Saturday, May 7, 2011

The FunAsia Interview - the complete script

Here is the complete script of the interview with FunAsia Radio 700 AM on 6th April. 

A special thanks to Sarveshi, the gracious and charming host of the show.

Sarveshi Shukla : In the next segment, we will be talking to someone who has broken all conventional boundaries and stood by what he feels.
I had once read – “We are individually multiple..” – I can say I have seen these multiple individualities in this one person…
Joining from Baden, Switzerland
at 2 in the morning
I came to know him through an internal magazine circulated in a US based IT company.  The magazine had published an article about a person who was not restricted by the perimeters of his job. Apart from having a successful career an IT, he had by then authored 2 books which had been critically acclaimed. I was intrigued. And I reached out to him. And he responded and I have since then had a chance to know him through his works and on a personal level. So here people, I have Mr. Arunabha Sengupta, live with us from Baden, Switzerland. Welcome to the airwaves of FunAsia Radio, 700 AM sir.
Arunabha Sengupta – Thank you Sarveshi, I am glad to join you. To give you an idea of how glad I am, let me tell you that it is two o’clock in the morning here in Switzerland and I am up just to speak to you.

The Host - Sarveshi
SS- That should not be a problem for you since I know you are an early riser.
AS – Sarveshi, five thirty in the morning is early. Two o’clock is still late.

SS – So to begin with I would like to congratulate you on the success of your latest work, your book The Best Seller.
AS – Thank you. As an independent author, it had been with a touch of irony that I had named my new book The Best Seller. In the modern day, unless you have the blessings of a publishing monolith and their marketing resources with media gimmicks, you generally tend to wind up at the bottom of the pile regardless of the quality of writing. However, Foreword Clarion Reviews, one of the most respected reviewers, gave it the maximum rating with some excellent comments and I found that it was living up to its name in the Amazon marketplace – especially on Kindle. It is topping the Best Seller charts in a couple of select categories. A couple of articles about me in the Commonwealth Literature journals in India and France around this time have also helped the sales.

SS– …..Please tell our audience abt the premise of this book and how you arrived at this story. What led to it?
AS – The novel is set in Amsterdam and the action is played out with the Financial Crisis as the backdrop. It is also about a struggling author. He takes on a number of professions to make ends meet - including investigative journalism, teaching tai chi. He also acts as a ghost blogger for a linguistically challenged Vice President of a multinational bank. The action takes off when he impersonates a consultant friend during a financial crisis conference. He paraphrases Indian philosophy and is hailed as a rising thinker on economics.
How I wrote this story, I personally arrived in Amsterdam with my family in 2009, when the crisis was closing all possible businesses – and I have had first-hand experience of living under the constant shadow of the financial crisis looming over the scene. A person can live in fear of a disaster for a limited period of time after which he has to either philosophize or laugh about the situation. To me the ideal reaction was humor, to write about all the different farcical ways the world reacts to both booms and busts in the present day.

SS–I have been fortunate to have read all your published works and I have observed how your writings reflect in some way your journey through the IT industry.  So how close are all your protagonists to you?
AS – I believe any author writing realistic fiction borrows a lot of the material from his or her own life. So, most of what I have documented in my writings have been extrapolations of my experiences. Built on the experiences to make it fictional. Sometimes I have to tone it down, because the truth about some of the corporate circus can be difficult to digest for the readers even in fictional form. A lot of the events depicted in most of the books have happened to me. Some of the reactions of my protagonists are the ways I have reacted to situations or the ways I wish I had.
In every book there is a dimension of reality, where my experiences are portrayed through the protagonist and a dimension of fiction where the story is built upon these experiences. The Best Seller, for example, has a lot of funny and not so funny experiences which have taken place in the last few years of my life – but a lot of it is fiction as well.
In these changing times, the IT industry is as much a part of modern day India and the world as any other profession. Previously Mulk Raj Anand, RK Narayan wrote about the farmers, government clerks the common man of earlier days … It makes sense to write about the IT industry now since it has such an impact on the landscape of the common man. And it also makes sense for such stories to be written by an insider.

SS – Absolutely, and there are very few people in the industry who have such a talent for writing. I have noticed that Aikido has also been a strong aspect of your writing. So tell us little bit abt this art form and how it has such an influence on you as a person and in your writing
AS – As with writing, Aikido is a passion for me. For those who are not aware, it is a Japanese martial art. I have been training in this art for more than 14 years and am a black belt. To put things in perspective, I have a professional certification called Six Sigma black belt which took just a three month effort on my part, but in Aikido I have to get a black belt after training for a decade.. As in any Japanese art, it becomes a way of life. There is a philosophy behind the art which determines the ways I act and take decisions in real life.
Much of Aikido is about a continuous natural flow, which I hope is reflected in my writings. My second novel, Big Apple 2 Bites, has Aikido as a very important dimension in the storyline

SS -  Big Apple 2 Bites, for all our listeners, was Arunabha Sengupta’s second novel and one of the best novels to be written with the 9/11 as the backdrop. It is a brilliantly written novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I am enjoying the current novel – The Best Seller. Another part of your writing is about Cricket.. I have also read your short stories which had cricket as the underlying common thread and you weaved such great stories around it on various themes… So am sure all our audience here would be interested in knowing how has the World cup 2011 journey been for you? What are your thoughts?
AS – The World Cup was amazing. I was watching the final in an Irish Pub in Zurich, one of the very few places in Switzerland where you can watch cricket on TV. Soon became a little India in its own way. And with each stroke of Dhoni and Gambhir, the crowd grew louder. People were wondering what was going on in the corner, because the rest of the screens were showing football and rugby and very few people knew cricket was being played.
While no one is happier than me at the success of the Indian cricket team, it is also somewhat alarming for me to see the amount of obsession and fanaticism about the game has reached such a stage that losing is scarcely an option for the Indian team any more. One false step means their being put on the defendant’s box and their failures scruitinised by everyone in multiple TV channels, websites and social media. I would like to remind everyone that much as we want the success of our team, it is the dignity with which we bear defeats as well that makes us true sports fans. The gods that we create on the cricket field are very mortal, and along with their talent and dedication, they have their flaws and frailties. They already play with the pressure of a billion expectant fans. It would make it easy for them if we reacted less radically and stopped ourselves from criticizing every move, every action when they have a bad day in office.

SS -  Very true. It is important to remember that the gods we create are human as well. We will be going in for a break soon, and before that I would want you tell our audience about various mediums of buying this book and the others, Best Seller and Big Apple 2 Bites and Labyrinth. … And I must say that it’s great to see the sales going great through Amazon and you also have a Kindle version of your book.
AS – The book is available on If you search Financial Crisis Best Sellers, it is right there among the top three. You can also search with my last name – Sengupta – with the easily remembered title of the book, The Best Seller. The Kindle e-Reader edition is selling in good numbers. So, if you are interested, please go online and click away.

SS– We will be going in for a short commercial break now. With us we have Mr. Arunabha Sengupta, writer, aikido black belt, cricket blogger and when we come back he is going to talk about someone very special to him … and also very special to all the Indians around the world. When we come back, we will be discussing about Sachin Tendulkar. So do stay tuned.

Welcome back to FunAsia Radio, we have with us Mr. Arunabha Sengupta. My next question is about making gods of players we admire. And speaking of gods, of course you have written some wonderful articles about The God .. Sachin Tendulkar …
 AS –I do have a blog on cricket which is visited by more than 25000 people. Sachin Tendulkar features in my writings – as he does in my life. As a young Indian growing up in the nineties, as the country was entering globalization trying to make a mark on the map of the world, we could not have a better icon to look up to. He is synonymous with emerging India, boom time India – proving that we can be at the very top of the world, the best at what we can do. He has carried the hopes and dreams of billions, has conquered all peaks in the cricketing world while living very humbly and what surprises me is that even now is filled with the motivation to go out and play for the country.  When he runs after the ball, it is like a 18 year old. I have realized recently, that I started following his exploits when he was 15 and I was 15 … and I have not known adult life without Sachin Tendulkar trotting out to bat at number four for India in Tests and opening the innings in the One Day Internationals. The day he decides to quit millions of Indians will start walking alone. A thought many of us don’t want to think.

SS -  Very true. I have read your pieces on Sachin Tendulkar and everyone will identify with them, and will agree with them. I am so glad we could actually win the world cup and Sachin had been such an integral part … and everyone in the team said that Sachin had been carrying the burden for 21 years and now they wanted to take it forwad,
AS - Everyone said that they had done it for Sachin. And for someone as young as Virat Kohli to say something as mature as what you just mentioned – about him having carried the burden for 21 years and now it being the turn of team members to carry him, shows us exactly the stature of the man. It was a touching moment.

SS -Absolutely Now, before you leave, is there any parting thought and if you would like to share with our listeners
AS- I am not the sort of person very comfortable with advising others. However, I would like to say that life has a lot to offer. And just as you had introduced me as someone who has not been bound by parameters,  I thought I would be more happy with writing, so I continued writing. So, if you have a passion, the best thing to do is to follow it.

SS - That was very well put. And this was the first thing you had told me in our very first conversation and is always at the back of my mind. Today, if anything motivates me to come here after my regular work and do a radio show, it is the memory of those words. We need to follow our passions if we are to live. Thanks for joining us and on behalf of FunAsia we wish you success and hope to read more of your works.
Thanks once again Arunabha for taking some time out of your schedule and chatting with us… On behalf of FunAsia Radio, I wish you success and we look forward to reading more of your works ….

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