In the late sixties, Sergeant Samar, a minor employee of the air force, his wife Basanti and their four sons move from small-town Barrackpore to Bombay. The four boys grow up in the rapidly changing, cosmopolitan city that is just beginning to recognize its aspirations. Kalu, the third son, dreams of being an artist. But dreams are easily obscured by circumstances. Kalus parents drift apart under the pressure of mutual resentments and casual violence. In school, Kalu cannot keep up with his rich English-speaking friends only art gives him solace. But even as Samar grudgingly accepts his sons artistic aspirations, he is unwilling to support him. Faced with the possibility of joining the air force in his fathers footsteps, Kalu is forced to make an impossible choice.
The author, Ashim Choudhury, joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on his book 'The Sergeant's Son'.
Q. When is Air chief Marshall Browne going to launch your book? Asked by: Somi Das
A. Well he was one of the first people to receive my book...but then I guess he got busy with the republic Day parade ....I'm hopeful he'll find the time...It's important for me because this is the story of a family from the air force...There should be a lot of interest among families of the air force, present and past....Infact, at the Delhi book fair I met an airman's son, now with the chhattisgarh Civil service...he became a fan!
Q. How easy was it to get a publisher? Asked by: Somi Das
A. Writing the book took me 2 to 3 years....Finding a publisher took me something like 14 years! So you can well imagine...writing is the easier part getting a publisher, when your unknown, is a tough job. But, to be fair, there were just 3 publishers who had not responded to my manuscripts, including Rupa, my present publishers! You see, i was away with the UN in Africa...around 2004 till about 2008...I had given up looking for a publisher. I never thought this book would ever be out... Again, to be fair, the publishers did not reject my manuscript, they never followed it up with a contract... The full story is there in my blog ashimch13.blogspot.in.....Read it. I'm luckier than many a talented writer.
Q. My question to you is who inspired you to write this book? Asked by: pranky
A. Dom Moreas! I was reading his book 'My Father's Son' at the library in 3GTS Bangalore where I was undergoing my training for the Air Force...It was a crowded place. But I was very lonely and spent a lot of time at the library. It was my window to the world. I finished 'my father's Son' very quickly...and told myself. I can write a much more interesting book! Other writer's who inspired me include Thomas Hardy...Somerset Maugham...Aldous Huxley...to name a few...Also Pearl S Buck...And Nayantra Seghal's nectar in a Seive...I hope i've answered your question.
Q. Is the growth of Indian English fiction writing a good sign? Should we be concerned about the decline of quality contemporary Indian language literature? Asked by: Ankit
A. The growth of English fiction is bad news for Indian languages...that's my view. Indian languages are treated like second-class citizens....I don't read and write in other language apart from English...But I can say for sure the other languages are not getting the attention they deserve...I was at the Jaipur lit fest ...Great place to be it was...But you could clearly see the divide...Regional language writers were like poor cousins...I've written about it for the Daily star in Bangladesh.
Q. Are there any other books in the pipeline? Are you keen on non-fiction and poetry as well? Asked by: Dileep
A. Poetry? No...I can't write poetry even though I'm a poet at heart...if my love for nature were to be counted....Yes there are more books in the pipeline...I'm waiting for the publishers ...with an advance!
Q. Sir, K.V's or private schools? And why? Is a fancy school education a must for a career in writing? Asked by: Varun
A. Writers can be born into the most humble of schools and homes...I think real writers come from ordinary backgrounds. Yes, but schools do have a role to hone the skills of children...You know how I got to learn of my writing talent in school...You'll have to read my book to find out!! Leading schools these days invite authors to interact with children...That's good, I'll soon be at Bal Bharati, my son's school.
Q. Hello Sir, I read somewhere that you were in Africa with the UN..Do you plan a book on your African experience? Asked by: neil
A. Yes. I love Africa...I have more friends in Liberia and Ghana than I have in India. And Africa is a fun place to be in...You might not have drinking water...but beer is always there. Despite the grinding poverty ...it's the spirit of the people that is indomitable. I'm looking forward to another African posting before I embark on the book...This will be more like a travelogue...Something on my experience too..yes!
Q. What are the new books lined up for release? Asked by: Sourav Choudhury
A. That's a writer's secret!
Q. Hello Sir, I read your book with great interest and had very moments of nostalgia, however I wanted to ask - Why the special chapter on the peep show? The chapter stand out, but doesn't take the story forward. Regards Asked by: indro
A. In 1994 I was interviewing Khushwant Singh asking him why X's novel did not succeed...'There's no sex in it! he said. In a sense Khushwant is my guru...I adore his simplicity...his honesty...modesty. The peep show gave a certain 'sex' to Kalu's ordinary life!
Q. Are you planning a sequel to this book? Asked by: saptarshi
A. Yes...but some have asked me to take a break...My next one could be a collection of short stories...The project will be driven by the publishers purse! Authors too have to pay bill...No?
Q. Why did you think to launch your first book as an autobiography? What inspired you to think it would click? Asked by: saptarshi
A. I never said this was an autobiography...Yes there are elements from my life...But it will not be fair to call IIT an autobiography... So are you saying the book has clicked already! That's music to my ears...As they say in Hindi...'aap ke muh me ghee shakkar'!