Myth to Reality of being an Author

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I began writing when I translated Ranjit Desai’s short stories (they never got published, though!) Ranjit Desai is one of the most prolific Marathi writers and I was keen that my children get to read his translated stories, as they can’t read in Marathi. The very first act of translation was with a purpose- that of getting Marathi gems to people around me. When I realized that I could translate well, based on feedback received, and that there are many gems in Marathi which have not been translated, I got into it with a vengeance; since 2014, when I first published Ranjit Desai’s Raja Ravi Varma, I have translated over a dozen Marathi novels, most of the historical fiction. I was lucky that at the very beginning I got a carte blanche from Harper Perennial to translate any book in Marathi which I liked. It was amazing as the struggle of finding a reputed publisher was something I didn’t have to go through. The first editor in Harper was referred to me by a friend and we somehow hit off. She and I have done over 8 books so far. I did use an agent for one of my books and he too has become a good friend.

Translating led me to write my own book, as a kind of logical extension.

I had done Shivaji The Great Maratha (Shreemanyogi by Ranjit Desai), Sambhaji (Vishwas Patil) and Shahenshah, The Story of Aurangzeb (N.S. Inamdar). Seeing my work in historical fiction, Chiki Sarkar of Juggernaut called me to do a History of the Marathas with focus on the Scindias. (My co-author is Jyotiraditya Scindia and the book will be released in 2021). My translation of Girish Kuber’s Tatayan, released by Amazon as The Tatas - How a Family Built a Business and a Nation got the Gaja Capital best Business book of the year 2019 award, made me think of my own business books. I chatted with my editor in Amazon (the one with whom I have done over 8 translations) and we discovered a fantastic theme- State Bank of India has a museum in Kolkata which houses its archives and history since 1806, when the Bank of Calcutta was formed. I took the cue and now I am writing the History of the State Bank of India, tentatively titled From Princes to Peasants, 200 years of SBI’s History. I am discussing a few other business books. The translations and the recognition there gave me the credibility to write my own books. Quite surprisingly, again my good fortune, I have not sent a single complete manuscript for any of my translations or my books. I have only sent a synopsis and a sample chapter which has been accepted. I am told it is not a normal practise- so I am just plain lucky I suppose.

My agent has been of great help when I had an idea of a travelogue cum stories of Ramayan. I realized the journey of Ram’s vanvaas is not documented as a travelogue. My agent had done Haroon Khalid’s Walking with Nanak and it gave me an idea to do In Footsteps of Ram, where I travel from Ayodhya to Sri Lanka, covering all the main places and write about the place as well as discovering unknown and lesser-known stories of Ram. It will be published by HarperCollins in 2021.

The whole journey began as a translation of short stories, discovering a passion combined with a purpose and now has transformed itself into a full-time activity, writing my own books while I continue to translate. I have been fortunate that many publishers have called me to translate saying they like my work and that they had tried with others and did not like their style. A case in point is a biography of Vijay aka Goldie Anand which is being published by Manjul Prakashan. The writing assignments which I have to keep my occupied for more than 5 hours a day. Does it pay? It is no substitute for what a job pays, especially an IIM graduate with more than 25 years of experience. I do it as I am not concerned with making money. But there are many paths I see which can be financially rewarding. For example, I could- and I have tried a bit- if I could get a chance to convert any book of mine into a web series. That could be financially rewarding. I have worked with Storytel, the audiobook company, translating Marathi stories and also writing original works for them. That too is quite rewarding. For example, as I am writing the History of the Marathas, I am using the same material to write for Storytel, although in a different style. An award can be financially rewarding too.

The Gaja Capital award won me ₹ 15 lacs which I shared with the Marathi author.

But I am not doing it for money. I did not start to write for money. I write because I genuinely believe I want Marathi literature to reach the global Indian audience.

And when I write my own, I want my story to reach many around the world.

I have not dabbled into fiction though there are many stories in my mind. I am lucky that I can reach out to editors directly. I have an agent who has high regards for my work hence it makes it easy. I know these are things budding authors struggle with. I suppose it has happened- the kind of relationship I have- both because of the quality of my work and the kind of commitment they saw in me.

I surely believe the IIM tag helps to position oneself as someone with a good resume. Especially when I am writing State Bank of India (SBI) book and a few other business books which are in discussion- the IIM tag helps.

I am discussing a business book with another Amazon editor and one with my batch-mate who is now a professor at Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad.

For me, happiness is surely seeing the end product out in the market but the real enjoyment is the sheer act of writing 4 to 5 hours a day. The work is a drudgery for most- but I enjoy. And that is important if one wants to be a writer. It is a boring job but I find happiness in it. A lot of us aspire to be a writer. I too wanted to be one in childhood. Then IIM happened and for 25 years I was working for money. When I felt I was financially fine, nowhere near my classmates but enough to live well, I decided to pursue writing full time.

But one can work and write. One need not quit the job to write.

I did that as I just like my freedom. But I know many authors who do more than one job and yet write extremely well and are far more successful than many others. So it’s a personal choice.

I hope my story helps the budding and aspiring author in some way. Start by writing- each day; be it one line or a page.

Vikrant Pande has till date published 10 translations from Marathi into English. His recent translation, Duryodhan (Kaka Vidhate) was released by Amazon Eka. Sambhaji (Amazon Eka) and a biography of Goldie Anand (ManjulPrakashan) is to be released soon. Vikrant is a graduate of IIM Bangalore and now a full-time writer and translator. He is a regular speaker at various Lif Fests and has spoken at JLF, Vidharbha Lit Fest, Bangalore Biz Lit Fest, Gujarat Lit Fest at Ahmedabad and Vadodara.  Vikrant wrote many articles for the Swarajya magazine. He is on the advisory board of Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan, Ahmedabad. 

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author.

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