BOOK Arnab Ray has hit the gold spot — he juggles writing books, Twitter and blog-posts with his regular job as a research scientist, on subjects as diverse as masala movies and psychological terror, finds NIKHIL VARMA
Arnab Ray is an extremely popular figure on the Internet, with his irreverent and humorous take on everything from 90s masala movies to the current political flux in the country and is followed by thousands across the planet.
His first book, “May I Habb You Attention Pliss” (MIHYAP), was an extension of his blog and online persona, dealing with major elements of popular culture from the late 1980s and 90s.
His latest book, “The Mine” (Westland, Rs. 195), deals with psychological terror. He juggles writing, Twitter and blog-posts with his day job as a research scientist and assistant adjunct in the Department of Computer Science, University of Maryland.
“This idea for this book came in 2004,” says Arnab, in Reliance Timeout to launch the book. “I wanted a particular ending and started to build a story based on it. It is essentially the story of a father who loses his daughter and is on a search to find her.”
He admits, “it was a very difficult book to write. ‘The Mine' is very different in language and tenor from my posts on Twitter or my blog entries. Though the skeleton of this book was finished earlier, I did not have the literary street cred to write such a book then. I decided to play safe and launched ‘MIHYAP' first.”
Arnab says “The Mine” is a reflection of the nature of people and makes an attempt to understand the evil manifest in people. “Even the most evil person on earth will have some redeeming attributes. The characters in this book are not bad people. They are normal people who have made some wrong choices in their lives. I see the book as a philosophical rumination on the reasons of evil.” He adds, “When you are writing horror fiction for adults, you cannot expect them to be scared by werewolves, ghosts and goblins. You need to bring other elements to the tale and I have made an attempt to do that.”
Ray always wanted to write on topics others shied away from. His blog speaks to readers who have watched the evolution of Bollywood cinema in the 90s and the beginnings of the satellite revolution in India. “Once I began to write, the blog became a sort of open source information about that era. As far as this particular book is concerned, I have been a big fan of Agatha Christie novels and draw inspiration from them.”
Writing a book is not as simple as writing blogs or dealing with Twitter updates, he finds. “You need to focus on building characters, provide consistency to the dialogues, maintain a story arc. There are times when you read some portions and feel that it could have been written better. Since I do not work as an author alone; these issues do take up a lot of time. ‘The Mine' is written in a cinematic fashion, though it is not a screenplay.”
He says he deliberately kept the book scary throughout. “In the book, people are scared for their lives. I did not think a humour angle would have fitted into the storyline.” Ray now plans to write a book on the Indian immigrant experience in the US. “It is going to be more humorous, but will not be a tongue-in-cheek take on the experience. It will be very different from what writers like Jhumpa Lahiri have written.”