Friday, April 12, 2013

Techie Ketan Bhagat is now a Debut Author!!!

This is an interview of Ketan Bhagat, Chetan Bhagat's younger brother who is going to release his first book this May. This is an interview published by here.

Meet Ketan Bhagat, debut author, and ex-anchor with Doordarshan. You might know his brother Chetan. Yes, Chetan Bhagat. Yet, this Mumbai Oracle techie’s novel on real NRI life, which he says is not at all like a Karan Johar film, was not published easily. The pedigree did nothing to help as one would assume. Ketan Bhagat pulls out all stops in this frank chitchat with Techgoss.

Techgoss (TG): How was your life before you became an author?
Ketan Bhagat (KB): Born and bought up in Delhi, I grew up amidst chola bhaturas, chaats, nirulas, movies at Chanakya and Priya theatre, loud flamboyant weddings, Mandal-commission type riots, flying kites at rooftops on 15th August and travelling on redline buses. There weren’t any McDonalds or metros at that time in Delhi.

Quiet unlike my brother, I was a carefree bindass person who barely managed to pass through exams and was almost always outdoors. I loved playing cricket, flying kites, bunking classes, watching movies in front row and talking to Chetan’s girlfriends on phone (we have similar voices and style of talking). Whenever my parents came to school to meet teachers, they used to have great time meeting Chetan’s teachers and a harrowing time meeting my teachers. Once they were especially summoned by my college director as I was caught helping someone cheat. Thanks to me, my mother was always in front of some astrologer or the other. But I wasn’t a bad person. I did not smoke, drink or get into fights. I was just carefree and casual about life.

During college days I accidentally became an anchor for Doordarshan. That became quite popular and it helped me get and afford some attention from girls. Then during MBA days I became a script writer for Music Asia channel (part of Zee group). But all that went away when I joined Satyam Computer Services Ltd in Chennai. After 1.5 years of trying to learn Tamil, haggle with autorickshaws and getting used to Sun TV, Satyam took mercy on me and sent me overseas. I lived for few years in Malaysia, New Zealand and Sydney. Post Satyam I worked briefly for CSC in Sydney and then about 2.5 years ago I joined Oracle India in Mumbai. Currently, I am part of Telco team of Oracle’s Technology line of business. I manage relationships with few strategic customer organizations.

Though I started my IT career as a software developer in Chennai, after 3 years I moved to a sales role and have been continuing in that ever since. In Australia, I used to handle Satyam’s relationship with financial organizations like Westpac, Macquarie and J P Morgan.  My wife is a yoga teacher and we used to run a yoga studio in Milsons Point (Sydney). So in the four years that I spent in Sydney, I have been an employee and an entrepreneur. Currently too, besides working for Oracle and authoring a book, I am helping my wife run yoga classes in Mumbai.

Three things have always mattered to me - Being a good human being, having fun and creating memories. Rest all, earlier by innocence and later by choice, have never really mattered.

TG:  What techie profile did you have at Australia? Do give us some details of with whom and what, and the languages you handled etc, anything that a fellow techie might like to know
KB: The first three years of my IT career were as a developer. I was part of Satyam’s Microsoft group and have done some programming C#,VB.NET, ASP, ASPX, VB and MS SQL. I remember we all jumped in delight the day we were told that .NET lets you program without having knowledge of POINTERS, a difficult concept to grasp and implement in C++.

In Australia, I had helped Satyam get into Westpac’s Data Warehouse space. We had a strong Teradata practice and Westpac needed help in that space. In Macquarie, I sold projects and consultants around Java technologies. In J P Morgan, it was Microsoft technologies.

As a programmer, we always envied the sales people. We used to wreck our brains in front of a dead, boring machine while they zipped around in flights, five stars with customers. Big mistake! Today I would give my right arm to become a techie. It’s much easier to handle a machine that only understands logic, won’t answer back and call you at weird times to ask for weird things (read customers and bosses)

TG: So how did the book happen? 
KB: I had never thought of becoming a writer. I am hardly able to write emails properly. However, I am blessed with a sense of humour which brings me popularity. In Satyam, I would be pulled on stage to make the audience laugh and entertain. At the same time, Chetan was scaling newer heights everyday as a writer. Yet, the idea of becoming a writer never occurred to me. I was too busy having fun to bother about sitting alone and typing. 

But 2010, the year I relocated to India, was a transformational year for me. Our yoga studio was gaining popularity, my new job wasn’t turning out to be fun, we were expecting our first baby and I hadn’t been to India for more than 1.5 years.  Terribly busy and seriously India-sick, I was surprised at the wave of emotions that started enveloping me.

As the next generation started showing signs of its arrival and the previous generation was nowhere to be seen, my perspective on life began to change. I started questioning life and the choices I have made. I also became sensitive to the emotions of all my friends in India and Australia. This transformational experience had so many facets – novelty, intensity, pain, decisiveness, introspective, etc – that it gave birth to a writer in me. I felt compelled to pen down this life-changing experience. 

TG: How do you see your book as different from the ones that are being published today?
KB: Following are some reasons why this is a different kind of book:

1.  While this is fiction, it is based on real life characters and incidents. I am sure every reader will relate to the book.
2.  I can’t think of any recent fiction book written by an Indian on Australia life.
3.  I can’t think of any recent fiction book that captures the life of a software professional. Even though Indian IT companies like Wipro, Satyam, Infosys, TCS etc are established names, I haven’t seen any book that entertainingly captures how these companies work. Especially how these companies sell, their internal office politics, etc.
4.  This topic of this book is relevant in today’s times as I am yet to meet any Indian who doesn’t compare life in India vis-à-vis life outside India. Residents often think of moving overseas while NRIs keep contemplating moving back

Most importantly this is a story that captures the entire spectrum of emotions that men go through. Not pranks, peer, hormonal or parental pressure which most of the stories capture and exaggerate about. But, as a man myself, I can tell you that there is a lot more to a man than friendship, romance and pranks. We too go through tumultuous times that make us cry, cringe, doubt, regret, bend, feel helpless, feel lonely and most importantly TRANSFORM. ‘Complete/Convenient’ is a journey of a man.

TG: How did the publishing happen? Was it a tough odyssey?
KB: Oh, it was a very tough journey. Neither had I written before nor was I a reader of books. The only stint with writing was few television scripts I had written during college days. If this isn’t enough, I am the brother of India’s number one writer. I was also short of time as we had a baby soon after I started writing this book. So no experience, no time and a tough benchmark to match.

Finding a publisher was a tough journey as well. Chetan’s publisher refused (after a painfully long wait) and I didn’t know anyone else. There were times I thought I would have to probably have to self-publish it.

But somehow everything fell into place and now the book will be released in the market in May. Personally to me, this feels surreal.

TG: How did your elder brother's author persona influence your writing a book?
KB: I would never have thought of writing if Chetan Bhagat wouldn’t have been my brother. The salesman in me appreciates Chetan’s success, brand name and legendary achievements.

That said, Chetan wasn’t directly involved in writing of this book. Partly because this is a story based on real experiences and incidents, so there wasn’t much scope to make changes and partly because I wanted to cater to a different genre.

While I always enjoy reading Chetan’s books, I do not always relate to the story. Issues like pre-marital sex, career choice, persuading parents to let you marry the girl of your choice and college friendships are entertaining (like most Bollywood movies are) but are not necessary what people are going through once they are married and working. I wanted to write something that I have gone through and seen other go through in real life. 

TG: How was growing up with a brother who has gone on to become an icon like?
KB: Supreme fun. He was a genius from the moment he was born. His creative brain innovated many pranks and stories. Like once for his birthday, he cut a large watermelon instead of a cake. He used to make tea in a spoon on a candle. He would stick posters on girls’ backs that said ‘hand off! I belong to Chetan’. He would dress up as a ghost and scare small school going children in hot, deserted Delhi afternoons. He would convince me that I was an orphan picked from the dustbin. The list of his pranks can be a book in itself. Yet, he always excelled in academics and stood out for his creativity. I remember during the Mandal protest days, we had a peaceful candlelight march in our colony. Chetan’s candle stood out in thousands as he had innovatively layered it with electric lights.

Later on in life, it was fantastic to see him getting surrounded in streets and getting mobbed for pictures and autographs. But the best is when girls go all gooey over him.

TG: I went through your website, and found it to be a very interesting one, quite different from the hey-come-and-buy type that newbie authors usually put up. It looks like quite a lot of effort went into this, could you tell us more?
KB: I am glad you liked the website. This is a heartfelt story and its beauty lies in its simplicity and sensitivity. Yes, it is different from the usual. Following are the reasons:

1.  This story came to me rather than I thought of it for sake of writing. It made me a writer rather than me making up a story. This atypical genesis of both the story and writer comes across in the way we approach our audience and promotional activities.
2.  Years of selling has taught me one simple thing that in the end, a good product always sells and a bad product always disappoints. I have worked extremely hard on the writing part. In the process, I also got about 100 people to review the book and only after their approval, I started approaching publishers. Even now, I am spending more time in editing the book than in marketing the book. For my biggest worry isn’t how many people would buy the book but how many people would be disappointed with the book.
3.  I think there are too many salesmen selling books anyways. No matter how much I shout from the  rooftops, I genuinely feel I would only be adding to the noise. Nobody would be hearing me in reality. 

TG: When is your book due? And how does it feel to be published at last?
KB: The book will be released in May. Everything from editing to cover design is in final stages. It’s a hectic time. At the same time an incredibly satisfying feeling. In between, on its own, media has started showing interest and the stupendous response from people has been overwhelming. I am getting hundreds of calls, mails, Facebook likes and hits of my website. In this world of commercialism, branding,.

The feeling is so good that I am almost numbed. Not so long ago I was in the pits. Was planning to either dump the project or just distribute this to my friends for free. And now, almost miraculously, everything is falling into place. I just pray to god that everything goes on smoothly and people like the book.

TG: How did you choose the title and how do you think its relevant to the theme?
KB: The title is a question I had asked myself when I relocated back to India and still ask whenever I get an offer to move overseas. It’s a question I have seen every Indian asking himself or herself sometime in life.

Life in India is an assortment of situations – traffic jams, maids, festivals, marriages, parents, corruption, chaos, friends, dirt, poverty, constraints, harassment, inflation, competition, busyness etc – but overall is COMPLETE. Life outside India offers a variety of comforts – dish washer, travel, friends, dollars, cleanliness, process, glamour, freedom, luxury, peace, quietness, solitude, space, choice, work-life balance, etc –very CONVENIENT. Both lives have their shares of pros and cons and appeal to different groups of people. Today, given the choices that Indians have in the world, every Indian has a choice to either live a Complete life or a convenient life. Hence, this story. 

The story of ‘COMPLETE/CONVENIENT’ is around a young couple who excitedly move to Australia for a better life. They do get their share of freedom, comforts and dollars but they also realize that NRI life comes with its own share of struggle and sacrifice. The novel neither glamorizes NRIs (like some BOLLYWOOD movies do) nor shows them as victims. It just presents different situations that most NRIs go through.

TG: What are the reactions at home? Your wife? Your parents?
KB: Surprisingly everyone is very positive. My wife is the most excited. In our 9 years of marriage, this is probably the only thing in which she has given me her unflinching unanimous support. She willingly let me eat away weekends and weeknights for completing my manuscript. Even now she is involved in every part of the novel.

My mother is also very happy and supportive. Luckily, both my wife and mother have loved the novel.

TG: What next?
KB: Writing is such a lonely, painful and rigorous process that may times in the past 2.5 years I had sworn that I would never write a novel again. But can you believe it, I have already started making notes around my next novel. Again, it’s a story refusing to leave me. It has been haunting me for more than 6 months now. 

TG: Anything else you would like to say here?
KB: Please read COMPLETE/CONVENIENT. It is definitely worth a read


About Me

My photo
Book Reviewer | Movie Reviewer | Bibliophile | Business Analyst