This article may seem different from our regular ones which directly focus on entrepreneurship at first. However, Inc42 is not restricted to the stringent definitions of this word. The idea of entrepreneurship encapsulates almost everything that makes us think, conceptualise, market and execute our plans, not necessarily in that order. Writing is something which incorporates all of these, entrepreneurs who write hence gain a lot of our respect. Hope you like to read about one such entrepreneur.
Inc42 had the opportunity of interacting with the author of “Ordered Cheese Delivered Chalk- My Kota Safari”, Shobhit Agarwal.
Born in Jaipur, Shobhit was brought up in Siliguri (West Bengal). He did his HSC from Kota and currently is in his final year of engineering at PESIT, Bangalore.
A headstrong individual, he loves discussing the issues that plague the current generation at the very first opportunity.
He chanced upon writing but has pursued it ever since he realised the true power of the pen. Incidentally, boredom during his college lectures, made him to start scribbling his thoughts in a notebook. It wasn’t long before he realised that quite a bit of what he had scribbled made sense. Slowly this new found passion took shape and by the end of his second year he had more books on his shelf containing his own writings than engineering text books. That gradually culminated into him writing a book and then subsequently starting his own blog – shobhitagarwal.wordpress.com
Besides writing, he likes giving back to the society and taking up social causes, having conceived and co-founded a social group ‘The iCare Group’.He is a sports freak; he plays and follows most of the sports .
Here are excerpts from the interview:
Inc42: Who is/are your favourite author(s)?
Shobhit: I like to read books that are hard on the mind and force you to ponder over them long after you have finished reading them. As a result, some of my favourite authors are Ayn Rand, John Grisham, Michael Crichton and Leo Tolstoy. Among the Indian writers, I really liked reading the first two parts of Amish Tripathi’s Shiva Trilogy. The way he portrayed Lord Shiva was fascinating.
Inc42: Favourite movie?
Shobhit: I believe that while expressing yourself through any form of art, the most difficult thing to do is to blend a social message yet be able to keep your work entertaining and intriguing for the audience. And so, I don’t have any one particular favourite movie but a whole bunch of them which have been successful in finding the right balance. Hence my favourites are Anand, Udaan, Cindrella Man, Life of Pi, Black, Munnabhai Series, Taare Zameen par, OMG Oh My God, Miracle, Rang De Basanti, 3 Idiots, Swades.
Inc42: What do you generally do when you are not writing?
Shobhit: I hate sitting idle, so I keep myself involved in any which way possible. I keep myself keenly involved in the activities of my social group. Besides I am into sports so if I am not playing one, I usually catch up anything that is being broadcast live. And I love watching television debates on socio-political issues.
Shobhit: The working title of the book was actually ‘In transition- From Boyhood to Adulthood.’ But somehow, while the book was in the process of being printed, my publisher advised me to think of a more catchy title. Since the book is essentially about the unexpected series of events that occur in the protagonist’s life, who goes to Kota expecting a certain kind of lifestyle but ends up getting embroiled in completely unexpected situations one after another, I found the phrase ‘as different as chalk and cheese’ very apt for the book and so rephrased it to ‘Ordered Cheese Delivered Chalk’
Inc42: What are the major challenges that you have faced so far in writing your book “Ordered Cheese, Delivered Chalk”?
Shobhit: The biggest challenge I faced while writing OCDC was to maintain a fine line while detailing the city of Kota. If I were to overdo it, than the readers outside Kota wouldn’t be able to form a connect with the book and the story and if I were to underdo it, then the readers from Kota would think of the book as a half-baked turkey. So to find that balance was very challenging.
Inc42: How many hours a day do you usually write?
Shobhit: I haven’t attached any time frame for writing. I am a very impulsive writer, so only when I feel like writing, I do it. So you might see me going days at stretch without writing a new word or find me in the midst of a writing marathon. Moreover, writing is my stress-buster. The moment I will attach time-limit to it, I fear it will become another stress-booster.
Inc42: While writing do you prefer to put pen on paper or type on your laptop/PC.Do you think modern technology has made life easier for writers?
Shobhit: I used to be a traditionalist as far as the mode of writing was concerned, and so favoured the pen on paper exercise until recently. But now, I have switched on to typing directly on my laptop as that seems to save a bit of my time.
To a certain extent, yes, the use of technology has made life easier for writers. Information is available just a mouse-click away. So that way, you don’t require to run fanatically from one place to another while doing your research. But at the end of the day, whether it is pen and paper or laptop, you still have to think about the content yourself and there is only so much technology can do to aid you.
Inc42: Do you have a mentor? What role has he/she played in your success?
Shobhit:I don’t really have a mentor per se. But I do look up to a few people as my source of inspiration. Right at the top of the list is my elder brother Samarth, whom I respect the most in the world. He is closely followed by my mother. These two have been instrumental in making me what I am today and I owe everything to them. Besides them, one other person who has inspired me a lot through his works is Mr P. Sainath. He is the Rural Affairs Editor at The Hindu and is one of India’s most well respected journalist. You just have to listen to his talk for 10 minutes and you will be totally captivated by his ideas and his arguments.
Inc42: What’s the best thing about being an author?
Shobhit: The best thing about being an author is that once you get published, people start listening to all that you have to say with a lot more sincerity and seriousness. Your opinion all of a sudden begins to matter.
Inc42: What is the hardest part of being an author? How do you deal with it?
Shobhit: The hardest part about being one is that your work is completely open to public scrutiny. Years of hard-work and effort will be classified as ‘worthwhile’ or ‘waste of time’ in a matter of 3-4 hours.
There is a very simple way of getting over it though. And that is to be clear in your mind as to the reasons why you want to write. I write for myself. That way, compliments or criticism fail to bother me.
Inc42: What has been the best compliment you have got so far from a critic or reader?
Shobhit: Things have panned out pretty well and I have received only positive feedback from the readers, especially the ones who have stayed in Kota, who tell me that the book helped them relive their Kota days.
There was this particular message that I received from a reader who said that he is currently studying in Kota and was suffering from depression, due to academic pressure and plummeting grades. Somehow, he managed to read OCDC during this period and the story helped him come out of his slump, and again begin his pursuit of getting into IIT, but this time focusing more on the journey without worrying too much about the results.
My book being able to make that kind of an impact, gives me a lot of satisfaction.
Inc42: Are you working on your next book? What is it about?
Shobhit: Yes, I have begun work on my next book. In it, I am trying to address the problem of student suicide in our country due to academic pressure. In a country which has the dubious record of the most number of suicides in the world between the age group 14-22, I believe it is time that we highlight the issue through our artwork.
Inc42: Student suicide’ sounds a very sensitive topic. Given that your first book was a love story in its essence; wouldn’t it have been easier to write another one or even a sequel to the first one maybe?
Shobhit: The thing is I am not your archetypal ‘candyfloss writer’. By ‘candyfloss writer’ I mean the typical ‘boy meets girl, falls in love, few minor hassles but in the end, all of them live happily ever after’ kind of writer. Through my writing, I like to address issues that have direct impact on the youth of this country and which I feel need to reach a wider audience. And student suicide is something that we hear about every alternate day and yet have come to accept it as a daily part of our lives, which is wrong.
Inc42: Have you set any timeframe as to when you want it to be out in the market?
Shobhit: Like I said, I do not attach timeframes to writing and I am happy keeping it that way.
Inc42: Finally, any words of advice to aspiring writers?
Shobhit: Be clear in your head as to the reasons why you want to take up writing. If the sole purpose is to get published and show the world how good your language or story-telling skills are, then after sometime, you will saturate and any form of criticism, even a minor remark, will affect your psyche.
Write because you want to, write because you love to. That way, even when there is no one to read your writings – to compliment or criticize it, it still wont stop you from picking up that pen and piece of paper in front of you and let your imagination run wild in any which way you want.
You can follow Shobhit on his twitter handle @sho_ag
Like his Facebook page for regular updates and witty articles: https://www.facebook.com/OrderedCheeseDeliveredChalk
Do checkout Shobhit’s novel “Ordered Cheese Delivered Chalk”.