Amitabha Bagchi's The Householder looks at Delhi through the eyes of an IAS officer's PA
Perusing the invite for the book reading by Amitabha Bagchi, the thought that crossed my mind was, has it become fashionable now for IIT alumnus to write novels? But chatting with Amitabha before the reading, at Easy Library, in Koramangala, he revealed that his debut novel, Above Average took four years in the writing, and he was pipped at the post by Chetan Bhagat. So, he was not mimicking Chetan's success in the least he said; it was just a matter of timing.
Bagchi's creative writing gift began in school and he went on to win a creative writing competition while at the IIT. While in school, he spent a lot of time reading all sorts of books in an ordinary public library close to his house. There was no particular genre or sections given to the books, just stacks of all varieties put up on shelves. He hilariously recounts how he read a book Urine Therapy from cover to cover and found it fascinating.
“Our drama and contemporary fiction professor in the IIT made it clear to us that writing required as much rigour and methodology as one needed to do math.” But what has coloured his writing in a big way are Indian authors who write in Hindi. He voraciously reads books by Krishna Shobti, Shrilal Shukla, Amritlal Nagar among a host of others. Today Bagchi is a professor in IIT Delhi, and had a number of his past students seated in the audience.
Bagchi read out an anecdote from his second book The Householder published by Harper Collins, about his protagonist Naresh Kumar, who is the PA to IAS officer R.K. Asthana. The story reveals the underlying greed and corruption that soils the corridors of power in our country. “All story telling is not necessarily allegorical,” he states. “I take my reader down a road which they traverse and they gain their own insights.”
Asked about the fact that his books were based in Delhi he said, “Delhi is like a muscle memory that I can pull up at a moment's notice. I know many layers of the city — as child, student, young adult and now as a householder — and that adds richness to my experiences.”
“Do you consider yourself humorous?” asked a lady in the audience, and if he felt it was necessary to add humour to his writing. He replied quite seriously: “My wife laughs at my jokes, but I do not set out deliberately to be humorous, but maybe, I am more humorous than the average IIT professor.”
When asked if he regretted the way Delhi was rapidly changing he said he believed that culture is like a pas de deux in ballet where culture makes and remakes its structure, and the old and the new exist juxtaposed together. “I love the things I experienced as a child growing up in Delhi, but I am not here to preserve culture. I have my own view about how Delhi should be written about, just like Ghalib had his,” said Bagchi in response.
Later, the author signed copies and interacted with a number of his readers. The event was part of Easy Library's tenth anniversary celebrations. For details contact: www.easylib.com