Saturday, January 16, 2016


The Raja of Teekra, a dusty and forgotten kingdom near Lucknow, gets lucky when the British Resident visits him but also brings with him a leading revolutionary. The Raja enters India's struggle for freedom and is rewarded with a berth in the cabinet of free India. He is shocked to see the ministers and officers living and operating like their imperial masters but is suitably rewarded for his silence. As he begins to enjoy the good life of Lutyens' Delhi, the British capital which India's freedom fighters abhorred, he faces only one adversary in his plans—his journalist son Pratap. A novel that will blow you away with its depiction of love, passion, intrigue and betrayal.

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About the Author 

Anupam Srivastava was born in Lucknow, India, where his novel, The Brown Saheb's first part is set. However, he never lived there as his father and mother, Ashok and Veena Srivastava, lived in different parts of India. However, Anupam spent some of his childhood and most of his vacations in Lucknow where he flew kites and learnt about the craft of pigeon-flying. He went to a boarding school near Delhi, the Motilal Nehru School of Sports, Rai, where he played cricket but earned his college colours at St Stephen's College, Delhi, in cross-country running. He studied English literature (BA Hons and MA), won the college annual poetry prize while pursuing his MA, and being sure his vocation was writing and journalism, became a journalist with The Times of India in 1993. In 1999, he was awarded the British Chevening scholarship by the British government.

In 1999, he left journalism to work with the United Nations Population Fund in India in communications. Subsequently, Anupam worked with Oxfam India Society, Unicef and other development agencies. The Brown Sahebs is his first novel and tells the story of India not taking off its colonial clothing even as it became a democracy.

Anupam is married to Radhika Srivastava, and they have two children who figure in his children's novel, A Family Secret.

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  1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I think I got the right encouragement from my teachers in school when I started writing my essays. My self-conscious essays in Hindi and English found support in Mrs Suresh Malhotra and Mrs Prabha Kishore, my first two language teachers, and later in senior school, Mrs Sunanda Datta and Mrs Aruna Mehra were quite supportive. Later, Alan Lewis – an Englishman who had wandered into my school and had become an institution in his own right – and KB Kain, who taught history- shared their thoughts and ideas with me. A writer also needs to think and feel before he can attempt to write anything. At some stage, with their encouragement, my self-consciousness as a writer left me.
I continued to get encouragement as I went to college – Jug Suraiya published my first piece which I sent by post – on his page in The Times of India. As a freelance writer, I wrote and published frequently. Later, as a reporter with The Times of India, I tried to write fiction while dealing with facts – the staple diet of a reporter – but did not succeed. Many years later, when I began to probe the idea of the Indian democracy standing on colonial foundations, writing came much more freely to me.
  1. How long does it take you to write a book? and What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
As Roald Dahl says, most writers need to do something else until writing can support them. I have always worked full-time, often in very demanding jobs such as my current role as a communication professional with Centre for Science and Environment, or with Unicef where I worked in Bihar for nearly four years. I started writing this novel in 2004-5 in Bihar, not sure if I would finish it ever. Slowly, as I recorded my observations and the plot advanced, I still wasn’t sure if it was heading anywhere until I returned to Delhi and the wordage and chapters grew and, suddenly, I was faced with the incredible prospect of finishing it. When this novel was in its most intense phase, I would write at late hours, sometimes even getting up at small hours of the night to make a note or record a breakthrough.
4.    What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have a parallel writing track in my head when I am writing in addition to whatever I am doing. I may be talking to someone – possibly my work superiors – but don’t stop making an effort to probe their peculiarities and gain an insight into their minds. Powerful people intrigue me a lot – they are all alike whether they are ruling the government or running offices. I enjoy studying them.
  1. How do books get published?
That is part two after writing a book. One can find an agent or reach a publisher directly. It is better to find an agent as that takes care of the transactional part of publishing and also saves the author time and effort in getting published. Indian publishers do accept manuscripts submitted directly by authors.
  1. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Ideas can come anytime. I have had ideas just about anywhere, sometimes when I am by myself or with someone else. Information has to be gathered, researched, or reproduced from one’s experiences and memory.
  1. When did you write your first book and how old were you?
The Brown Sahebs is my first book – even though I have been told by some kind people that it does not read like a first book (what do you think?). It was first published three years ago as A Piece of the Giant but the publisher realized that the title or the cover did not represent the contents of the book. So, they had another go at it and I helped them with the cover illustration and also the title – you see the author has to do the publisher’s work and yet he/she does not get the money he/she deserves. I was around 40 when I first published.
  1. What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I love watching movies and travel with my family. I also love being at home.
  1. What does your family think of your writing?
They are quite supportive and help me out by reading the draft chapters. My wife Radhika does a lot of that. But of late, my two daughters, Ananya and Sagarika, have taken on the role of my readers and critics and in fact love to offer harsh criticism as well, probably realizing how vulnerable I am to their comments when it concerns my writing. I think they love the reversal of power equation between us.
  1. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That a book has a life of its own – that one could start writing something but end up writing something else. It was a great surprise to me to see this all unfold before my eyes with my own hands writing words that were strangers to me.
  1. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I have written The Brown Sahebs and an unpublished children’s novel, A Family Secret. I am working on a full-length novel now.
  1. Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Read good and not so good even if it is popular, but when it comes to writing write what intrigues and excites you rather than follow the market preferences. However, there is no harm in writing something that may have a good marketing potential if it answers your calling as well.
  1. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I do hear from readers every now and then. One of them is a well-known businessman from Mumbai and runs a very well-known company. He picked up my book, read it and wrote to me and we later met in Delhi. Some readers have got in touch with me on Facebook, etc. Some of them expressed their appreciation for the novel. I have thanked them and expressed my gratitude. I have also received comments on the book’s weaknesses, which I have thought about.
  1. Do you like to create books for adults?
Yes. However, I like to explore ideas through my writing and the story is a medium for this exploration. I also love to write for children.
  1. What do you think makes a good story?
A good plot, good characters and also good readers.
  1. As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I found a purpose in journalism when I took it up – it was one profession that came closest to writing, and did not confine me to an office – a reporter has the princely freedom of organizing his/her routine. However, I moved to communications in the social development sector – some journalists do that – and worked on communications around social issues such as environment, public health and education.

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