I was unaware of Shaiju Mathew even a year ago.
An e-friend of mine had first mentioned him and told me that he was too talented and literally inclined and had been contemplating his first novel.
Soon, we became friends on Facebook, and within a few months, he gave me the good news: He was ready with his first book. It was published, and I would be soon able to pick up my copy of the same. My excitement knew no bounds. I was overjoyed to see him promote his book extensively through the excellent online platform that Facebook offered.
His book has met with stupendous success. Shaiju has become a sensation as a budding author. His book, 'Knocked Up' has not only garnered superb sales, but has also received good reviews from many quarters.
So, here, for the readers of my blog, I present a tête-à-tête with this young achiever:
Ani: Hello, Shaiju, I am too keen to find out more about you, now that I have read the book. Please tell me about your literary beginnings. Who have been your early influences?
Shaiju: Well, I started young when I was introduced to the world of books by my elder brother when I was in Class 5. Although as a kid I used to read a lot of comics like Mandrake, Superman, Tintin, Archies, Chacha Choudhary, Amar Chitra Katha etc... but the first novel I read was Enid Blyton's The Magic Faraway Tree. Since then at every stage of my life the likings changed from Enid Blyton to Mark Twain, from Famous Five to Hardy boys ...from Shakespeare to English Classics written by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy etc from RK Narayan to Khaled Hosseni...I still like to read magazines and Readers Digest. I still remember when I was a kid my best friend from school used to gift me Sputnik and Misha magazines which he used to subscribe from Russia.
Ani: How inspired and encouraged were you by your parents, and your teachers?
Shaiju: My parents were strictly against me reading novels during my regular school days but they never discouraged me from reading during my holidays and vacations. In fact, my dad used to narrate to me Shakespearean classics when I was just a kid. My English teacher was very particular that everyone in our class should read books to improve our vocabulary and we also had a library period where we used to pick up books from the library for reading.
Ani: 'Knocked Up', your first novel has definitely had some personal impressions, something semi-biographical there? Do you identify in particular with any of the characters?
Shaiju: You see, every writer conciously or subconciously draws parallels or inspiration from his / her life while writing a book. Even I have done the same thing. My book is part fiction and part reality, and, yes, every character in my book is influenced by people around me and Sid's character is somewhat similar to me during my teenage days.
Ani: Sid's cool. I must say, the situations in the tale are naturally funny, and they have been narrated with effortless ease, did you style it in any particular way?
Shaiju: I am an avid reader and, to tell you frankly, if you check out most of the books in stores these days you will only find Chetan Bhagat clones. The same IIM, IIT graduates and their stories. There is no novelty.
Ani: That's very true. Plus, there's an upsurge of a certain kind of young confusion flavored writings.
Shaiju: But, I still cherish the books written by literary greats like Munshi Premchand, Tagore, Mark Twain, Jerome K Jerome, Ruskin Bond, RK Narayan and Sudha Murthy because their language is simple and the narrative is uncomplicated. Such books are rare in the market now. So, 'Knocked Up' is an ode to these literary greats. That doesn't mean I am trying to compare myself with them but I am showing my gratitude to them & also trying to take their legacy ahead by writing simple stories that will connect with people from every walk of life and people from every age group.
Ani: Saiju, you seem to be quite accomplished as an individual with multiple skills and talents. I was genuinely awestruck when I read about you on the blurb. Do you feel privileged?
Shaiju: I definitely think I am God's favourite child and I am blessed that he has bestowed multiple talents on me so that I can entertain others and bring a smile on their face.
Ani: Your debut has been a huge success, the talks are even on for a movie adaptation; does all that mean more pressure for you?
Shaiju: I don't understand the term 'pressure' when it comes to creativity.... because, every artist in this world works towards appreciation of his/her art by the world. For me, success means more and more people liking my work and not on the basis of money generated for my publisher which is last in my agenda. 'Knocked Up' is a success because the story connected with the readers and touched their heart, so in that way I will have pressure on me to deliver another good story, but I am a person who likes to tell a story from the heart the kind that I myself loved reading during my growing up days.
Ani: Very well articulated..... do tell us about your future plans....
Saiju: Currently, I am working on few Hindi movie scripts and also on my next book. Apart from that, I am working towards a new concept in publication industry through Magic Moments which is a One Shop Stop for all aspiring and established writers. We are a group of creative people associated with the cause of writers in India and trying to bring more visibility and respect to fellow authors.
Ani: I feel that Magic Moments has really set out to do some inspiring work in that sense....
Shaiju: You know, authors in India - unlike their counterparts in the West - are a neglected lot. If you would see... most of the authors we have in the market are not full-time authors but they only work part-time, because writing in India doesn't pay well. I am encouraging authors to be business partners with us on individual projects and share profits instead of royalty, and also would want to promote them to the fullest to garner more visibility and recognition, so that people can slowly start taking writing as a full-time career.
Ani: Wow! That's commendable. Writers need not be ashamed of mentioning 'author' on their passports, eh?
Shaiju: I hope this endeavor works out.
Ani: I wish you all the best. In all your endeavors. And, I thank you for sharing your thoughts, in this candid conversation. May God bless you.