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Interview with Vijay Nair

There are some people who stay away from the spotlight but work quietly in the background to create some amazing stuff. We have one such person at your Adda. He wears multiple hats of Organization Coach and Consultant, Fiction Writer / Critic, Columnist and Theatre Director. He has been awarded the British Council – Charles Wallace Award and was the Writer in Residence at the University of Kent, Canterbury. More about this awesome man, Vijay Nair in this exclusive interview where he speaks about his books, life, frank views and lots more.

Q: When and why did you start blogging?

A: I used to write a weekly column for Bangalore Mirror. I started blogging when I decided I don’t want to do the columns anymore. The blogging took care of the ‘withdrawal’ symptoms.

Q: What topics do you generally blog about?

A: Politics, organizations, films, writers, books, theatre…about any of the myriad interests I have. The same topics I used to cover in my columns.

Q: Every writer faces writers block. How do you manage to escape from it?

A: I have never faced a writer’s block. Whenever I want to write, I can write.

Q: Do you promote your blog? What promotional techniques work best for you and why?

A: No. I didn’t know you can promote a blog. For that matter I have never learnt to promote anything including myself. But I am ready to learn. Since you guys are blog experts, please educate me.

Q: How important is it for the blogger to interact with their readers? Do you respond to all the comments that you receive?

A: Not really. I have reacted badly once to an anglophile who wanted to correct my English. I always react badly to anglophiles. They ought to be put behind bars for sedition. Not Arundhati Roy. When there are good comments about something I have blogged, I am embarrassed. I am always diffident when someone compliments me. However my blogs are not really popular.

Q: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do – Mark Twain”. After being for around a decade in the corporate world, you shifted to follow your creative instincts. What prompted this major shift? What were the hurdles that came in your way and how did you tackle it?

A: I hated being a manager. I disliked all my bosses and no doubt they disliked me. Owning my creativity seemed like a good excuse to get rid of the 9-7 routine. The only hurdle that came up was the pay cheque that would be faithfully credited to my bank account by the end of every month when I was a manager. More than 16 years after I stopped being a manager, I still miss the pay cheque.

Q: Your book, ‘Boss is Not Your Friend’ is recently launched. Tell us something about the book. The title of your book seems enlightening; why did you decide to keep it? :)

A: It is a no holds barred book on Indian organizations. It explores the feudal and oppressive context of Indian companies. It also has tips on surviving the corporate life. It is farcical at one level but it’s also designed to make the reader think. I don’t want to say more. I want all Indian managers to ‘buy’ and read this book.

The heading for the chapter on bosses is ‘Banging the Boss’. I wanted to call the book by the same name. But the Editorial Director at Hachette India suggested this name. Everyone who works in my publishing house is refined. I am rather boorish in comparison.

Q: You have written another novel, ‘The Colour of Kurinji’ which is also planned to launch later this year. This one’s got a great title! (Assuming Kurinji is about the flower, that blooms once in 12 years). Tell us more.

A: Yes…I am talking of the flower that blooms in the Ooty-Coonoor belt. The book is a murder mystery set in Coonoor.

Q: You are a movie buff. There are many movies which have been adapted from famous novels. Do you feel if the author himself is the director then he will do more justice to the film? What kind of film would you like to make, apart from any adaptation from your books, if you were a director?

A: Not at all. Directing films is rather complex. You need to be conversant with all the technicalities of film making before you get to directing. I don’t want to direct a film. But yes I would like to write scripts for films that explore the darker side of human existence. Something that falls in the same category as the Jack Nicholson starrer “China Town” or the films directed by the Spanish Director, Pedro Almadover like “Talk to her”.

Q: In what way do you feel has Indian cinema grown? What are the movies you feel are remarkable ones from the recent times? Are there any movies/directors which you feel have/had the power to create an awakening among the citizens and also go places?

A: That there are directors like Anurag Kashyap, Raj Kumar Gupta, Dibakar Banerji, Kiran Rao & Vishal Bharadwaj today speaks for the growth of Hindi cinema. The films they make are sharp and insightful. Imtiaz Ali and Ayan Mukherjee are also capable of making good films.

One thing is for sure. The audience is no longer interested in the tripe being pedalled by Karan Johar or Sanjay Leela Bansali or Priyadarshan. That brand of over the top film making is a thing of the past. They will go the same way Subhash Ghai did in the last decade. It’s curtains for them and that means things can only get better.

I wish I was more conversant with regional cinema. I catch the occasional Malayalam or Tamil film.

For me Indian cinema is Bollywood.

Q: Murder mystery is one of the genres which interests you. Can we look forward to a murder mystery based book from Vijay Nair’s pen in the future?

A: “The colour of Kurinji” is a murder mystery.

Q: Your passions are writing, theatre and working with children. In what way are you working with children and how is it going?

A: I love working with children. They are smarter than adults. The dynamics they create between themselves and the politics that plays out between them is endlessly fascinating. They are innocent and clever and both these qualities are very endearing. As we grow older, we lose both these traits. We become stupid and corrupt.

I do workshops with children on theatre and writing. I also spend a lot of time in my son’s school doing theatre with the children there. This summer I am going for a fortnight long trek to Sikkim with a group of Class XI kids and their teachers.

Q: You have some very interesting perspective on the Aarushi Talwar case. You have also highlighted about parent’s responsibilities. What according to you are the things that worries you as your son grows older?

A: I don’t have any worries as such. My son will be okay. He is fond of animals, especially dogs. He cares for the environment. He gets upset when he sees beggars on the roads. He has a lot of friends. At 12, he is a better human being than I am in my forties. I suspect he is much more intelligent than both his parents. He can take his parents for a ride when he wants to. He has a wicked sense of humour. He has enough life skills to do well when he grows up.

As a parent I am not paranoid about the internet. I don’t believe in monitoring his surfing or internet games. Our generation was also exposed to pornography through books and films. My son and his friends may have these experiences earlier and over the internet but they will outgrow them just as we did. Technology has just made things faster but at another level, nothing has changed.

As for the Aarushi Talwar case, I find the behaviour of parents very suspicious. They may not have murdered their daughter but they know something about the murder that they are concealing. For a day after the murder, the Hindi channel Aaj Tak showed them coming back from the funeral and when the television scribes started pestering the father with questions, the mother pinched him from behind warning him not to say anything. That was enough to convince me that for the parents hiding facts about the murder is more important than getting their dead daughter justice.

Not once have they admitted that their system of locking their daughter’s room from outside in the nights was wrong. Just as employing male domestic helps in a household when their daughter must have come back from school, to find the parents at work doesn’t make sense. Especially in a place like Delhi where there are so many murders and robberies that are committed by the live in helps. At the very least they could have employed a female help to keep an eye on their daughter. What I am saying may sound silly but these are the things most working couples with children ensure, although logic can counter all these arguments.

But parenting is more about instincts than logic. At the very least Aarushi’s parents are guilty of not listening to their instincts and that may very well have cost them their daughter. Even animals can sense danger and protect their young ones.

Q: You seem to be very jilted on the current political scenario, politicians and the number of controversies and scams. What changes would you suggest that should be undertaken, in order to improve the conditions? Also, do you think in the recent times, Indian journalism needs some changes? If yes, then what are those?

A: I am not just “jilted” as you put it. I am shocked at the way this country is going. The way this government has sold out to capitalists. The scale of these scams is astounding and we have a PM who equates acts of corruption to granting subsidies. What has happened to Manmohan Singh? We were always high on corruption but right now it looks like there is something wrong with you and me if we don’t think of making money through unfair means, every morning.
I think the best way to tackle corrupt governments is to vote for a different one every time so that they don’t have time to settle down. Also that way they would be too busy unearthing the previous government’s scams to think of new ways of swindling money from the people of India.

I used to dislike Arnab Goswami at one time. I thought he was a rabble-rouser. But with everything we have learnt in the past few months, I believe we need a few more journalists like him to go hammer and tongs at politicians of all parties. Indian journalism is doing fine. There are bad apples in every profession.

Q: Your career graph has always grown and includes a lot many things; like writing columns, managing ‘Still Waters’, training corporates on teamwork and leadership, and writing novels. There is so much on your plate. Being a parent, husband and a writer, how do you manage time for everything?

A: There’s also a lot of time I spend in getting pissed off at the things around me so you have to count that in too. :) I think I can write a lot more if I didn’t waste so much of time of brooding and watching television.

I am a reasonably good father. I check with my son from time to time and he says I am doing fine.

I am a bad husband. But husbands are always bad.

Q: Which Indian and International writer/author is your favorite and why? Tell us what makes them different from others as a writer. Which style of writing have you liked reading the most but wouldn’t want to attempt yourself?

A: I have many favourite authors ranging from J M Coetzee, Orhan Pamuk, Kazuo Ishigoro, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Barbara Vine, Arundhati Roy, Ruskin Bond, PD James…the list is endless. I have my own style of writing and so wouldn’t want attempt the style of any other writer although I admire many.

Q: You have read and reviewed many books. What tips, as an experienced writer and author, would you want to give to a budding writer?

A: Please read. Unless you read great works of literature, it will be difficult for you to pick up the tools and techniques of writing. Also, please remember it’s not just about writing, it’s also about the ideas that back the writing. Great ideas lead to great works.

Q: You have written and launched three books; ‘The Gloomy Rabbit’, ‘Master of Life Skills’ & the recent one ‘Boss is Not Your Friend’. Which book do you feel is your best work as a writer? Or is your best yet to come?

A: It’s definitely yet to come. I am not proud of anything I have written so far. I hope to write a great piece of literature some day. That’s what keeps me going.

Q: What is your advice to someone who wants to start a blog?

A: Be committed to it. Don’t give up after blogging a few times.

Q: What do you find to be the most gratifying aspect of blogging?

A: That I can blog at will and not worry about someone else’s approval to get it published.

Q: How, in general, would you rate the quality of Indian blogs? Share your favourite five blogs.

A: I am afraid I hardly follow the blogs by others. But now that I am a member of “BlogAdda” I will start doing it. Can we keep this question for the next interview? :)

Q: Let’s conclude off with a few favorites.

Color: Blue

Movie: Silence of the Lambs

TV Show: Inspector Morse

Book: Love in the times of cholera

Time of Day: Early Mornings

Your Zodiac Sign: Aries

Now waiting for ‘The Colour of Kurinji’ and more such awesome reads in the future. Readers, we have one more who left the corporate world to follow his passion. What do you think? If you have any questions for Vijay Nair, feel free to ask him.

All those in Bangalore, On Saturday, March 19, between 5:30pm – 8:30pm, at Reliance Timeout, Cunningham Road, Vijay would be launching his book “The Boss Is NOT Your Friend”. Do attend. Your chance to pick Vijay’s brains there! :P

You can buy his books by clicking the links below:

The Gloomy Rabbit And Other Plays

Master Of Life Skills

“The Boss Is NOT Your Friend”

Connect with Vijay: Website, Blog, BlogAdda

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