are often living in a cosy bubble and we go wherever the bubble takes us. One day, things dramatically changed for me. I was in my final year of engineering then.
AD: What is your take/view on social media for marketing?
AS: It connected the two of us. It must be powerful. I already see it doing wonders to a lot of upcoming writers. It has also made writing a level playing field to a certain extent. You need not be a prince to write anymore as if you write well, ‘sooner than later’, it will come to light.
Your favourite clothing store-
Pantaloons, Sony World Signal, Koramangala, Bangalore
If you had a time machine, would you travel back in time or to the future?
I would go back in time, and to a place called Diamond District in Bangalore (and never come back)
Do you have a favourite cartoon character?
Vimmy Ahuja, my mentor at my ex-workplace
A beverage you simply cannot live without-
Coffee, with my best friend
A quality you love about yourself-
I don’t let go
AD: What advice would you give to your younger self and why?
AS: That I should have completed the novels I started back in my school days. And that it wasn’t a good idea to give away the old notebooks, journals and diaries to the‘Raddiwala’ in exchange of money.
AD: Do you see a bright future for the Indian publishing industry?
AS: The way things are progressing, I get healthy vibes. I do have my complaints though. I intend to become a publisher some day and make the industry abide by a simple doctrine – ‘Meritocracy.’
Internationally, I was particularly happy with the merger of Random House and Penguin as that will now ensure Publishing industry has someone to present a formidable challenge to the ever growing power of digital distributors such as Amazon and Apple.
AD: Any words of wisdom for newbie writers?
AS: Never do things in half measures. Go the full length, do what it takes, do not discount research as you have the power to influence the minds of others. Write to heal the scars of the society, not for fame or money as that may lead you to write things which may weaken the social fabric. Be responsible writers, be responsible citizens.