Rajiv Bakshi is a retired banker and indie author of his debut book of short stories, Journey from Guwahati to Machhiwara, published in March, 2015. Passionate about writing since he was 8 years old, Bakshi loses no opportunity to promote his book in schools, libraries, and on social media platforms. His hobbies include reading about sun signs and photography and touring countries and religious places.
GAT: Welcome to Global Asian Times, Rajiv. Tell us something about yourself not many people are aware of.
Rajiv Bakshi: I am Rajiv Bakshi, Indie author of Journey from Guwahati to Machhiwara, a book of short stories published by Notion Press Chennai in March 2015. My Book comprises 20 short stories dealing with a variety of emotions like tragedy, comedy, wit and humour. I am a retired banker. I published my first book at age 63 when most people think of retiring. In fact, it is the start of my second innings. I have been writing since the age of 8 when Sleep was published in my school magazine. I was inspired to publish my book on the day I retired from the bank, February 29, 2012. My wife, Mrinalini, who is a teacher in a reputed school in Ludhiana, my son Tarun, and my daughter-in-law Chhavi, both software professionals in USA were instrumental in publishing this venture.
GAT: What sparked off the idea for your debut book, Journey from Guwahati to Machhiwara?
Rajiv Bakshi: This is my first book, and I hope it’s not the last. The day I retired from the bank I worked at, Punjab and Sind, my boss casually asked me in front of a gathering of 100 plus people, what I intended to do after I retired. My answer was spontaneous. I said: I am going to write a book of short stories: Journey from Guwahati to Machhiwara. Guwahati was the first branch I joined in my professional career as a banker when I was 24. Machhiwara, a historical town in Ludhiana district of Punjab, India, was the place I retired at 60. I am proudly associated with this branch as I was the first Branch Manager of this Bank.
GAT: How important is the commercial side of writing and promoting your book as opposed to the sheer joy of the creative art of expression?
Rajiv Bakshi: According to me, both creativity and promoting of the book goes hand in hand. I cannot think of the idea of having written my book and no one reading it. I think it is no use if no one buys your book. I always encourage people to buy my book as it is reasonably priced at Rupees 200 in India and 9.99 USD in USA & Canada. I am promoting my book through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, on my Books page, and through Book Clubs where I usually go. I also visit schools, colleges, and libraries, and I think I am successful in selling a few copies to more than 70 percent of institutions I visit.
GAT: Does the journey of seeing an idea develop and flourish into a full-fledged book teach you something about yourself or make you a better person in any way?
Rajiv Bakshi: My idea was to write book of short stories, hence I wrote about 40 short stories. These were sent to my son and daughter-in-law in USA. They pruned the best 20 stories, and this is how the book came into form. After my book was published in March 2015, I think I have become more mature and friendlier. My friends and readers list has increased. I have become a more voracious reader and writer. I could never think that my article will be published in other magazines and newspapers of repute. Now I find that my stories have been published in Women’s Era magazine and as Middle in The Tribune.
GAT: If an aspiring writer asks you for just one golden advice of wisdom, what would it be?
Rajiv Bakshi: I think I will quote the famous quote; “Try, try until you succeed.” Without hard work no one can succeed. If one is clear about one’s aim, no one can stop him or her from the fulfilment of that aim.
GAT: If one of your books was to be adapted as a Bollywood/Hollywood film, which would it be and why?
Rajiv Bakshi: Since I have published only one book that has 20 short stories,I am very hopeful that two or three of my stories can be adapted for a Bollywood or Hollywood film. I think, The Indian Love Story can qualify for it. It’s a tale of love between people across nations. It’s also a story of family bonding, love and importance of staying together as one unit. The poem written in the end by Doris children was heartwarming. Another story, The Samjhauta Express, can also be adapted as a movie. It talks about love between siblings who were separated by two countries, India and Pakistan. The love and the feelings expressed made this an emotional read and show how things are destined. Life throws up situations and we never know what will come next in our life. This is the message in this highly emotional story.
GAT: If you were marooned on an island with just one book, which would it be and why?
Rajiv Bakshi: There is no doubt that I will prefer my own book, Journey from Guwahati to Machhiwara since it is my favourite book. I must have read and re-read each story hundreds of times. I always feel different emotions when I read the stories in it. The book is written in a very simple and lucid way and people from ages 10 to 90 can identify with some of the characters which are taken from daily life.
GAT: What role does your native city play in shaping your writings?
Rajiv Bakshi: My native city is Ludhiana in Punjab, India. I think I have put this city in many stories, but the names have been camouflaged. Many of the characters I have used are my brother, sister, wife and friends belonging or living in my native city. Most of the people who know me very well know about the characters which I have used in the book.
GAT: Did you have a support group like family, friends or colleagues who believed in your passion for writing?
Rajiv Bakshi: My friends and family members knew I had a passion for writing. During my banking days, all the stories I wrote for my bank magazine were invariably published and I used to get around Rupees 1000 for each of my published story. This money was spent by all my members on a party or getting some small presents. My family encouraged me to write instead of whiling away time on the internet and Facebook.
GAT: How much of your book is autobiographical where characters reflect your personal experiences?
Rajiv Bakshi: All my stories are personal, and in many stories, I am present, not as a lead character, but as a side character. However, in some of the stories, I am the lead character with a different name.
GAT: Aside from writing, what are your other passions?
Rajiv Bakshi: My other passions in life are studying sun signs, photography, reading blogs of different people from other countries, making friends, selling books, visiting different cities, countries, visiting temples, Gurudwaras and religious places. I love to visit Shirdi Sai Baba Temple with my family.
Excerpt from the short story, The Good Samaritan:
Anubhav was working in Agriculture University of Ludhiana as a Stenographer. Besides working in this prestigious university he was also supplying milk on his scooter for the last thirty years to his customers. This had been his family business and he was not ashamed to do this work. Be it Sarabha Nagar in Ludhiana or Raj Guru Nagar he was ready to oblige his customers even in the biting cold in the month of December or in the sultry weather of June. At exact 7 am he was dot on time at our house with his containers of milk. He would bell the main gate and if there was no response he would quietly enter the kitchen and put milk in the utensil and neatly cover it with a plate. I had been witness to this routine for the last thirty years. We changed our residence so many times but our connection with our milk man continued forever.
One evening he came to our house and said that he will not be coming for the supply of milk for three days as he had to attend to a marriage in Jallandhar of his close relatives. Three days passed but there was no trace of Anubhav. Two days later I received a phone call from him that three of his close relatives including his young son of 22 years had met a fatal accident in Phagwara and all of them had succumbed to their injuries due to severe crash of the car in which these young boys all students of Engineering college were traveling. The car which was driven by one of them had met with an accident and had hit a stationery truck on the main G T Road. Anubhav was devastated to hear this. He lost his only son and one of his sisters in laws son also died in this accident. No passerby had come to take the victims to the nearby hospital.
All the passerby’s who were standing at the site of the accident were only talking in hushed voices as to what had happened and were discussing as to who was at fault. None had the courage and guts to take the bleeding children to the hospital. It was Anubhavs hunch that had the children been taken to some hospital they might have been saved. But it was not to be. On the day of cremation Anubhav had pledged in his mind that if he ever witnessed an accident he will never stop at that site. If no one helped in his grief, why should he help some one else? Anubhav had eaten the bitter pill and had resigned to his fate.
Anubhav had married his daughter Vibha three years after the calamity and was now leading a contented life with his wife Neeti. It was a cold wintry morning and it was raining heavily. He had gone to drop his wife Neeti who was working as a nurse in a Government hospital. On the way back home near a petrol pump he came across a huge motley of young children dressed smartly in their School blazers and a few passerby’s who were daily workers who were going on their cycles to look out for work on daily wages. On one side he saw a scooter upside down and two young boys of the age of 15 or 16 bleeding profusely. They looked to be students of plus 1 or plus 2 and it looked as if they had met with an accident.
Abhinav accelerated his car and did not think of stopping near the ghastly site. The whole panorama of his son’s death came dazzling in front of his eyes. Not even one person on the earth had helped his son and he thought why he should unnecessarily involve him in this accident. He had to supply milk to his customers. After that he had to be ready at 9 am to reach his office.
After driving his car about 500 meters at a high speed he reversed the car and came to the site of the accident. He could smell his son’s breadth on seeing the blood oozing out of the two children’s head. Immediately the passerby’s put the young children in his car. The boys had their Identity Cards dazzling in their neck. Anubhav carried the children to DMC hospital in Ludhiana in the emergency ward. Anubhav got the hospital cards made and also spent the money on medicines and the Doctors fees for putting the stitches. Two hours after the accident he made three frantic phone calls to three different people. Two of the calls were made from the public telephone booths in the hospital. Without telling his name he had informed parents of Kashish Arora and Sunil Singh that their sons had met with an accident but were now out of danger and were ready to be discharged from the hospital.
The third call Anubhav made was to his wife Neeti on her mobile. With tears trickling from his eyes he told his wife in a soaking voice about the accident and how he had BROKEN his pledge not to help any distressed person. By the time parents of Kashish Arora and Sunil Singh came to DMC hospital the GOOD SAMARTIAN had fled away without giving his name and mobile number to the hospital authorities. The happiest couple on hearing this sad episode was Anubhavs wife Neeti and Anubhav himself who had broken his vow. Neeti was so proud of his husband that though she lost her only son but her husband had saved lives of two unknown boys. Anubhavs married daughter Vibha was so happy that she could now never tie Rakhi to her brother but Kashish Arora and Sunil Singh sisters would tie the sacred thread to their brothers.