Harsh Aggarwal, the owner of The Asylum, author with Lifi Publications and Tirupati Publications, is a young enthusiast, whose stint with the publishing industry began when he was just nineteen.
Harsh Aggarwal in conversation with Amritbir Kaur
Tell us something about yourself
Well, I am a third year mechie at NIT Silchar who likes to write, read, cook and irritate the people around. I run this organization – ‘The Asylum’. I like to do diverse stuff which ranges from sensible social work to utter non-sense. Other than that, everything like sleeping, walking, eating, pissing…it’s all regular I guess.
How did you start with your writing career? When did you discover that you can create literary wonders with your writing?
I used to write small poems in Hindi when I was 14 or so. I guess I wrote more because I said less and soon the urge to express grew stronger and writing became a part of my life. As far as literary wonders are concerned, I don’t know if my work can be considered wonders really. But yeah, I started writing professionally only at the age of 19.
Also something about your stint with the publishing industry?
It’s been interesting actually; harsh but interesting. But I am glad I survived and never lose hope. There are plenty of people who are really gifted but couldn’t survive here. A lot of patience is demanded by this industry and the benefits are obtained after years of hard work. I still remember when my father asked about royalty and when I told him about the percentage, he frowned! But for me, publishing industry is not about money…it’s about an opportunity to express.
What has been your greatest achievement till now in your opinion?
Mmmnm…I guess my first book…Though it got lost in the market because of poor distribution but still, I made it happen with my co-author when no one else was involved. We had a great book launch, got interviewed by FM channels and newspapers and we did it all by ourselves. It gave me confidence to do more and perhaps, it helped me get where I am.
Any memorable moments related to your writing career?
There have been plenty actually. Each time you complete the first draft and take a sigh, it’s memorable. Each time you write the acknowledgement page, it’s memorable. Each time you touch your new book for the first time, it’s memorable. Each time you read the first review and do a little dance, it’s indeed memorable.
What inspired you to write till now in your opinion?
There is not one single thing which can aspire any artist, not just a writer. Source of Inspirations can be so negligible sometimes – like a small element of nature – or maybe a huge social issue which is boiling the blood inside your veins. In my case, they have been varying. In beginning, I wrote only when I was emotional or I felt like I need to empty my mind. But after you start writing at professional level, you need to start seeking inspiration. Many good books, inspired me to write more and better at later stages too.
What inspired you to write our latest novel ‘An Excursion of Insight’?
I started it as a blog. Actually, a person with name Sonam Dorji (protagonist of book) does exist and I have tried to maintain the characteristics. The plot however is fictional. I had known him for more than a year and we used to discuss a lot about philosophies and the world around. We chatted a lot as I loved his perspective about the world and then it occurred to me if I can pull this entire concept. I started as blog posts and later decided to do a full length book.
Are there any autobiographical elements in the novel? If yes, any specific that you would like to mention?
Not autobiographical, but biographical. Just like I said, Sonam Dorji from the land of Bhutan is a great friend actually.
How much in terms of percentage do you relate yourself with your protagonist Sonam Dorji? Or any other character which you find is the closest to your own personality?
I guess the character of Neelabh is similar to me when I was in first year of college. Though I intensified a few characteristics of him, but if there would be anyone close to me, that would be Neelabh.
Tell us something about your family.
My family is pretty normal except that parents are extra supportive, sisters with their husbands love me a little extra too and my two little nieces are again extra lovable. That’s all.
What was the reaction of your family when you made your debut in the publishing industry at the age of nineteen?
Everyone was amazed. They knew I wrote few poems but I never shared with them. A full length real novel was a real surprise. I have been very career oriented and perhaps studious since beginning, so all this writing thing was also seen as a distraction from my real goals which were supposed to complete engineering and get a job with a hefty mouth watering package. But very soon they understood and embraced my work. Honestly, they weren’t sure what I was doing, all they knew that it was giving me happiness and hence they were always there to support me.
The kind of writings that have come up lately are all romantic novels. Each has a love story to tell. Some are even outrightly kiddish as far as the language used is concerned or their manner of narration. How would like to rate your book in its maturity of handling the subject differently in a scale of 1 to 10 ?(with 1 being the most kiddish and 10 being the highest level of maturity).
I guess it would be a seven. Since the backdrop is a regular engineering college, there are few such elements. But again the concept is way different and so is the narrative. A number of readers are saying that it gives feel of a literary fiction. I feel it depends on reader and the way reader accepts it.
How would you want to improve upon your book in question, that is, ‘An Excursion of Insight’? And in what ways?
I Suppose I could have worked more on plot. A few more incidents could have been added but I kept focusing on the emotional status of characters. Not that plot is bad right now…it’s considerably good but could have been better for sure.
Any experiences to share with youngsters, who want to write a novel? And such are plenty in number I am sure because everyone has a story to tell. The trick is in presenting it in the form of a novel. What’s your take on that?
Experiences – I have bag full of them actually. All I can share is that be patient and decide to write a book only when you feel you have something substantial to write one. Don’t start in desperation of getting published to impress the world or to prove something. All your hard work will go in vain otherwise. Think judiciously and you will find your thing which is unique and worthy enough of your precious time.