Behind the scenes of writing a book always thrilled me. I read Unforeseen by Chandan Sen Gupta last month and while I get a chance to interview him, I just didn’t miss the chance !
1.First of all, this book offers something new. How did you come up with the plot idea?
Answer: In October 2013, a Pakistani colleague of mine travelled from Bahrain to India for the liver transplant surgery of his eight-year-old daughter. It was the only hope of her survival, after a total organ failure due to a congenital condition. The Indian visa came after a three-week-long wait, when the family had given up hope of obtaining it. After their arrival in India, going through a strict security regime, which is customary for any visiting Pakistani, caught them off-guard. This drove them to despair, but when all seemed lost, understanding officials came to their rescue. Every year, hundreds of Pakistani citizens come to India for treatment of life-threatening medical conditions. Due to repeated terror strikes on Indian soil, masterminded by an unconcerned Pak army, their passage to India is mired in long-drawn security checks. Where time is of the essence, senseless acts of terrorism put the lives of the ailing at risk.
This dismal scenario drove me to write this book.
- The book deals with a very sensitive issue. Did you face any problems while publishing this one?
Answer: None whatsoever. If you see my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Unforeseen-A-battle-for-his-daughters-life-208311756568798 you will note how well the concept of the book has been received by viewers. While the likes from people in in India was expected, considering that the book upholds our country’s role as a saviour of near-terminally ill citizens of the subcontinent, you will be surprised at the praise it has received from viewers in Pakistan, though my book openly speaks out against terrorism sponsored by the Pak army on Indian soil. These are the people who got a new lease of life after undergoing surgeries in India, when the medical system in their own country had given up all hope.
- It is your second book. Can you please share your writing experience with us.
Answer: Seventeen years ago, when we had just moved to Bahrain, my four-year-old daughter was asked to recite a patriotic poem on the occasion of Indian Republic Day Celebration at school. Without a suitable material for recitation in hand, I wrote my first poem for the little girl. The acclaim that it won, inspired me to write for her regularly, both, in English and in Bengali, which is my mother tongue. Very soon, I took to writing prose, about the places I had stayed in during the course of my work – Thailand, Nigeria, Bahrain – and started publishing them in the local English daily. In 2012, my story – The Land with a Soul – won the first prize in a creative writing contest and was published in the Best of Bahrain collection the same year. It was, however, after I joined Bahrain Writers’ Circle – an association of aspiring and published authors from all over the world, residing in Bahrain – that I published my first novel. That book, also a thriller, was titled, “Land of Two Seas” and it was based on Bahrain during the Second World War.
- Your previous book was also a thriller. Is it your favourite genre?
Answer: Indeed, my favourite genre is Thriller. I like action and fast pace. In the seventies, when I was in school, World War 2 and the Cold War were the themes of my favourite thrillers. Bridge on the river Kwai, Where Eagles Dare, Ice Station Zebra and The Thirty-Nine Steps are some of the books that I can recall from that period. Espionage, betrayals, battles and guns captured my imagination. When I joined college, books like Papillon, Godfather, Kane and Abel fascinated me. Crime, human emotions, social relationships, intrigue and betrayals kept me glued to the books. Now, books like Mossad, Commando and After the Prophet, which bring out drama and action in real life keep me occupied most of the time.
- From the blurb of the book, I get to know that you have travelled to different parts of the world. How travelling has shaped your writing?
Answer: My stories generally revolve around places I’ve been to or people I’ve come across during my travels. The character of Yousuf, the protagonist of my story, is based on a Pakistani colleague of mine in Bahrain. Some of the experiences of Yousuf, in the story, were actually my colleague’s! The incidence of Yousuf checking into a New-Delhi hotel, without noticing that his Indian visa did not permit him to stay in the city, and his wife breaking down at the police station on realizing the breech of law committed by them, actually happened with my colleague.
My first book, Land of Two Seas, takes off from an intriguing air-raid and bombing incident that really happened on the oil refinery of Bahrain during World War 2, a place where I currently reside. I delved into the history of this country, visited the heritage sites here dating back to early twentieth century and explored the geographical features of this island nation to give shape to this book. So much so that one of the Bahraini readers of my book commended it by saying, “Many people might have written a book, you have lived your book.”
- Has this pandemic situation affected your writing style.
Answer: Not at all. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I live in the Kingdom of Bahrain at present. Though this country went through a partial lockdown, the pandemic did not affect my work schedule. I am a Civil Engineer by profession and the construction industry, where I’m presently employed, was working full swing all along.
- I mentioned in my video that I would like to see a book to movie adaption of your book. Would you prefer that?
Answer: Certainly. My book is based on fast-paced action which unfolds in contrasting, spectacular locales like a Bakkerwal village in the Pir Panjal mountains, the Kashmir valley, the busy streets of Delhi and the railway station of Lahore. This makes it an ideal choice for adaption into a movie.
Incidentally, I would like to mention that I have already been approached by a well-known content production houses of India for a digital adaption of the book.
- Have you ever been in writing slump? How do you deal with it?
Answer: Fortunately, I’ve not faced a writing slump, or a writer’s block as they say, very often. Whenever I encounter one, I do anything – watch TV, go for movies or on long drives with my wife, read books etc. – other than writing. Ha…Ha…
- This or That:
- E book or physical book – Physical book, any time
- Paperback or hardcover – Paperback
- Finally, suggest three books everyone should read:
Watch the video review
- Papillon – It is my all-time favourite book. The description of life in a horrendous jail in remote French Guyana, by convicted murderer Henri Charierre, and his repeated attempts at escape, invariably, bring the story alive in the mind of the reader. The movie, starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman, based on this book, was an instant box-office hit, but I believe that the visuals from the movie were no match for the pictures painted by the words of the author.
- Godfather – Mario Puzo’s well-researched fiction on organised crime and its social impact in America is a classic and can beat any novel on crime, hands down, even today, five decades after it was first published.
- Mossad – This book by Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal recreates the greatest missions of the Israeli Secret Service from a human angle. The enormous risk borne by the secret service agents while giving shape to their missions behind enemy lines, and the consequent impact on their families, is brought out superbly in the book.