An Interview With Ravi Sharma And Kartik Sharma
The popular book recommendation website Goodreads has this to say about him,”Published at the age of 23 by Rupa Publications in September 2011, he continues to write fiction stories and philosophical musings on his blog: http://interlocutor-kasper.blogspot.in/
He quit his investment banking career in 2012 to devote more time to writing. He is currently working on his second novel which he promises to be “fueled with philosophy and at the same time encapsulated in science fiction.”
A graduate of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi and Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad, Kartik Sharma is passionate about books. Be it reading or writing, he found his one true passion in the written word.
Ravi Sharma in his own words: “I am an Associate Creative Director (Copy & Concepts) with a reputed agency. I believe each one of us is born with a unique talent, which if actuated contributes to evolution. Life has to be more than a mere journey from birth to death. Not once, but many times, people and circumstances remind us of the inner calling we ignore. Listening to these voices can enrich our life and those of others in touch with us.”
BOTH OF THEM TALKED WITH US REGARDING THEIR NOVEL ‘THE QUEST OF THE SPARROWS’ AND ALSO ABOUT THEIR HOBBIES AND INTERESTS.
TM: What was the inspiration behind writing your novel ‘The Quest of the Sparrows ‘? Whose contribution between both of you has been the utmost and maximum?
Ravi: I had started this novel as a sort of a journal. There was a phase in my life when I was disillusioned with the material world after having tried and tested several passions and ideas. There was a nagging feeling that nothing that I did amounted to anything. My friends and relatives were busy creating a “future” for themselves and their children. An idea I was never able to completely agree with in true spirit.
I was meditating frequently in those days and looking for answers. I read a lot of scriptures – Gita, Quran and Bible. I attended a lot of sermons and lectures from a variety of gurus. I wrote my learnings from these in the form of a journal. I had started understanding what peace and joy means to me. I had started living. Not merely surviving.
I believe that there were lot things that were passed down from one generation to another but these were hardly ever internalized. In the quest of my answers I realized that while I knew things superficially all my life, it was only when I had seeking that I internalized them.
When Kartik reached a similar stage in his life and started raising very similar questions, I was surprised at this young boy’s seeking. I shared my journal with him.
Kartik: I very sick when I was 13. The doctor’s, after doing several of their tests, found nothing particularly wrong with me. They said that I had lost my desire to live. That was their only explanation. At that age, I could hardly comprehend what that even meant. That’s when my dad introduced me to meditation. It not only helped me recover, but gave me a life perspective that has stuck with me. My quest for answer to the question – ‘what is the desire to live?’ lead me to other related questions about why we are here and what is our purpose.
I believe there has to be a reason for the intelligence and conscious thought that man is blessed with. I was a believer in the fact there was a higher purpose to life than merely surviving from day to day. True pursuit of knowledge gave me joy. This is what landed me among the brightest brains at IIT and IIM.
Over there I found that we were burdened with the aspirations of securing a good future through ‘Day 0’ jobs. I pursued that path because I bought into that idea at the time. I worked hard and the quest for true knowledge was replaced by one of making money. But a few years down that line realized that my joy of living and the peace that I had so cherished was going away. I was becoming more like a machine and I was aspiring for a life of survival. That’s when I discussed my questions with my dad and we decided that we should write about it.
His journal served as a classic starting point for that. However, we wanted the reader to understand the questions first and did not want to be preachy or write a self-help book. So we used fiction as a tool.
The book was started by dad. I came in to give it the mold of fiction. We enriched it with the challenges we both had faced and constantly edited each other’s’ work. It is true collaboration and take any one of us out of the equation and the book won’t be what it is.
TM: Tell us briefly about your novel. Is this a complete fiction? (Please tell us from both of your own perspectives)
Kartik: The Quest of the Sparrows is a call to everyone that joy is something that lies within us. Our goals serve one purpose of personal growth. We have to evolve constantly. But it is also important to be anchored. Without that the pursuit of goals and ambition can consume us. The journey of life can become dry and joyless. A blind pursuit of materialism is not anchored. We need to invest time and energy in discovering the real joy and peace within us. Irrespective of our socio-economic position in this society, we all have joy within us. We just need to tap into that. It is this joy that makes the journey of life worth living. It helps us appreciate it better. And a peaceful and joyous person, in tune with his higher self and with his pursuits of true knowledge and true passions can accomplish much more than one who is just running the rat race.
Ravi: Our societal system has built a hierarchy of rewards for all those who align with it.Sometimes this hierarchy demands a compromise in their value systems.Increasingly I have seen people accept that as a norm. Money, gold, land, power and fame are believed to be synonymous with joy. It’s very late by the time we realize that the pursuit of these things beyond what we need only serves to take us away from the joy.
What’s perhaps even more troubling is that people think spirituality is a weakness. I know of many parents who get scared when their children show interest in spirituality because they feel they will be handicapped if they don’t learn the ways of the material world. Somehow it has become a bad word – a word that has come to be frowned upon by our peers and colleagues. The Quest of the Sparrows is a strong message to the reader that spirituality is not a handicap. It is the best source of strength for anyone. It is not just an ideal concept but the only thing that can give real joy.
TM: Did you ever get any rejections for your novel? If yes how did you react to them?
Yes. There were some rejections. And we would be lying if we said that they didn’t affect us. When you invest so much of yourself in anything you get attached to the result. There was, however, strong hope in our hearts. We were never dejected and kept trying. We were very fortunate that the message of the book and our writing resonated with the editorial team at Rupa and are sincerely thankful to them for giving us the best platform an author can hope for.
Since we have both written a lot of short stories that have been rejected and published, we were aware that it is hard to find publishers and that is a struggle of its own. However, it is a beautiful struggle and we enjoyed every bit of it.
TM: How did you both come up with the title?
Reply: Actually the initial title was different. But Amrita, our editor at Rupa, remarked that having the word Sparrow in the title would do full justice to the theme of the book since it draws a parallel from the carefree life of a sparrow. We liked the idea and there was a lot of to and fro of ideas. We finally zeroed in on ‘The Quest of the Sparrows’ as a team.
TM: How do you both usually find your ideas? Tell us separately. Your own path of researching regarding the ideas for novel.
Kartik: I believe we all have many brilliant ideas in our heads. The only challenge is connecting with that idea. When I travel and trek I revel in the silence around me. It helps me get in touch with my inner most thoughts and feelings. We have all led rich lives and experienced so many things and emotions. There is always an idea for a novel around. I feel like I just need to be open and let those ideas in. Personal events are obviously the most powerful because they help me capture and bring out the entirety of the emotions I feel. But yes, there is a lot of research that goes into a novel for it to be authentic.
Ravi: If something is interesting, then it transforms into a material which my imagination starts working on. Alot of things intrigue me. Earlier in my writing career it was always some amazing discovery in science that leapfrogged the field that triggered my imagination. Sometimes it was personal incidents that inspired stories. Earlier I used to spend days together at a libraries looking for more information and researching my ideas. It is amazing how all that has been simplified with internet!
TM: What are the major challenges that you and your father have faced in writing this book?
Reply: The book deals with a very serious topic that is close to both our hearts. However, it was challenging to write the book in way that it reaches out to a wider audience. To understand the perspective where people come from took a lot of effort and talking to a lot of our friends. That’s why you see the book comes in from 3 perspectives – a man who is a seeker, a disbeliever and the guru himself. If we had written the book only from the point view of the guru, it would not have been interesting. Getting in all those perspectives was important to engage the readers.
The other challenge was working with each other. Although we share a very unique relationship where we are friends before father and son, it was quite challenging. We had so many disagreements which would develop quickly into a heated argument. I remember all of them – I was in Ahmedabad and dad was in Delhi and we used to fight into the night. Way beyond the sane hours, much to the trouble of mom!
TM: How has been the response and does it fulfil your expectations as a writer?
Reply: We have been fortunate in the department of love from our readers. The response has been tremendous! People have contacted us to tell how much they loved us. Friends of friends told us stories in which someone we did not know, recommended them the book as a ‘must read’ and only when they read about us did they realize we were known to them! There are people waiting for our second book. Whoever has read the novel has enjoyed it thoroughly and recommended it to them. At Goodreads we have glowing reviews about the novel. The novel continues to sell regularly in USA, UK and Canada and a cheaper Kindle version too has come out. A reviewer in UK liked the book immensely and her review appears in Amazon UK. A professor at IIM Ahmedabad liked the book so much that he added it to the curriculum at IIM Ahmedabad! The response has been much greater than we had anticipated. People connected with the book and fond it uplifting in so many different ways that it leaves us perplexed sometimes. We thank all our readers for their continued love and support!
TM: Do you see writing as a career?
Kartik: I love my work and would continue to write as a hobby. But yes, if the ripple I am creating becomes a storm, then we will see when it comes! I am already working on the second novel which is a heady mix of spirituality and science fiction. Keeping my fingers crossed!
TM: Is there any message in your novel that you want your readers to grasp?
Reply: I just want to convey: Happiness is fleeting and Joy is everlasting. Moreover, Joy is in the now. You can be as joyousas you can ever be, right now. We tend toburden ourselveswith complex tasksin pursuit of superficial things without realizing or being consciously aware of it. We forgot how to enjoy. Remember playing with a makeshift bat in the heat and dust of your summer vacations? Remember licking a 5 Rs ice ice cream after that? Remember the hug with friends even after the most terrible fight? That is what joy is all about. Not a million dollar pent house in future, the Merc(or is it Audi?) you will buy next year, the google nexus tab you will be buying next month. They are just incidental supports for you to complete your journey.They are not the destination.
TM: What are your hobbies besides writing? Your other interests and passions.
Reply: We both love reading and watching movies. I also love to trek and I run to the mountains every time I can take a few days off of work.
TM: Any particular genre you two would like to write about more?
Kartik – I don’t think any of our writing can be complete without an overarching philosophy. We are constantly evolving our philosophy and an element of that is bound to creep into anything we write. I am very interested in the scope science fiction offers me as a writer and that’s what I am working on right now.
Ravi – I am writing a Comedy right now, just as an experiment! I will come back to science fiction eventually since that is my true calling as well.
TM: Any new book you duos are preparing to launch or writing for your fans?
Reply: Yes we are working on two of them simultaneously, so that we can jump from one to another when we face the inglorious writers’ block. The sci-fi novel takes spirituality to a whole new level of understanding and is full of interesting situations. The Comedy is about a venture capitalist from IIM A who gets unbelievably lucky with his first stint.
TM: Do you both have to travel much concerning your book? If yes, how was the travel from place to place?
Reply: We travel a lot, but not specifically for writing or promoting our book. Though we would love it if we can ever do that! It will certainly enrich the canvas of our novels.
TM: Who designed the covers and helped you in publishing the book?
Reply: Rachita designed the cover of our book. She was hired by Rupa and I must say it was an excellent job!
TM: Which is your and your son’s favourite book and favourite author of all times?
Ravi: My favourite author is Somerset Maugham. I cannot say I like one book so here are the books close to my heart: Razor’s Edge, Celestine Prophecy, The Alchemist, Illusions, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Little Prince. They have remained in my memories.
Kartik: I really like the writings of Somerset Maugham (dad totally stole that one!), Salman Rushdie, Mohsin Hamid, Kazuo Ishiguro, Kurt Vonnegut… The list is very long! There are many really talented writers and I wish I could read them all! Favorite book – I would have to say Razor’s Edge. It’s the one book that has moved me the most.
TM: Any message you want to deliver to your fans and modern Indian writing trend?
Reply: We wish to thank everyone for connecting with our book. We also thank people who reached out to say what a good book it was. Some have written blogs and reviews in order to make more people aware of it – Special thanks to Somyabrata Gupta, Shikha, Jayanthi Rao, Nivedita, SaakshiNagpal for going out of the way to help and to think we did not even know you at that time.
As for authors, we would like to say that these are the most exciting times. Indian writing has come of age. We are crazily experimental and you have all sorts of platforms to express your writing – ebooks, books, self-publishing, blogs what not. So if you have been postponing your book, capitalize on the momentum before it reaches saturation. Right now, you need a good idea to take off. So get into the writing mood and back it up with some discipline!
TM: Partibhan, the protagonist takes a leap of faith to set off on a testing journey. What actually his journey is about. Tell us briefly.
Reply: Partibhanis a reluctant Guru who becomes one just to solve his financial crisis. He has a very sarcastic view on spirituality. But several situations force him to reassess his perspective on spirituality. And once it happens he begins to wonder if all the fabulous values that spirituality preaches can ever be put to practice. He sees a gap between learning and doing and this is something he wishes to erase. And so he takes up a walk without money and belongings to test spiritual principles to the extreme with the idea that if he and his disciples can complete their 800 km journey then survival on which all humans lay so much of emphasis cannot be the all consuming agenda of our lives. We have to do the higher things we can do with our gifts – unique talents that only we have but which we forget due to our worries and anxiety about the future.
The book is seen from the perspectives of one desiring to change; a complete cynic; a non-believer; and a ruthless assassin with a flawed reasoning and no morals except money – the various windows which we as individuals see spirituality through different stages of our life. They are not four different people but the different ways we view spirituality. All the views answer all the questions we have when we view spirituality from that particular perspective.
It shows what impossible things we can achieve if we are connected to our higher selves.
TM: Your book showed how spirituality can be implemented in practical life. Tell us what spirituality actually stands for.
Reply: Spirituality is merely a holistic way of looking at everything. It is a higher awareness that takes into account not short term gains but long term benefits. It is all about balance because anything that goes out of balance creates devastation. Too little of money and too much of money both are out of balance. If you are in either of the states it is because you are into things not healthy for your soul. The same applies to everything. Each one of us is here on the planet to give only what we alone can give because we have unique abilities. By being spiritual, we are able to express these abilities instead of becoming clones or zoombies who walk the beaten path because it gives excesses of one kind – fame, wealth, power etc. at the expense of our well being. A spiritual person sees the trap in these things and stays away. He can see the flaws of such a living and manages to enjoy a richer and happier life.
TM: Your thoughts on being featured in the Winter Fall issue of our magazine Thousand Miles.
Reply: Authors need a platform to be heard and noticed and we want to really thank you for featuring us in your issue from the bottom of our hearts. Thousand Miles is a fantastic platform!It is an extremely vibrant and creative space that addresses contemporary youth – a group our book targets as well. Your e-magazine is all about celebrating life and living it to the fullest – a place we are very glad to be because we share that belief.