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A Common Man’s Tryst With Words: What It Takes To Be A Budding Writer

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I had always dreamt of bringing stories of common people to the masses – stories that are common, yet uncommon, stories that are real and inspirational, stories about a nobody who is definitely a somebody, stories about amazing people we meet in our regular lives! And I finally got an opportunity to write about my conversation with a passionate human being, who is one amongst us and a celebrity of his own artistic might.

Today, we have with us a very passionate and young writer from Odisha, who believes in pouring his heart into his words. Despite having taken up law and public services for a full-time career, his love for writing has never diminished.

His artistic flair and humility always set him apart. He is a regular working professional, catering to the needs of a regular Indian household – and yet, he functions straight from his heart. Amidst the chaos of this materialistic world, he believes in nurturing his own little world, within this world where he still feels every beat of his heart and expresses it best in the form of words.

Recently, he has launched his debut book, “Promises of a Firefly” and his joy knows no bounds. I feel so privileged to have known this wonderful human being – Anupam Patra.

In conversation with Anupam –

Santwona Patnaik (SP): Tell us something about yourself and your debut book.

Anupam Patra (AP): I was born and raised in Cuttack, Odisha. I briefly worked as a banker and then as a teacher before joining public service. I love arts, movies and music. I am also an admirer of Murakami, Richard Flanagan, Bob Marley, Irrfan Khan, Vishal Bharadwaj and Christopher Nolan.

“Promises of a firefly” is a book of 11 stories, all of which essentially deal with the human nature. These are stories about friendship, love, loss, longing, betrayal, heaven, hell, marriage, life and death.

SP: How does your regular day look like? Describe your daily activities.

AP: My regular day is mostly spent with the written word. If I am not working, I’m either reading or trying to write, that is only if I am not feeling too broken by the absolute lack of inspiration around me.

SP: What was the first catalyst which made you think of writing a book?

AP: The catalyst was someone named Mahua Ray Das. We met in 2015 because of our shared interest in literature. On the first day itself, she elicited a promise from me that I would write seriously. I reluctantly promised since I was not sure if I had it in me (I’m still not). But she contributed way more for this book to see the light of the day, than I ever could ask for.
Most importantly, she never gave up through the time it took me to finish the book, even though I thought of junking the manuscript a couple of times. She would patiently read my drafts and rectify them. She’d tell me where I was going wrong even though her criticism sometimes hurt me and I reacted unfairly. But she knew what she was doing and in the end, the book actually came out.

SP: What inspired you to give the title of your book?

AP: I took it from the theme of one of the stories.

SP: Which one is your personal favourite short story in the book and why?

AP: The last story of the book. It is close to me because of the characters whose story it tells.

SP: How much time did you take to complete the book? Describe the process?

AP: Eighteen months. As for the process, the life of a writer can be terrible despite being purposeful. When he is able to catch the tone of his characters in ink, and everything is flowing out smoothly from his pen, it is the most complete he will ever feel. I don’t know about others, but for me, writing is walking down an unpredictable road where there are equal chances of confronting delight and despair. But you brave that chance because you want to bring to life stories you think deserve to be told.

When you’re penning those mistakes, regrets, hopes and love your characters find on pages, you are creating experience – and you cannot create any of this without letting it touch you. I have always only written in one method – one hand dipped in ink and the other in the paint of life. And for all that it is worth, you evolve in the end. You evolve because at the completion of any struggle, there is some evolution bound to happen.

SP: Describe your feelings when you finally published your first book.

AP: My publisher held my hand, pulled me to the corner of the Oxford Book Store in Delhi, where the first boxes of my books had just arrived for the launch, picked up one copy and said, “Here it is. Hold it”. The feeling was fulfilling. The book was smooth and tiny, and it was blue and white. I just flipped the pages and did what I had done with so many books before – I smelt the scent of its pages long and hard. It was a very nice feeling.

SP: All the stories in your book ride high on emotions. How expressive are you in your life? 

AP: That’s a question to be answered by those who observe me. But I certainly like expressing. I guess that is why I write. I write about emotions because that is the only thing unique to our existence.

SP: Is there a common theme or thread which connects all the short stories in your book?

AP: Yes, of course! It is about life and its trials.

SP: How important is it to have a mentor? Tell us more about your mentor.

AP: For some of the stories, I had the good fortune of being guided by Sashikanta Mishra, my senior in the profession, a brilliant guide and an even greater storyteller.

SP: Who inspires you the most in life and why?

AP: Experiences inspire me like nothing else. Most of the stories in the book are born out of experiences.

SP: You have become an inspiration to many fellow writers. What advice would you like to give to budding writers?

AP: Though it sounds pleasing, I still think I’m far from being an inspiration. But thank you for such kind words.

I’m too inexperienced in the art to give advice. But I’ll say this much – I think every writer needs to find their own unique voice in writing and then say what they want to say through his voice with utmost honesty.

SP: Any inputs on your next book?

AP: I’ll be able to say something about it when things are ripe.

SP: And finally, is there a message for your readers across the world?

AP: Learn to co-exist and respect differences. It is an art, actually. So practise it. It is the only art that will ensure the continuation of humanity. Also, if it isn’t too much to ask, go buy the book at the following links:
i. https://www.amazon.in/Promises-firefly-Anupam-Patra/dp/9386305631
ii. https://www.flipkart.com/promises-firefly/p/itmeusu3jqnbymfa
And show me the mirror of your views by leaving them on these websites and on Goodreads, or drop them in my inbox at anupampatra2017@gmail.com. I’ll be waiting!

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