Bilol Bose holds an MBA degree and is an accredited applied behavioural science professional. In his teens, he authored stories and poems, some of which were published and later forgotten. He wrote the first draft of The Palace of a Thousand Rainbows during a rainy Mumbai in July of 2004. He makes two distant worlds meet through his daytime profession of consulting with large organisations and filling his laptop with stories that are yet to be told, whenever they occur to him. Bilol lives in Mumbai, India.
Vinita Kinra: Welcome to Global Asian Times, Bilol. Tell us something about yourself that not many people are aware of.
Bilol Bose: I am at yet another crossroads in my life. I’m trying to wriggle my leg out one of the two boats I’ve been sailing on, namely my daytime profession of a management consultant, and digging it on the other boat of fiction writing, to set out on a tortuous voyage to the vast universe of literature. The fear and challenge of putting all my eggs in one basket stares at me every day.
Vinita Kinra: What draws you to the magical world of writing and what does the art of weaving words do for you on a personal level?
Bilol Bose: I have always been driven by an overpowering urge to observe everyday events from oblique points of view that many others may not consider, string these observations into a story and entertain readers. Writing is the most healing experience for me.
Vinita Kinra: Share with us the moment when your heart said to you: “I want to be a writer!”
Bilol Bose: Since it happened many years ago during my teens, I have a vague recollection. On one evening, when I was probably fourteen, a married couple, my neighbours, fought. Their only daughter, all of four years, sat on my lap, when the hi-decibel exchanges between her parents happened. The adults went away to another room, continuing to yell at each other. The child asked me, “Dada, will my father beat my mother?” I wrote my first poem that night.
Vinita Kinra: What comes to your rescue when you are faced with the notorious “Writer’s Block”?
Bilol Bose: I rarely face ‘writer’s block’. I’m a deeply emotional person. Events around me, which affect me deeply, create turbulence of positive and or negative energies in me. This turmoil wails up, finds expression in imageries and words, and a story, a blog or a poem is born. When this happens, I experience no dearth of ideas.
Vinita Kinra: 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?
Bilol Bose: By itself, stringing together a set of ideas, events, and turning points into a complete story hasn’t taught me much. However, adding depth of character to key personalities and dealing with their motivations do raise questions in my mind that educate me a lot. Writing my first published novel more than eleven years ago did influence my personality in ways that I had never imagined.
Vinita Kinra: If one of your books was to be adapted as a Bollywood/Hollywood film, which would it be and why?
Bilol Bose: If not the whole of my recently published novel The Palace of a Thousand Rainbows, one chapter has a lot of ingredients to be adapted as a movie. Since my novel’s core is the universality of the loss of someone dear, it is suitable for both Bollywood and Hollywood.
Vinita Kinra: Tell us about your publishing journey. Was it smooth or bumpy?
Bilol Bose: I wrote the complete draft of The Palace of a Thousand Rainbows in one month flat – July 2004. After edits, I began exploring with literary agents and publishers. A series of deafening silences, rejections for reasons ranging from the flimsiest to compassionate, expensive printing and couriering and empty accolades exhorting me to write more couldn’t deter me from pursuing my dream of reaching the hearts and minds of readers. I continued to edit and create newer versions of my work based on professional editorial reviews. When rejections reached the number 79, I feared that I might forget arithmetic. I decided to go the indie publishing way. I had to cancel my first contract after having paid a sumptuous package fee for reasons that I don’t wish to share publicly. I’ve tried a second publisher to get my work distributed. Smooth is far from the truth and bumpy, an understatement.
Vinita Kinra: If you could summon the genie, which author from the past or present would you like to become and why?
Bilol Bose: Tagore – without hesitation. For the sheer volume, diversity and depth of his body of work.
Vinita Kinra: If you were not a writer, what would you have been?
Bilol Bose: I have a fantasy about this. The Pied Piper of Hamelin. In contemporary terms, I would love to quietly (without fanfare) work for improving the lot of the poor in India.
Vinita Kinra: How much of your book is autobiographical where characters reflect your personal experiences?
Bilol Bose: The Palace of a Thousand Rainbows owes its roots to an intense teenage experience. However, it is not my autobiography. I hasten to add that a lot of the book is in me and a lot of me is in the book.
Vinita Kinra: Aside from writing, what are your other passions?
Bilol Bose: I love to read but in the privacy of my home. To me it’s sadhana. If I don’t read at least for two hours on a day, it feels like I’m missing something dearly. I write at least one thousand words every day. On most days I exceed this limit unconsciously. I love to cook and experiment with recipes. A few friends of mine invite me to cook, when they have small functions at home and they want Bengali food. Writing and cooking are my therapeutic obligations to myself. I love music of all kinds – Tagore’s creations, folk, pop, Bollywood, country, rock and classical. Tagore’s songs and Ghazals are my favourites.
Time wriggled its way to me through dark raindrops and asked, “What now?” I saw black, dried drops of blood on the wall near the security guard’s plastic chair. That blood was part of my body a couple of months ago. A bigger loss for me was Moti Mahal.
* * *
The 22.54 Churchgate Slow was about to leave platform 1 of Bhayandar station. My corner in the first-class compartment held only me. The platform wore a tired look. Four boys in dirty banyans and khaki half-pants washed utensils noisily, perhaps for the last time tonight, squatting around a tap that sat meekly in the middle of the platform.
Between and after the arrival and departure announcements, an invisible radio played the Pakeezah number. “Chalte, chalte, chalte, chalte, yunhi koi mil gaya tha, sare raah chalte chalte. Wahin thamke reh gayi hai, meri raat dhalte dhalte.” (I chanced to meet someone while walking down the road. My night, fading, came to a standstill that moment.) The song’s melody lost its way in a lonely wilderness.
It had rained in the afternoon; untimely, the rain found me unprepared for a wet night.
A wet, foolish breeze blew, stray patches of the platform shimmered in reflecting light, clouds hovered lazily and time celebrated loneliness. A perfect day for one to run the risk of falling in love, of being attracted, accepted, discovered, rejected, left alone. A day when the raw smell of earthen teacups would make you discover that you still exist, that you are still attractive to someone, someone whom you know or you don’t, someone from another life, another life in a faraway land where they live and die in eternal love.
“Uncle, take out your wallet and mobile and hand them over,” a lanky young man in a dirty red T-shirt hissed at me in Hindi. His bearded, stocky companion, who was wearing a green T-shirt, smiled as he placed his hands on his waist. His bad breath reached me even from a distance. The 22.54 Slow had begun its first tentative swagger towards Borivali. My compartment had just eased into the coriander-smelling, half-dark sea breeze on the track. These two men had jumped in just when the train had begun to move.
“I have only this.” I yelled to make myself audible and showed the first-class ticket, two hundred-rupee notes, my house key, and my mobile. “But I’m not going to give anything to you. Move. Move fast,” I kept my voice raised, trying my best to hide my fear.
“Keep the ticket. Put the rest on the seat, Uncle.” Green-tee took out a pistol and aimed it at me.
“Don’t act smart,” Red-tee insisted, the dagger in his hand dangling from its pommel.
My blow hit Green-tee on his shoulder. The power of fear had gotten the better of me. He slumped to the ground, his pistol rolling across the floor and disappearing into the darkness outside the train. I lost my balance. Red-tee was six inches away. As he aimed his dagger at me, my fist landed on his face. He lunged forward, his dagger brushing my wrist. He managed to hold the corner of the seat two rows away before coming back at me, the dagger in hand, his legs unstable and nose bleeding.
About the interviewer:
Vinita Kinra is a Toronto-based author, editor, speaker and activist, best known for her short story collection, Pavitra in Paris, launched to critical acclaim in 2013. She is also a contributor for India’s largest English daily, The Times of India.