Vishwesh Desai was born and is being raised in Ahmedabad, India. He is a hardcore Gujju who shares the infamous Gujarati sweet tooth. A 15-year-old with a fierce passion for reading and writing, the publication of his short stories in the Estrade magazine and the 2015 edition of the ‘I CAN’ book preceded the completion of his first novel, which also just happens to be the fourth one he started. Vishwesh has been awarded with the ‘Rana Kapoor Young Talent Award 2016’ by Kumaon Literary Festival, Yes Bank and Yes Institute. He has spoken at several literature festivals all over the country. His creative streak extends to painting and sketching, and he has a few art exhibitions under his belt.
This is a story that I, myself, have heard many times. From the time when I was in her womb, my mom used to read picture books and stories out to me. Even when I was a tiny little one-and-a-half-month-old, and despite the looks she got from her brothers, my mom would always read me a story a day. Of course, at the time I couldn’t do much except giggle at the pictures and mumble gibberish, but the habit, the idea, of reading stuck with me. Eventually, I grew into reading on my own, but reading and listening to stories from the very beginning has played an imperative part in who I am now.
There are two fairly intriguing anecdotes regarding my journey of writing.
The first has to do with the inspiration for the plot device that is the focus of much of the book. Revealing the explicit details would be far too much of a spoiler, but suffice it to say that the seed for my novel, and the origin of what the plot revolves around, came from my very first monthly English test in 8th Grade.
The second is about a blunder. Like most authors who are steeped in spontaneity, I suffered from Writer’s Block as well, and near the end of the third or fourth chapter, there was this particular scene that was giving me a lot of trouble, and I was stuck on it for a week or so. Finally, I decided to just forget about it for the moment and come back to it later. Of course, I handily managed the “forget about it” part, but never quite got around to coming back to it. So I finished writing the entire novel, forty one chapters plus the prologue and epilogue, and even submitted the completed (or so I thought) first draft to my editor, and then she got back to me saying that were a few loose ends here and there. As you can imagine, one of those “loose ends” in question was the pesky – and conveniently forgotten – scene that ended up being five thousand words long.
Both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are very close to my heart. I grew up watching this animated rendition of the Ramayana and running madly around the house, screeching “Jai shri Ram! Jai shri Ram!” at the top of my lungs. Later on, I became a huge fan of Ashok Banker’s Ramayana series. The Mahabharata, on the other hand, I was familiarized with when I was a tad more mature (just a tad). I used to watch all the many different Mahabharatas that came on TV, bewitched by Shakuni mama’s dastardly cunning, by Karna’s valour and overcoming of adversity, by the Pandavas’ abnegation, by Yudhistir’s adherence to honor, and by Krishna’s imparting of wisdom to Arjuna in the face of mortal combat. I’m very interested in the mythologies of other cultures as well. The Nordic gods (which kid doesn’t love Thor?), the Greek gods (Percy Jackson), the Roman Pantheon and the fascinating Egyptian gods are some of my favorites.
I think Mythology inspires (or discourages) certain actions in real life in much the same manner as stories of any other form. The wisdom born from the vicarious experience that stories beget can lead one to refrain from making certain mistakes they would have made otherwise. On the other hand, listening to enrapturing ballads of glory and valour or just any tale of success, for that matter, can spur people on to achieving their dreams.
There have been a lot of highlights at all the lit fests I’ve gone to, mainly because I’d get to meet so many different people, including members of the literary gentry such as Amish Tripathi and Ashwin Sanghi. At the Kumaon Literary Festival, I met an author called Yossi Ghinsberg, whose personal account of his experiences while lost in uncharted areas of the Bolivian Amazon for three weeks in 1981 is being adapted into a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe. I was blown away by his kindness, his gentleness, and his humility. It’s understandable for a first-time author like me to be excited to get a signed copy of the book of someone as incredible as him, but what I found most inspiring about him was that he was equally excited to get a signed copy of my book.
At the Gujarat Literature Festival, I met Ashwin Sanghi and presented him with a copy of my book, and I was absolutely thrilled when he held it up at the end of his session and recommended it to the audience.
I think an author’s first and foremost responsibility to his or her readers is to create a piece of work that not only entertains, but also stimulates and provokes thought and contemplation. Books, in my opinion, are one of the best ways to widen one’s mental horizons and it is the author’s responsibility to facilitate such a change. Also, I think an author must always keep striving to be better, in every aspect – from his writing and diction to his story, and leave the reader with something, anything, to think about when the book is over.
One of the other things that stayed with me the most is that, after my book launch at the Kumaon Lit Fest, one of the people who attended the session came up to me and told me that he had always been discouraging his bibliophile daughter from reading and writing, which he considered a waste of time, but he said that after meeting me, he was going to buy her whatever books she wanted and allow her to write as much as she wanted. The fact that I was able to, in whatever way, cause a change like that moved me and has stood with me to this day.