Serendipity: Jagmohan Bhanver

Jagmohan Bhanver
It was fun chatting up with Author Jagmohan Bhanver. Here are the snippets from our rendezvous with this awesome writer.

GR:  What description will fit you in real life?
JB:  I come from an Army family where travel and postings in different cities was rather common. While it meant that one was uprooted from one’s surrounding every now and then, it taught me to make friends wherever we went. And it taught a very important lesson, early on in life. Everything in life is transient! Friends change, your environment changes. Schools and the place you call home also change. What remains is the experiences you gain every day; and the person you become because of those experiences.

I have learnt to appreciate the beauty of nature by staying in places like Shillong and Dehradun. And I am grateful for the experience gleaned from staying in fast moving places like Mumbai and Delhi. Everywhere you go, people are the same. Their inherent drivers do not change. They will love you if you love them and they will ignore you if you do not show interest in them.
I wrote my first piece when I was 12 years old. It was a poem that got published in a magazine called Target in the early 80’s. And then I wrote for a few more publications around that time. Writing always made me feel alive. My first book (get Happy now) was published in 2004 but I had written it in 1991 when I had just turned twenty.

I am the most alive and happy when I am around my family and in situations where I can make a palpable difference to people’s lives. If you look at what I do today, everything centers around that one objective.
GR:   How does it feel to be a published author/writer? What are your preferred genres?
JB: I published my first piece when I was 12 years old. It felt great. Since then I have published scores of articles in international journals, newspapers and magazines. Having authored four best selling books in different genres, it feels terrific and I can’t think of too many things that are better than writing. While I prefer writing fiction, it is interesting that  my first three books were in the non fiction category. Within fiction, I like to delve into subjects that explore relationships. Therefore, irrespective of the genre, you will find that my characters and plot revolve around relationships and there are (I hope) deep insights to be had there.

When I write nonfiction, I select a subject that I have expertise in. Therefore, when I wrote Think your way to Millions, I was one of the handful of people in the country who knew about behavioral finance (the subject of that book). Or when I penned down Get Happy Now, I had just come out of the unhappiest phase of my life and I was in a zone where I had been able to live through it, and even be happy. I felt it put me in a position here I could share the same concepts with others. When Hachette India asked me to write about Satya Nadella & Microsoft or about Sundar Pichai & Google, they did so because they knew I understood biographies and the tech sector really well. So expertise is key when I do non fiction.

Fiction is a different matter altogether. For me, if it is a piece of fiction, it ought to be an idea that I am really passionate about. It needs to get into every part of my system, my mind for me to write it. If it doesn’t stop me from sleeping or doing anything else that I do on a regular day, then the idea is worthless for me.

When I decided to dedicate eight years of my life to researching Krishna, I did it because I knew I would not be at peace till I had done it and written the Krishna Trilogy.

So writing fiction for me is a way to calm myself, to be at peace with the demons inside. To create stories where none existed before and give life to characters that can touch the heart of the reader. If I can create a character that resonates with the reader; makes them love the character even if the character is evil, then the purpose has been served.

GR:   What does your writing place look like? 
JB: I prefer to develop a writing zone for myself. At my home, I write at my study table. As is evident, this is in my study room, where the table is positioned in one corner. I use a table lamp while writing. I guess it is a quirk I carry from my school and hostel days when table lamps were really in vogue. It helps me focus when the room is dark and it’s only the table lamp that sheds light on my keyboard. When I am in office, I make sure my cabin is secured and the phones are off the hook. I do tell my wife that I am going to be writing for the next few hours and if there is anything urgent, there is a number she can reach me. By now she is familiar with my eccentricities. It’s easy for her, as she is an artist herself and a going-to-be-published author. Her first book debuts with Hachette early next year.

In my early days, I used to write on sheets of paper and then type them into a computer. For the past ten-twelve years though, I type it in straight away.

GR:   Which fictional character created by you is closest to your heart? Why?
JB: The Dark Lord (AmartyaKalyanesu) has a bit of me. And I think so does Kansa and Vasudeva. They have my tender side and also a bit of my dark one. I think when you write with your heart and soul, you find facets of yourself that you had never known existed earlier. And some of that finds its way into your characters.

GR:  What, according to you, are your strengths and weaknesses as an author/ writer? 
JB: In France this question might have got you killed; not too many authors there would agree they have any weaknesses!

I think my key strength is that I can write on literally any genre, when it comes to fiction. At this point, I have two more books in the Krishna Trilogy that are being written. Then there is a novel in the crime genre that I am writing for one of the big publishers in the US. And a period novel (which hopefully will be my magnum opus) that I am planning for 2017.

The other positive is that I haven’t yet come across what is known in some circles as “Writer’s block”. I think it would be safe to say that there is enough material between my ears to pen at least fifty other books by the time I retire or croak my last.

Weaknesses……Hmmm. I think that is something my publishers and critics ought to answer. I do tend to spend a lot of time on relationships and characters. While a lot of people who are avid readers have called that out as my biggest strength, there are a few who would prefer to have less time spent on characterization. I’m guessing that’s one weakness that I would like to retain J

GR:  Describe your latest book. Where can we buy it?
JB: This is the first volume in the Krishna Trilogy.

It’s the story leading up to Krishna’s birth; a story that has not been written, seen or heard about till now. A product of nine long years of research that took me to places within India I never dreamed I would travel to; meeting people and reading sacred ancient texts that I did not initially have access to. But I think the hand of Krishna was over me, guiding me all the way.
In brief, the story begins when Brahma, the God of Creation, banishes his star pupil from Swarglok in a fit of rage, but does not foresee that his decision will alter the fate of the three worlds. This pupil, mortally wounded, and anguished at Brahma's unfair punishment struggles to survive in TamastamahPrabha, the hell of hells. In time, he becomes known as the Dark Lord, the most feared figure in PataalLok. He swears to destroy Brahma.

As the power of the Dark Lord begins to make its presence felt in the mortal world, Vasudev, the brave prince of Bateshwar, becomes the hunter of Asura assassins; his closest friend, Kansa, almost dies while trying to save his sister from a group of deadly monsters; and the most valiant kings in Mrityulok turn over to the dark side, driven by forces beyond their control.
But one person threatens the Dark Lord's well-laid plans - Devki, the beautiful princess of Madhuvan, who is destined to give birth to the warrior Krishna.

This story also traces the origin of evil and at a very subtle level, compels the reader to question – “What indeed is evil?”

The book is available in all leading bookstores. It can also be ordered online on Amazon, Flipkart, Infibeam or any of the other portals selling books.

Book Links:
GR:   Who and/or What inspires you the most? Why?
JB: There are a multitude of stories hidden away in the recesses of my mind. And when an idea gets hold of me, it is like being driven by an ague. You can’t sleep, you can’t think of anything else. You have to write. And writing provides succor and peace.

The experience of seeing your characters come to life on paper is the biggest inspiration; the biggest high. Creating a story where none existed before, is another.

GR:  What all do you do when you are not writing?
JB: Whatever free time I have, I prefer to spend with my wife, kids and my Labrador. It could be anywhere. Could be a beach or a mountain resort.

GR:  Which writing project are you currently working on?
JB: Pichai – The future of Google (with Hachette) – releasing Dec 2015

Click (with Hachette) releasing in April 2016

The Rise of the Yadavas (Vol 2 in the Krishna Trilogy) – releasing in April 2016

GR:  If you could re­write one Fiction/Non­Fiction written by another author, which would it be and why? 
JB: Oh, there are so many of them. Some books are written so well that I wish I could have authored them.

For instance, I would have loved to have written ‘Family Affairs’ by Rohinton Mistry. It’s a classic and any author would wish to lay claim to a book like that. I wouldn’t change it one bit though.

A terrific  piece of fiction I would want to rewrite however would be ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens. Don’t get me wrong though. It’s probably the best written book in the world. I might have changed the ending to make it a little happier though. Maybe got Estella and Philip to get together. Blame it on me being a die hard romantic, but that’s what I would have loved to do.

On the non fiction side, I may want to rewrite sections of Hersh Shefrin’s ‘Beyond greed and fear’. This is a classic on behavioral finance and it would be right to say that book doesn’t need any change. My sole intention would be to rewrite sections of the book to make them more coherent to the lay person.

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