Kaushik Vishwanath indulges in an exercise of genre bending when he writes. His book, The Truth About Ashwatthama, was shortlisted for the 2012 Toto Awards
That he is young and loves to write is quite obvious. But what's exciting about Kaushik Vishwanath, whose story “The Truth About Ashwatthama” was short-listed for the 2012 Toto Awards, is that he can make people laugh, cry or feel many things, yet observe the irony of it all.
His witty sarcasm shines through his story and more obviously through his newspaper column “Dr. K's Cure for Sanity”. “I started off writing humorous absurd fiction. But in 2009, I attended a workshop with Anil Menon, who said I knew how to make people laugh, so I should try making them cry instead,” quips the young Chennai-based writer, who has stories published in Karadi Tales, Scholastic and Tinkle.
He has contributed stories to collections like “The Moustache Maharishi and Other Unlikely Stories” and “The Tenth Rasa”, an anthology of Indian nonsense.
Based on Indian mythology but…
He is currently working on his debut novel. “It's titled ‘To Stop Train, Pull Chain'. It incorporates elements of Indian mythology, but it's not a retelling. You could say that it's an exercise in genre bending.”
“It's difficult to say what I like writing about because my interests keep changing. I like writing which presents a way of looking at the world as much as it represents the world. There is always something weird in my stories,” explains Kaushik, who enjoys the works of authors like J.M. Coetzee and Franz Kafka.
This is probably why a substantial amount of his work is based on Indian mythology. “I would not bracket myself as a writer of mythology. But there is no way to escape the effect of mythology. Myths are powerful as a form of storytelling,” he points out.
Kaushik has just completed an M.A. programme in English from IIT in Chennai. “My thesis in the programme was based on the Mahabharata, where I look at it as a work of meta-fiction. What I find interesting is that the Mahabharata is aware of its own existence as a narrative. It does things in the storytelling medium, which would be considered borderline experimental today.”
Interestingly, Kaushik's parents are the founders of “Karadi Tales”. “I guess storytelling is in my blood. They might have got the idea after watching me so engrossed in the Disney audio books. I have been writing since childhood. It's what I have always wanted to do despite changing ambitions. But it's only in the last few years that I decided to take it seriously.”
And Kaushik is still in the process of finding his own as a writer. But he has full faith in his abilities. “I'm still exploring my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. I'm trying not to limit myself to a particular style or genre. I believe that I will have something to offer the literary world. But as of now I just want to keep challenging myself as a writer. ”
He plans to go abroad soon to study creative writing, where he believes that there is better infrastructure for upcoming writers. “There is a lot of exciting writing coming out of the sub-continent right now. It's scary and exciting at the same time, because I have a lot more competition. But I feel that there are no adequate systems of support for them as compared to the U.S or the U.K.,” he argues. “Universities abroad have well-structured systems for writers. There are lot of different ways in which they are encouraged,” he observes, pointing out the need for more forums like Toto Funds the Arts. Kaushik has initiated a writing group in Chennai called “Cannot Able To Write” along with his friends. “My juniors at college sometimes come to me with questions on how to take their writing forward. That's where I see the need for a more established system of support.”