Saturday, March 25, 2017

Book Discussion with Sanchit Author of The Tree with a Thousand Apples

Can you brief us about yourself? Your background, personality and your writing journey?
I was born and brought up in the hills of Himachal Pradesh. As is the case with most of us, I became an engineer and a management professional soon after and worked for 7 yrs in the corporate world. I worked as a brand manager with ITC, Mahindra, Star India and Pernod Ricard.
Along with it, however, I have always been a writer. I was the editor of my college magazine, worked as a copywriter, wrote several short stories that got published in esteemed journals and magazines, became a radio host and worked as executive producer for television. Today, I am a full time author and screenwriter while ‘The Tree with a Thousand Apples’ is my first book. My first film, a romantic comedy titled Behen Hogi Teri, is scheduled for release in May 2017.

Is "the tree with a thousand apple" you debut work?
I have been a published short story writer. My stories have been published in several magazines and journals like Muse India, Contemporary Literary Review India, Indian Ruminations, The Orange Flame Literary Review and Qpeka. At Tata Lit Live My Story contest, I won the 3rd prize in 2012.

Can you tell your journey through your book? How did you get the idea for the book? When did you actually start writing this book?
If you ask me why I wrote this book, the answer in one word would be- Empathy. I lived in Kashmir in 2009 and saw a 12 year old Kashmiri Muslim boy sit beside a 20 year old Indian Army soldier sipping cups of Kahwa together. My very good friend and roommate in college was a Kashmiri Pandit. I have heard stories from all of them, and I could see that they were all right in their own world, yet their viewpoints were so apart each other’s. I just wanted to tell their story as honestly as I could. I wrote the book in 2013.
The subject matter reminds us of The Kite runner based out of Afghanistan. Such a book is rarity in the Indian fiction market and quite a brave book to write. Can you tell us your views on it?
A lyrical narration, raw characters and stark realism, The Tree with a Thousand Apples highlights the perspectives of four different points of view – young directionless militants, Kashmiri Pandits exiled from their homes, duty-bound army officers and innocent civilians rendered as collateral damage. It unravels the right vs right conflict that exists in the region, and the ignorant apathy which the citizens outside this jannat live with. A story of cultures, belongingness, revenge and atonement, it revolves around the lives of three children and their friendship that battles the sides fate forces them to choose, and not of the land they live in. The question it asks is simple but not an easy one to answer: Is the only way to pay for our sins to commit another?

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Do you have a trailer of the book? Would you like to share it with us?
Yes, I have a trailer and the link as per below. It has got around 60K views on FB and 13K views on YouTube

The novel depicts the coming of age of three young children and how the turbulent situation in Kashmir impacts their lives. What made you choose children as the main characters of your book?
Children don’t have a prejudice for the right and wrong. They don’t live amid barriers of caste, religion or borders that we have created for ourselves. In spite of the world asking them to choose sides and make judgements, our children in the book know only how to love each other. You can say I have been inspired by Scout and Jem from ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’. What one learns and does in their childhood is innocent, driven not by worldly hate but only compassion for everyone around us.
You have called Kashmir as a “paradise turned battleground” as the friendship of the three characters struggles later. What do you have to say about the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the valley or your view on ‘Kashmiri Muslims’?
You see when we call Kashmir a paradise, I don’t think it is about the lakes or snow capped mountains. I think it has always been about this extraordinary communal harmony called Kashmiriyat that existed between Hindu Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims for thousands of years, something which the bond of friendship between Deewan’s and Safeena’s families represents in the book. Today, it is not that piece of land which is a battleground, that is immaterial, it is their friendship which is.
Walls will always divide and separate areas will always mean the same, be it in Kashmir or any other part of India. I am of a strong belief that Kashmiriyat can and will return to the valley. People who have not been to Kashmir and only heard/read about it through social media may find it strange to know that Kashmiris (both Pandits and Muslims) are in fact one of the most coy, polite and good natured human beings. The local Kashmiri doesn’t want to pick up the gun and kill their Kashmiri Pandit friends who may return to the valley, just like Bilal doesn’t want to when Deewan comes back. Does Deewan fear Bilal when he returns twenty years later? Yes he does, it is natural to. Both Bilal and Deewan are right from their own point of views, yet what happens when they come together, is what the book tells us.
What motivates you to write? And what are you working on next?
I don’t think just motivation is enough for a writer. It needs to be desperation, for the story to burst out of you and bleed on paper. Next, I am working on two projects. One is on quarter life crisis in a man’s constant struggle between passion and profession, while the other is a tale of magical realism in a fictional town.
Readers usually expect author as big time reader. Under which reader category you put yourself. Avid Reader, Normal Reader or Casual Reader? Tell us more about your reading habit.
I am a normal reader. I don’t look at reading at more and more books, but each book I read, I like to go into its depths to understand the themes, metaphors, the subject matter and the writer’s craft.
How deep you plan when you write? Do you plan everything or keep it upto your mood and imagination at time of writing? Do you keep changing roadmap of the characters of your story?
Both. There are two types of writers- The Gardeners, who keep plodding their way into the story step by step, and Architects, who make a blueprint of the whole story before plunging themselves in. I work both ways. While I do have a blueprint ready before I begin, I plod and delve word by word as I begin to write. Characters take shape as I get to know them better, even if the key plot points are already there in my mind. The key thing is to know what your themes are, and remain honest to them.
If god gives you chance to pick one of the literary work of any person on the earth as your own work, which one would you pick? Why?
I would have to pick two the list- ‘Train to Pakistan’ by Khushwant Singh and ‘A Farewell to Arms’ by Ernest Hemingway.
Do you have a mentor? What is the best advice you have got from your mentor?
No not really a mentor, but the best advice I have got is to know why you write and think long-term.
Can you tell something to our aspiring authors which will boost their confidence?
Be true, be honest to your view of the world and have the courage to stand for it. Do it because the fire inside you will not let you live unless you do. That’s the only good fight there is.
Link for readers
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