[YS Lounge] A Chetan Bhagat in Hindi? How Divya Prakash Dubey is trying to make waves in Hindi writing
Simply put, Divya Prakash(popularly known as DP) Dubey’s first book, “Terms & Conditions Apply” is quite like a Chethan Bhagat-book in Hindi. Stories around Indian middle class struggles, written in simple, conversational language. He cleverly used YouTube to market the book, which went viral. He tells YourStory about his journey so far.
Divya grew up in different Indian cities because of his bureaucrat father’s regular transfers. He thoroughly enjoyed his childhood in the small towns like Hardoi and Shahjahanpur. Probably, that’s where a question spawned in his head: Why has a majority of people stopped reading Hindi literature? Eventually that questions led him to writing a highly accessible, entertaining book in Hindi.
IIT coaching to writing plays
Divya distinctly remembers paying INR 1.80/month as his school fee for class 12th. As his medium of learning in school was Hindi, it was an altogether different world for Divya when he went for IIT coaching in Lucknow. It took him a year to realize that “grutvakarshan’ (meaning gravity in Hindi) to gravity” was quite a distance. He was equally convinced about not going for B.Sc. or B.Com either. So, next came the quest for qualifying for Indian Administrative Services examination. Divya started preparing for it with Hindi language as his subject. He cherishes those months when he was introduced to the mesmerising world of books and learnt a lesson for life: never criticise oneself.
Those days, he read more than 100 books on Rajneesh (Osho) and Vivekanand at a stretch.
Finally, when Diyva joined the College of Engineering, Roorkee, he found his comfort zone in theatre. He wrote his first play in Hindi ‘Pragati pe utaru Bharat’ (India on the way to progress) and also disciplined his reading by setting a daily target of 250 pages. After passing out from college, he could not find a job. So he started preparing for MBA entrance exam, and got through to Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Pune.
Meanwhile, Divya started writing ads for small businesses in Lucknow, which were published in local Hindi newspapers but he never commercialized it. Soon he resumed play writing, and his first success came with ‘Aapka Yesterday Hamara Tomorrow’, based on alumni life. It received an excellent response across different colleges, and also led him to write a short movie 'Kuboolnama' in which Piyush Mishra acted. The delighting part was that Piyush agreed for a hard cash of mere 11 rupees.
From stage to books
It was a bad boss who irked him enough to write his first book in Hindi — ‘Terms & Conditions apply’. It took him 14 writing sessions on weekends to complete. “In English, we have Chetan Bhagat to hand-hold hesitant readers till they gradually move on to reading inspiring works in English literature. But there is no equivalent in Hindi that serves the same purpose. That’s the reason why kids read Hindi comics and then shift to English novels. For an average reader, clearly there’s no popular writing in Hindi which he can proceed with,” Divya says on the rationale behind his book.
Divya didn’t have a good experience while hunting for publishers for his book. He was told that either very few (~300) copies will be published or some arrangements have to be made to send copies to various institutions and libraries, which comes at a price. “Though the second choice promised you 10000 copies, it doesn’t guarantee any reader base.” Divya didn’t want to self-publish because even after spending a lot, small things like good quality printing is not easy.
To this day, Divya thanks his stars for connecting to Shailesh, “a silent force behind promoting young talent in Hindi writing”. Shailesh follows blogs of writers, meet them at various gatherings and then gets in touch with them to offer help in publishing their content. He makes sure that the final product is at par with any of the international publishers.
Importance of marketing
Divya is disappointed that unlike English dailies, Hindi newspapers do not carry books reviews. And he is proud of having used YouTube to market his book. (Check some of the promotional videos here.)
They are produced by his own company Masterstroke Entertainment Pvt Ltd., which he registered after his stints with a couple of short films, ‘Chhote se pankh’ (meaning ‘small wings’) and ‘It’s Ringing’. “It takes a natural story telling ability and amateur film makers to make the content go viral,” he says.
Divya thinks that there are still more than five years for him to get into full-time writing when he plans to start writing scripts for movies. As of now, he has decided not to write for TV-serials. His advice to first-time writers is to read a lot and write about someone they know closely.
Appreciating works of Nikhil Sachan and similar authors, Divya says, “People from different professions and backgrounds should write in Hindi. Or else we will lose the connection with the language. We just need to magnify the things around us and write stories on the same, be it on small happenings in our neighborhood, a scandal we witnessed or anything of interest to us.”
He jokes that Hindi writers look down on promoting and marketing their own books. He says ” the India-Pakistan” distance these writers maintain between themselves and book promotional activities result in poor reception of the books. He feels that ultimately book is a product and like every other product, it needs marketing too.
Divya believes that “writing is to know if you want to understand something”. His second book, which will be out soon, will have five stories on about kids. We wish him all the best for it.