Scammed; Confessions of a Confused Accountant” written by Anonymous, only for my concentrated efforts trying to turn random cracks into shapes, shattered by the shrill shriek of the telephone.
“ Yes” the tone of my voice daring for the caller to say a word. Whether or not I always enjoy my company, I do, however, enjoy my solitude.
“ I have found him”!
Two days later I found myself, in the hot sweltering dusty ( name one street that isn’t ) bylane of ‘X’ city after having been unceremoniously dropped off a kilometer from my destination when I refused a most impolite auto-rickshaw driver excess on the fare, In the wake of an unserviced exhaust pipe and wishing the auto-rickshaw driver the blessings of a thousand mosquitoes in his sleep, hoisted the back pack onto my shoulders and quickly walked down looking right left and centre for a building and whilst there were many in all stages of birth and decay I was looking for just one.
True to form, a large derelict stone and brick mass oozed a crackling energy. When looking for a writer- look for the building with most story and character. Bracing myself for my foolhardiness, pepper-spray in hand, I pushed it in a bit more and a rush of cool air beckoned me inwards while the pregnant silence was counter-active. I stepped onto the deserted, tiled floor. My informant had better be right. If the purpose of my visit ( quest?) wasn’t to be found here then a throttling was in order.
“Im up here Seth ji” bellowed a voice from the abyss above.
Who ever Seth ji was , if the voice indeed belonged to the man I along with a host of readers, wanted to know , then he would just have to make do with me.
I mounted the wrought iron circular staircase and ascended onto a landing the size of a small ballroom.
A gentle beauty bathed the room. A skylight lined with frosted glass allowed for diffused sunlight t to enter giving the library an ethereal glow. . Tottering piles of books, some gilt edged others glossy some plain covered with tiny delicate silverfish lay crisscross one on top of the other. Dust motes swirled through the air, shimmering and dancing like fairies on a mid summers night , I walked through the haze of dusty molecules of knowledge freed from the homes of the books that encapsulated them and then noticed someone who apparently hadn’t noticed me..
Here was the object of my interview ( at that point it ever occurred to me that he would refuse) . From within the recesses of my bag I withdrew a copy of the book “ Scammed; Confessions of a Confused Accountant” written by anonymous. Just days after the release had people talking about the identity of the author who so accurately captured the state of business and affairs run by companies, (though the book is set in Hyderabad, India ) the world over
This time my movement was observed and a smart looking chap of medium build and height turned his head towards me, saw the book… and a look of amused resignation flickered across his face.
“ How did you find me? ”
“ You know what they say about magicians and their illusions ”
An indulgent chuckle later, I told him I wouldn’t reveal his identity and only wanted to ask him a few questions..
“Why have you chosen to be anonymous? In this day and age of everyone jumping on the instant celebrity hood bandwagon for doing nothing other appearing in the society pages with no noteworthy contributions to their name?”
“I believe it has become a fad to jump on the writing bandwagon these days. Everyone and their doodhwala is writing a book, and competing for this to become a coveted bestseller. For me, the reasons to write are different – I write because I have stories to tell, while having an audience who enjoy reading my stories. Whether my name comes out there or not, it really doesn’t matter. I’d like for them to read my books and enjoy my stories, and not the other way around.”
“Politicians are an insecure lot. Stamping their feet like spoilt brats, if they don’t get what they want, often at the behest of the taxpayers money. Has retaliation ever crossed your mind due to the accurate portrayal of the ways of financial corruption that involves our politicians?”
“I think as in every profession there are good and bad people. This gets magnified more with politicians, as they are human beings with power and influence. But we are the ones who give them the position they are in, and its up to us to be better informed and pick those who are most capable to govern us, without voting along caste, creed and other such influences.”
“What research went into this book? What are your thoughts on the current PriceWaterHouse India scandal?”
“There was no research as I subconsciously drew what I needed from what’s around me. On PwC, I’m not sure about the details of this and thus its hard to comment. Often these problems are about individuals who tend to bring down organizations, but I’m sure they’ll survive and thrive, as they are a reputed firm with many capable professionals.”
“Whom did you want to be growing up? How did writing happen?”
“I can’t put a finger on it, for sometime I wanted to be a lighthouse keeper (inspired by the Hardy Boys and Famous Five novels). Then there were dreams of becoming a pilot, which were dreams at best, given my eyesight. I used to read storybooks under a blanket, late at night. I guess my experiences in life and reading as voraciously as I did while growing up, sort of built these stories in my head, which I wanted to bring to an audience.”
“Who are your inspirations ( literary and otherwise ) ?”
“I’m inspired by a lot of people. My late father for being the son he was to my grandma, my Nana who was the most simple and gentle person I’ve met, and a wonderful father and grandfather. My mother who’s the strongest person I know, and who’s stood by me through good and bad choices in life. I’m inspired by John Lenon’s philosophy, Christopher Nolan, Tim Burton, Imtiaz Ali and Sam Mendes’s films, Danny Boyle’s guts to explore something different with each film, Obama’s quest to make difference despite the stiff opposition, Mitch Albom’s words of wisdom, Steve Jobs’ creativity and a number of musicians who inspire the soul.
As far as literary inspirations go – Charles Dickens, RK Narayan, Truman Capote, Haruki Murakami, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ruskin Bond, not just for the stories they wrote but for their journeys in life as writers, and the honesty with which they did what they believed in. I’m also very taken in by Stephen King and John Grisham, as despite their success they remain true to what they do. They are writers and not showpieces or pseudo opinion leaders on everything under the sun.”
“ What is a writers pregorative? Is it only Entertainment Entertainment Entertainment?”
I don’t think it’s just that, one has to write for one’s self, things that they truly believe in and can stand by.
“ An enjoyable genre you like to read but will never write?”
“ I love to read biographies and autobiographies, but I don’t believe I can write one.”
“ Current read?”
“I’m reading two books at the moment – The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides and Nemesis by Philip Roth”
“What are your quirky book habits? ( reading and writing )”
I tend to read 4-5 books at a time. Very often I’m shuffling between them, and uncannily I know exactly where I stop with each of them, so I can get into them very easily even if I get back to it after a month.
As a writer, I don’t know. Being one is quirky enough.
“Whats your current view on Indian English literature? Some of the best stories are in the vernacular. Is it time for translations to make a huge entry?”
“I believe some very good translations exist, especially for that of Bengali literature. But a lot more can be done. I think there are a number of interesting stories in regional languages and those that can be translated should be. I think these stories really capture the essence of our lives today.
On the other hand, a lot of what is pedaled, as English literature isn’t quite what it should be. Its often gibberish by those who want to be famous quickly, and it imitates Bollywood cinema, much of which is make believe and over the top, with little resemblance to life as it is.”
“How are you on the social media front? Still anonymous?”
That’s funny. I don’t believe I’m anti – social but as a writer one has to isolate oneself and cut out the noise, and these days I do that a lot.
The social media has enabled individuals to market themselves like never before and get published inspite of having no apparent skills of a racountuer leave alone grammatical ones. .
What do you think? Is the only about the money?
It’s about money, fame, power, influence and all that jazz… I see some socially awkward individuals running blogs and websites, ripping apart individuals they have a grouse against, and showing a lot of support to those who give them some importance. I guess it’s an outlet for them to deal with issues they’ve had growing up.
On the other hand there are blogs that are credible, honest and that bring good content to their readers. Dfuse.in, Helter Skelter, Mumbai Boss are among those who are doing a very good job.
Salman Rushdie. A fine author and individual. Yet, for excercising his freedom of speech has a fatwa on his head. How far is too far do you think? Where should the limit de drawn?
I don’t know of him as a person, and I truly couldn’t finish the two books that I tried reading. I quite disliked both of them. I’m not sure on this one; it’s a tricky question. There’s nothing that’s black or white I feel, despite there being mixed opinions and views on this one. What I do feel is that the media is giving this disproportionate attention, as he is a darling of many media outfits. Why don’t they focus on real issues – corporate land grabs, the growth of clandestine big business set ups by politicians or those close to them, the appalling condition of our health, education, transport and other infrastructure that is tearing at its seams or is available to those who can pay a price.
Should be there be a literary body that governs the quality of writing in the booming Indian market?
I believe that there should be a literary body that governs who can publish and what in the name of English literature. This isn’t a curb on one’s freedom of expression, one can still do that on their blogs and own websites, but a certain minimum standard in terms of editorial quality is necessary when you’re bringing books into stores and pitching these to people who want to read. The body shouldn’t govern what gets published, but who publishes these books and whether they are credible enough to represent an ‘Indian publisher’. A lot of other guys making money from this business are glorified printers with a Hotmail account who are ripping off poor writers who want to see their name in print.
“Are you a sociable person? Do u need seclusion to write?”
“I’m not a sociable person when I’m writing; I do need a lot of seclusion and many cups of coffee. I’m sociable now, given that I’m going through the phase of launching what’s already written.”
“Whats been you most memorable writing experience? Likewise, the worst and funniest?”
“I don’t know, its all the same to me really. Writing needs seclusion, determination and focus. I think there are good and bad experiences when one gets down to launching books. At one event, an old gentleman came up to me and said he spotted an error in my book. I wondered what, and he smiled. He spoke about a bank in Fort that doesn’t exist and he knows as he’s lived there all his life, to which I had to explain that indeed it doesn’t and the book is a work of fiction. The worst would be to show up at an event to launch my book, and the bookstore has accidently printed posters and standees of another upcoming book and put that up instead at my launch. The worst experience for me, but something funny for an observer.”
“Do you enjoy watching movies? Whats your take on the current quality of youth oriented shows?”
“I truly enjoy watching all kinds of films including animated ones. I also watch a lot of Italian and Spanish films with subtitles. I do not watch any of the youth oriented TV shows. I guess I have little time for them given my busy schedule.”
“Your book is being well received. How does that make you feel? Still want to be remain anonymous?”
Thank you, and a big thanks to all the readers out there who’ve given my writing a place on their reading lists. On this one, yes, its fun to remain anonymous. It does keep some people guessing.
It does keep people guessing alright , for, I realized,( once I had ambled out of the tombstone of a building into the fine dusky evening ) I had gotten any step further towards uncovering his identity. Maybe someday soon.