It wouldn’t have interested me to get in touch with Nikhil Sachan had he been just any other IIT-IIM graduate and a full-time consultant writing a book. There was something unique about his book which caught my attention immediately. Titled ‘Namak Swadanusar’, it is a collection of 9 stories written over a period of 8 years, questioning our moral and social values at one end and exploring our childhood fantasies at the other. It is certainly something all book lovers will be proud of. Written in Hindi, the stories in this book take you through many serious topics and enable you to see these issues from the eyes of kids in a purest and simplistic form.
Nikhil finished his schooling in Kanpur and then joined IIT-BHU in 2005. Thereafter, he was at Evaluserve for a couple of years before joining IIM-Kozhikode which landed him in his current job as a consultant at IBM. During all these years, there was nothing which could drift Nikhil from writing in Hindi and even before he realized he had already devoted a decade almost in pursuing his interest for the language. In college, he had enjoyed his association with the theatre where he wrote and directed many plays in Hindi. He kept himself busy with writing short stories and poems as well. Nikhil believes that he can express himself better in Hindi which is well supported by the vast vocabulary of Hindi and Urdu. He writes because of his love with Hindi literature and not for any reader base or royalty. “Frankly, I don’t really want to be dependent on the money which comes from selling of my books and hence I would love to keep my job. The market for Hindi is almost dead and that removes any sort of pressure related to monetary benefits associated with my writing” accepted Nikhil.
Namak Swadanusar is not a work intentionally written for a book. Speaking about the inspiration for the stories in the book and his writing in general, Nikhil mentioned, “Sometimes you’re unable to sleep in the nights because of the thoughts running in your head. At times, you read or see something happening around you which create unrest in you. This is what makes me write. It doesn’t happen in one sitting. Defining characters and digging my own thoughts to get everything from the head to the paper surrounding the main issue takes few days and even more.”
Contrary to old days, writing and publishing has become extremely easy nowadays. Earlier, one had to actively attend the events and be a part of writers’ networks to have reach and access to publishers. Today, you have MS Word to write and format a book, nearby printers to get it printed and Flipkart to help you distribute it. The story was not much different for Nikhil. While others run around for weeks together to seek a publisher, Nikhil just had to get in touch with someone he remembers visiting his college few years ago. The publisher was already reading his blog, and in a matter of less than 2 months after submitting the final script, the book was published.
From a scribbler in notebooks to now an author of a book, things must have changed for Nikhil after ‘Namak Swadanusar’. This thought of mine was defended immediately by Nikhil himself. He said, “It feels good when you open the Facebook messages and come to know that people have laughed, wept and shared their stories after reading your book. At the same time, it shouldn’t affect our writing. I shouldn't forget that I’m an author and not a philosopher. A writer cannot afford to negotiate on his audacity.”
Whether accept it or deny, Nikhil is a part of the recent ‘IIT-IIM graduate writers’ phenomena’. Sharing his thoughts on this, he mentioned, “Deep down everyone wants to express himself/herself whether in writing or speaking or acting. Chetan Bhagat, Amish Tripathi, Rashmi Bansal, and many more have done an amazing job in establishing the current trend. But one needs to understand that it’s the publishers who have picked it up from there and are encouraging more of such people from similar background to write like this, with the only intention of selling it in an already existing market with an appetite for all this.”
While writing is merely a form of expression, it’s very easy to sway away from the fundamentals when you’re writing a book. Following are some of the honest suggestions by Nikhil for first-time authors who’re looking to make it big:
a) Read a lot and read good stuff, across languages. Try good reads and not best sellers.
b) Do not try reverse engineering in writing. Don’t force yourself to write something based on what’s hot in the market.
c) While writing, know your characters well. If you’ve seen the story from close, it becomes very easy to structure and narrate.
d) Do not listen to the suggestions. Do not let it affect how you want to present your work.
e) Keep in mind that publishing is a business and writing is an art. The former depends on market whereas the latter, on dreams.
Though Nikhil has enjoyed each and every book he has read, Uday Prakash, Saadat Hasan Manto and Vinod Kumar Shukla take him to a different world. In other languages, he cannot keep himself away from the works of Joseph Heller, Arundhati Roy, and Milan Kundera.
At one point of time Nikhil wanted to go to the ‘City of Dreams’ because of his love for cinema but then convinced himself to write more and shied away from his madness.
Sharing his concern as a parting thought, Nikhil mentioned an incident when he was questioning a street vendor in Delhi on not keeping Hindi books in his stock. The vendor said, “Sir, I used to keep them but, for over a month and a half, not even a single copy was sold and one fine day a policeman comes and takes it for free. I didn’t say anything because I knew at least somebody is going to read it now”. This is an honest picture of market for Hindi books. I’m not going to argue on the number of people who can read Hindi or what’s the state of regional language literature in India, but leave you with a thought – “May be for a change, we can dust off those books from our parents’ collection or browse ‘Hindi books’ in Flipkart. We have forgotten Hindi, but it’s still not too late.”