From being a necktie-clad waiter, to a necktie-clad executive in the corporate world, Sid Bahri has recently published his first book. Titled The Homing Pigeons, it is a fresh breathe of air in the pretty stagnating realm of books with stereotype plots. No wonder it was endorsed by Dr Shashi Tharoor himself!
When I decided to begin a new segment of author interviews in my blog, I couldn't have begun it with a better author than Sid Bahri. The Homing Pigeons was easily one of my best reads of the year, and trying to know the mind behind it, proved to be interesting. Here is an excerpt of some of the tête-e-tête:
How did the Homing Pigeons come into existence? Did you decide to be a published writer first and then thought of the plot or you decided to get published when you had a good story in hand?
It’s a long story which dates back to 2008. I was in disguised unemployment which really means that I had a job but not enough work to justify my salary. Since I had the time, I started writing about a banker who had lost his job, which wasn't a very remote possibility in those times of recession. Too soon, my bosses realized that they were paying me for nothing and the book went into cold storage.
By 2012, I was in a different job, at a higher pay, in a different company but I hated it, nonetheless. Writing was my vent; nothing more than a hobby but something that gave me immense pleasure. I revived the book that was warming my hard drive and converted it into what we today call The Homing Pigeons.
I wasn't writing it to be published and maybe, that’s why it’s turned out like it has. If you’re writing for the market, you’re not doing justice to the story or the characters.
How scared or worried were you for the reviews? Yes, a creative person’s work, when judged, does ignite a lot of anxiety. But how anxious were you?
My journey into publishing can be best described as bumpy. When you get rejected by various publishing houses, it does dent your confidence. I think the credit must go to Stuti Sharma, my editor, who read the draft and said that it is one of the finest books that she had read. When Dr. Shashi Tharoor endorsed it, I was reasonably confident that I had a good product in hand. I say good because it’s not my best piece of work. So, that took away some of the anxiety.
I am a Virgo, which means that criticism is second nature. And, it’s good to be at the receiving end this time because it also helps me improve.
I loved how you sketched the characters. Did you take motivation from real life or they are purely from imagination?
The Homing Pigeons is my second book. The first one that I wrote will never see the light of day – it was that ugly. I had written my third book, the sequel, before I had sent this one for publishing. Practice makes perfect and when I went back to edit The Homing Pigeons, I knew the flaws and was able to correct them and create vivid characters that breathe. I think both the protagonists are mostly imaginary.
It's not easy being a writer. It's even tougher writing a book which is so well-received. Any mantra, other than being an honest writer?
I think you have to love what you do. My education is in hotels; I started my career in BPOs. Along the way, I joined a bank but I think that of all these trades, I love writing the most. If you’re passionate about what you do – it shows.
The previous question reminds me, when I was reading your book, honesty kept coming up from within the pages. Honesty, in terms of the author not being pretentious, aping other authors, or trying too hard to make the book a hit. Was this conscious, or is this how Sid Bahri writes?
I didn’t go to a creative writing school and never had the opportunity to. But most education comes from observation and practice. I am a voracious reader and that’s helped me immensely while writing. There are some authors that I look up to and I’d be dishonest if I said that I haven’t learnt from them. But, yes, I didn't try to ape them. All along, I was writing for myself; my job paid me more than enough to satisfy my needs and my greed. So, there wasn't really pressure to write for the market.
What does one of our favourite writers of 2013 do, when not writing?
Oh, thank you for the compliment!!! There isn't much to do in Ranikhet except to take a walk out on a mountainside. My daughter is two and I get to spend a lot of time with her. With writing being my only vocation, it’s a fairly lazy life that I'm living. Occasionally, I cook to break the monotony.
Who are your favourites? Also, e-reader or paperback, what do you prefer?
Ken Follett, Jeffrey Archer and Kathryn Stockett are some of the names that come to my mind instantly. Steigg Larsson is another one. Paperback, always; technology and me don’t go together.
What next? Is your next book in the pipeline or do we have to wait?
The sequel is being edited. I’ll send it out to the publishers when I think I have a book that’s worthy enough to be published. I don’t know how long it will take to come to that point. There’s another book in the pipeline that’s hibernating on my desktop. It’ll pull me in one day to complete itself.
For your next books, would you be trying out different genres or you plan to stick to love stories?
It’s too early for me to stereotype myself into a particular genre. In fact, just last night, while I was editing the sequel, I was wondering how I would ever be able to classify that book into a genre. But, it also doesn't mean that I won’t do another love story.
A lot of us want to get away from the high profile (or not so high-profile) jobs that we are doing, and set ourselves free. Forget about the constant salary for once and do what the heart wishes to. Yet, liabilities tie us down. What would you suggest?
If you’re a slave to a pay check, you won’t last very long. If you love what you’re doing, then this discussion is immaterial. But, if you don’t love it like I wasn't, then it’s time to change.
Often, I would question my existence and the frequency of that question made me believe that it was time to change. For me, there was only one way to find out, which was to make a hard decision. I’d be foolish to suggest to anyone that they quit their job to follow their passion. That path is fraught with danger and insecurities. But, I believe and I do.