Tell us something about your background, where you grew up, where you studied and where you work.
Amit Shankar: Well, I am a ‘chora ganga kinare wala’, Born into a family where being a doctor, engineer or going for academics was a way of life, for some reason, classrooms or classes never fascinated me. Though a bright student, I could never see myself being an accountant or selling sips, toothpaste. No wonder, when I walked out of Delhi University, with a Masters degree in commerce, I had no clue what to do. I loved the guitar and the pen. Back then, being a rockstar and earning a decent life was tough. I chose writing and joined advertising. During the next thirteen years or so I drifted. Worked with world’s biggest and most creative advertising agencies, on brands like Nestle, Microsoft, Cisco, pedigree, Honda, canon to name a few. Went on the bag some of the biggest advertising awards. And then I got bored. Gave it up to tell bugger stories, stories of substance. Released my debut novel, Flight if the Hilsa, in Oct 2010. In six weeks it went on to become a national bestseller. The next title, Chapter 11 was released in Sep 2011 and has turned out to be a best seller. Currently, I’m a brand consultant.
Chapter Eleven reads like a reflection of something that you have seen personally may be a bit exaggerated. Your Comments.
Amit Shankar: Chapter 11 is a story which every corporate soldier has seen, day in and day out. It is the same story of glutton, sleaze, insecurities behind every shining facade. Talk to any guy who is working with a large format organization. See how he will tell you that his organization has every single character of Chapter 11, though with a change of name. Also, the larger objective of the novel was to wake up people to the rapidly eroding value system. The day is not far behind when we as a society will be sitting, groping in dark, experiencing complete bankruptcy.
What prompted you to write this story? There was a possible twist in the story that you made transparent to the reader but not to the protagonist. Why did you reveal that to the reader?
As told that the objective of this title was to mirror the reflection of society. If I focused on any one issue, it would have become an issue based novel. I wanted to keep it broad-based, digging out every possible Skeleton, exposing it. I wanted to strip open every stagnating facade, relationship.
You have touched upon falling moral values, suppressing of our own values, man-woman relationship, mentor-mentee relationship, parent-child relationship, but you did not deep dive into any of them. Your comments.
It was just another story which I felt like sharing. To me, we all have a little of VVS, Ambica, RC, Sandy. We all are as vulnerable and as strong as anyone of us. If we are grounded, rooted, bound by ethos, values, morals, the power to differentiate between right and wrong is high or else the line blurs. The growing consumerism which has made us seek instant gratification is to be blamed. Or maybe, it is a natural evolution. We all seek choices. It is this part of us which has made us so weak and exposed.
There is a fair depiction of life in Gurgaon for a new migrant. Do you think you could have explored the loneliness of a metropolis a bit more?
The question is broader. It is not about the loneliness one experiences in a metro. It is about the vacuum, the unrest, the loneliness we experience deep within ourselves. VVS was lonely even when he was close to his family and so-called friends. We all are lonely, deep within. The cold environs of a metro amplify the loneliness. Look around, people even in smaller towns and cities are lonely. The reason? The roots have been eaten up.
We all are aware of corruptions in the corporate world, but somehow it escapes the public ire unlike the corruption in the public sector. Why do you think that happens?
Amit Shankar: We all assumed that t was only public servants, politicians and the government that was corrupt. The suit-clad, jet-setting executives were role models. Also, the high flying corporate life was not meant for a common man. Then the companies went public. Their roles, impact and overall effect on a common man, the society, and the country grew. With larger corporates getting into energy, telecommunications, infra, aviation public interface grew. And then Satyam happened. Now, with a larger public interface, companies are as accountable as any public servant. No wonder, public ire was huge when Satyam fiasco happened. This will only grow in the times to come.
Tell us something about your writing routine.
I have no routine. Lol. I keep on typing on my blackberry, iPad, jotting down my thoughts. And then one day sit, for three to four weeks and complete the script. Flight if the Hilsa was written mostly at this cafe called Mocha. Chapter 11 was written in various bars and pubs. However, Udaipur is the common factor to both these titles as I conceived the plot there.
Also, I would like to tell you that I never write and check or rewrite. What you read is the first draft and the final draft. I believe that the moment we edit, we are being less honest. Writing should flow, not be crafted. Emotions should be raw, not painted, truth should stand, baked, looking into eyes, not concealed.
Why this fascination with Udaipur?
Though I hail from Allahabad, for some reason, I feel drawn towards Udaipur. Could be some past life association. I find the place very inspiring.
What do your readers expect next from you?
Amit Shankar: Beware, Honey, My Love is Plural! This is the title of my third novel. The first one was women-centric, second was for corporate soldiers and the third one for teenagers. It demystifies live in the present context and explores the confusion around it. Also, this one I want to price around 100 to reach out to the teens and college crowd.