Today is the Day 6 of Write Tribe Festival of Words #6. Today’s prompt: Feature a guest – a guest post / an interview. Today’s post is my personal favourite, that I wrote for this Blogging Festival. It gives me immense pleasure to interview one of the finest young authors of India Yashluv Virwani. His debut book Window Seat created ripples and is getting appreciation from readers and critics alike. It is undoubtedly one of the best books I read in recent times. Reading Window Seat was such a liberating experience that I almost got immersed in it. After interviewing the author, I feel there are still so many questions that I need to ask him, maybe, some other time ‘fursat se’. So, here’s presenting the young, handsome and charming author of Window Seat, Yashluv Virwani.
- Window Seat is getting rave reviews from both reviewers and general readers. How are you feeling?
It feels amazing each time you read something good about the book. Any form of art demands a certain degree of appreciation, that is what keeps an artist going. There are days when I am a sucker for flattery, and the reviews definitely help during such days. Having said that, the most beautiful part of the entire journey of ‘Window Seat’ is when you receive this text from someone you hardly know, saying that I read your book and this character has stayed with me ever since, or I cried so bad while reading this story. That is what I had been looking for, when I began working on this book – finding yourself in a character of a movie or a book has always served me with happiness of a different kind – I simply wished to share that happiness.
- Why did you choose the name “Window Seat”? Anything significant that you would like to mention.
I have been a big observer of things, all my life. Back as a child, I used to sit by the window of my house and just observe this man who ironed clothes all day long. The window seat of trains was always a fascination because that’s where I read the most, or spent time recollecting the stories from textbooks or novels;the entire journey was a medley of the people I saw and the stories I could recollect.
Someone described me as a person who is present, but doesn’t always stay. So, that’s where the synopsis of the book came from, ‘a place that you create for yourself, each time you wish an escape’, and that’s where Window Seat came from.
- You are a freshly out of college, young man, however you as an author is far more matured than your age. Do you agree? Why?
(Laughs) When writing, I seldom feel like this 70-year-old, heavily drunk man, jotting down the stories of his life. Guess the maturity in writing comes from the fact that I am a good listener and a good empathizer, and also a little selfish about my stories. You come and pour your heart out to me, and I will completely understand what you’re going through, but then, I will also base a character on you and write a story around it. So yes, all the maturity is thanks to you.
- In your book the characters are nameless. Why did you deliberately keep it so?
In my book I wrote “Names are only pretence, something that stories never require; they carry a baggage along, of races and countries, boundaries and religions. Also, in a way, they turn you passive and control your imagination – if I can relate a particular character to someone living around me, why limit it to an unfamiliar name – stories don’t deserve such shallow treatment, they’re meant to be somewhere close to spiritual.”
I was in the Himalayas early this year, and met these group travellers from Israel. We began chatting, and soon, our conversation drifted to the idea of God. He told me that back in Israel, they have these orthodox families, and unorthodox families. His family is very orthodox – extremely religious and conservation – and he is the first atheist from his family. The point is, the story of this random nobody from Israel, matches so well with this random nobody of India, and if you exchange the two of us, these little stories would still remain intact. We never exchanged names, just the stories. The same idea works here – you read my story and make it your own, we don’t work with barriers.
- You have referred to a lot of books in ‘Window Seat’ like Veronika Decides to Die, Namesake, etc…Which book inspired you the most?
The book that inspired me the most was ‘Interpreter of Maladies’ by Jhumpa Lahiri. It came to me at the time when I had lost my base as a writer; I was a little insecure and had begun moulding my writing like that in the bestsellers. So, this book came and assured me that write what you feel like, forget about who would read it, write it for yourself.
- Is Paolo Coelho your favourite author?
As much as I like his writing, my favourite authors are Jhumpa Lahiri and Elif Shafak. Former, for the reasons I mentioned earlier, and latter because her writing is a mix fiction and philosophy, it connects really well with me.
- Rumi seems to have been almost like a theme in your book. How did you feel Inspired by Rumi?
For some unexplained reason, Rumi just works for me, each time. In fact, in the Sufi school of thought everything is filled with love – love that is flawed and imperfect – it asks you to fill your flaws with love, and embrace the others’. Rumi is liberating.
- In the story ‘Soulmate’ why did you deliberately write in Hindi? It might seem blasphemous to many critics.
I didn’t really put much thought in there. By then, I had entered the zone of writing for myself and not really caring about what others felt. And now that you look back at it, ‘Ittefaq ki baat hai’, has been one of the most loved parts from the book.
- Few of the readers feel that this book is sexually explicit. Do you agree?
My grandmother felt so while reading the first story – she told me why would you open the book with so much sex, it won’t be received well. What I personally believe is that the sex, or the physical intimacy, in Window Seat isn’t really vulgar or cheesy. We have always seen physical intimacy in a single-sided shade. For me, it again is liberating. When you get close to someone, you aren’t just physically naked to them, but you also expose your inner self. It helps in getting to know each other better, and trusting the one you are or will be in love with.
- You coined a new term ‘Soulgasm’. Could you explain it to my readers?
Have I coined it? Guess it already existed. What my version means is, the physical orgasm aside, there’s an “orgasm” of the soul – something that may be attained by words and silences, or by simply being close to the other, through the vibes you share.
- An author is often a father of his stories and I know as a father it is very difficult to choose one child as favourite. Yet, if you have to choose, which story out of the eight would be your favourite?
‘Object of Affection’ – simply because, structurally, it is so disoriented and flawed. The narration is as if you’re an outside presence to these two people on the unkempt bed, secretly intruding their personal space and listening to their conversation, yet feeling so close to them – the idea of soulgasm. (smiles)
- Women are finding your book as the ultimate book on love. Your reaction?
Well if they are, I am so glad. Women characters have always fascinated me more than their male counterparts, simply because they have the capacity to feel something in several ways and on several levels – something that a man could never even think of. We are very plain creatures. Women, on the other hand, are so layered, like a noir novella – each new page has a new story. I am glad the book has found takers among women.
- Tell us something about your growing up.
I grew up in a chawl, and my childhood was spent in the maidan playing cricket, and fighting with the children of the “other” religion. Back then, Hindu-Muslim riots were a common happening, and each time a riot broke out, it was a vacation of sorts for us, because the men wouldn’t go to work, and everyone – from age 7 to 40 – would then play cricket in the narrow passages of the building, and the women – of different cultures – would spend days cooking together the cuisines from their traditions. And the nights would be spent planning and strategizing the next move to go one up against the people of the other religion, who in fact, were our neighbours. But as the morning sun rose, the gongs of a temple would blur into the voices of Azaan, and life would come back to breathing normal.
- What kind of a person are you in real life? Extrovert or introvert?
I am a person of vibes. If I meet you and something clicks, I may turn out to be the most talkative person you would have spent an evening with in a long time. And if something doesn’t work, I may be the most socially-awkward being you would stumble upon in life.
- What do you do when you are not writing?
Either watch movies or travel, or not do anything at all. You would find me sitting expressionless in a café, drunk on caffeine, observing people and cooking up stories in my head.
- Few rapid fire questions:
Favourite movie – Rockstar, or any Imtiaz Ali movie for that matter.
Favourite actor – I am a big fan of Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt
Favourite food – nothing in particular, try out cuisines from around the world, and have maakehaath ka dal-chawal when the stomach refuses to have any more spices.
Favourite colour – any colour, any time – I like my zindagirangeen.
Zodiac sign – Pisces
Favourite singer – I have a pathetic taste in music
Favourite sportsperson – MS Dhoni
Hollywood or Bollywood – Bollywood, any day
Monsoon or winter – summers
Hills or beaches – hills by a narrow margin.
- When can we expect your next book?
I really hope to it soon. At the moment, I am working at the pace of an ass.
- Any final message for my readers.
I am a selfish man, I dream and write only for myself. But, you – being the selfless human that you are – pick up my dream and make it your own. Thank you so much for that. Each of my writings is dedicated only to you.
Keep flaunting your smile, even when nobody’s around, you’re beautiful.
I am taking part in Write Tribe Festival of Words #6.