Kannada writer Vivek Shanbhag’s Ghachar Ghochar was among the best books to come out in 2016. In a chat with Hindustan Times, the author talks about his novella, his inspirations and writing alongside a full-time job.
The original work in Kannada appeared in 2013 as part of a collection of short stories and the translation in 2015. Were you surprised by the sort of response the English version received?
The book was very well received in Kannada as well. I’m happy that it got a similar response in translation. Rarely does a book get translated so effectively and get appreciated in both languages.
What was the inspiration for this story?
This story has been with me for over a decade. It is very difficult to put my finger on a single incident as the inspiration for the book. Many things come together for a story to be born. Some experiences I had have found their way into the book. Like early in my career, I spent time with a salesman’s family and some details from that have appeared in the book. In the last 25 years, we have seen a sea change in Indian society due to globalisation. That has been a major inspiration.
How did the translation happen?
Srinath Perur (the translator) and I worked together for one-and-a-half years. It is important that the writer and translator discuss the work in detail and Srinath has done a fabulous job of translating the book. I am very happy with the translation.
Watch: Vivek Shanbhag on his book Ghachar Ghochar
You are an engineer by profession and a writer by choice. How has your work shaped your writing?
I was working with Hindustan Unilever and my job helped me travel around the world and meet people of different races and cultures. It has helped me understand this world better. I have no regrets about my choice of career, In fact it has been complementary to my writing.
How did you balance a full-time job with a writing career?
What is uppermost in your heart is important and for me it was literature. I had a full-time job and it was inevitable because it was not enough to earn full-time from my writing. I had to have some discipline and create my own space to write. I used to get up at 4.30am and work till 7.30am. If you do this three hours a day every day, it is a lot of time. And that is how I managed it.
At what age did you start writing?
My first story was published when I was 17 and my first collection was published when I was 22. So I have been writing for over 30 years now.
What was your first story about?
It was about a person coming from a city to a village and feeling out of place due to the cultural differences. It was well received and won a prize in a short story competition, which was very encouraging for a 17-year-old.
What are you working on next?
I am working on a novel and a play.
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