Shriram Iyer’s debut deals with sports, sibling rivalry and disability
Shriram Iyer’s Wings Of Silence, released recently, is a sports novel set in the Cold War era. Raj and Saurav are brothers who are etched in perfect opposites. Saurav is cast as the perfect winner, accumulating success after success. Raj is born deaf, dreams of an Olympic gold, but doesn’t have much going for him; he falls into a depression.
In an interview, Shriram noted that the sibling angle in the novel, his debut, didn’t come from first-hand experience: growing up in Bangalore and Baroda, he didn’t face the differing parental affections he chronicles in his book. But he began to fathom the dynamics of large family life in his landlord’s house in Baroda, he said. Shriram is based out of Melbourne, but wanted to write the book for an Indian audience. After finding an Indian literary agent, he found takers in Grey Oak publishers.
He’s pleased that the publishing industry in the country is expanding, and practices like launches and signings are becoming common. He also thinks this allows for more variety in plot, such as his: “there’s enough room for love stories in films,” he said, explaining that he didn’t want to make his novel a love story.
In 2008, with the Beijing Olympics unfolding, Shriram hit on the central premise of the novel, and began writing with a rough deadline in mind. “I found the effect of the Cold War on sports interesting,” he said, referring to the boycott of the 1984 Olympics by Soviet athletes.
Another specific observation underpinned his choice to set it in an Indian family: he perceived a lack of ambition in Indian sport. “We’re happy with six Olympic medals,” he said, incredulously. “The ripple effect of believing in sports greats to allow them to happen is needed. There’s an inferiority mindset. I wanted to challenge that.”
Writing is one part of Shriram’s day: besides his management day job, he also sings. How does he manage it all? “There’s no magic bullet,” he admits. “Singing was my first love – but writing and singing are similar, they’re all forms of storytelling.”