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RAD TIMES AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Vikas Prakash Joshi chats writing, nostalgia and multi-nation connects!

Updated: May 22, 2023

What we love about Vikass oeuvre is his varied articles, TOASTMASTER S sessions, podcast on literature, publications in many international publications, and numerous translations! Editorial at RAD Times also encourages diversity in writing and strong research in fiction and non-fiction genres the world over.

Vikas Prakash Joshi is a writer by ‘nature’, not by choice, coincidence or compulsion. His writing career started in school and college at 13 where his contributions were published in the school newsletters and he won prizes in essay competitions. He wrote over 150 letters to prominent English newspapers in classes 9 and 10, winning five ‘letter of the week’ contests in leading newspapers and magazines before becoming a newspaper columnist in Junior Herald at the age of just 18. His columns and short stories in Junior Herald reached tens of thousands of readers. He subsequently won awards in city, state, national and then international-level writing essay contests. His articles and short stories have been translated into 30 languages: Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, German, Sinhalese, Bengali, Greek, Italian, Russian and Serbian, and more are on the way. He has been published in India, New Zealand, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Greece and Romania.

He has a B.A. in English Literature from the Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce, a postgraduate diploma in journalism from the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai (where he received the Madanjeet Singh South Asia Foundation Scholarship) and an MA in Development Studies from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. He has written for leading Indian publications like Caravan, The Wire, The Hindu, DNA, and reported from very diverse parts of India, from cities like Pune and Bangalore, from rural Punjab to coastal Karnataka and Gujarat to Odisha. Vikas is an active member of Pune Writer’s Group which hosts numerous workshops, writing sessions, critiquing sessions.

Besides this book, Vikas has been published in 2 anthologies: Inspired by Tagorepublished by the British Council UK and Fables by the Cognition Tree, brought out by Cognition Tree. He has also written for and played a major role in bringing out a prestigious coffee table book GavkariEkatra, SamruddhiSarvatra (Villagers united for prosperity) for Watershed Organisation Trust, a leading Indian non-profit. He was also heading the non-profits Communications Unit.

Besides writing, he holds an Advanced Communicator Silver (ACS) in public speaking from Toastmasters International. He hosts and runs Pune’s first and only podcast on literature titled Literary Gupshup. He is based in Pune where he lives with his family.

My Name is Cinnamonis his first book.He is now at work on his second and third books.

RAD TIMES:   What does the word Cinammon evoke in your mind, a word from the title of your first book?

Author Vikash Prakash Joshi: Cinnamon is one of my favorite flavors, in different kinds of cakes, biscuits, and other food items. Cinnamon evokes not just the flavor, but also the flavor of childhood itself, and in the context of this book, the main character of the book—impish, athletic, mischievous, assertive, and above all, full of wonder about the world around him. Why is he nicknamed Cinnamon though his real name is Roshan? You will have to read the book to find out!

RAD TIMES:Is the book My Name is Cinnamon, a work-around nostalgia?

: Yes, nostalgia about my childhood days; which when we look back, are so valuable, short-lived, and precious. We don’t realize at that time how few cares we have at that time. When I wrote this book, I wrote it as a way of reconnecting with that part of ourselves that we all bury (it doesn’t get actually lost) under the so-called important issues of life. This nostalgia helps us reconnect with what we had. Writing the book is a childhood dream and I cannot wait for the day I hold it in my hands. Nostalgia over the carefree conversations, long summer afternoons reading books, eating ice cream at India Gate, playing hide and seek, and so on. Nostalgia is not for something specific but for what we were at a particular time. A time without a sense of anxiety. This book is not only about nostalgia, but for me very personally, using nostalgia as a way of dealing with the demons of the past, coming to terms with those demons, and moving towards a brighter future, by acknowledging the past but not being a prisoner of it.

RAD TIMES: Authors play a lot with nostalgia. Editorial at RAD TIMES last spoke, with Mauritian author, Nanda Pavaday who also writes on nostalgia. What goes and does not go into a story around nostalgia?

Author Vikas Prakash Joshi: Well, nostalgia is absolutely a magical element in a story (if well handled), but a story has to draw people in, hold their attention, enchant them, and in the end, leave them wanting more. A story around nostalgia still has to be a story; endlessly reminiscing about how things were, and what you felt is not a story per se. So what goes into a story, in my humble opinion, is those elements that enrich and enhance the story and make it more captivating. What doesn’t go is things that actually add nothing and detract from the story.

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RAD TIMES:  How can we be faithful to memory while writing about it? 

Author Vikas Prakash Joshi: Frankly, I doubt anyone can be very faithful to memory. Salman Rushdie puts it very well

“Memory is truth, because memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies also; but in the end it creates its own reality.”

When we say faithful, the question arises: faithful to whose version of reality? I believe that we all have our memories, which fade or get burnished with time, and the only way we can be as faithful as possible is to write down very exactly what we felt at that time, about this or that particular incident or event or circumstance. As time passes, it becomes harder to remember what one felt. Though, even when we are writing about something fiction, it is very difficult, to be honest about painful or traumatic memories. Because as you change and grow, your perceptions about certain events also change.

You can get a copy here:

RAD TIMES: Does the detective genre excite you? Would you be working on a detective story anytime soon? 

Author Vikas Prakash Joshi: I thoroughly LOVE detective stories. I have read the Agatha Christie stories, the Sherlock Holmes—all 56 stories and 4 novels, the Scandinavian detective mysteries, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Feluda stories, Faster Fene in Marathi—Enjoy reading detective stories in all languages. I am keen to write and publish my own detective novel. In fact, I am currently working on my 3 rd book, that is a detective/mystery story, possibly meant for YA. It is in the early stages.

RAD TIMES: You have the second book in the pipeline. When does it come out?

Author Vikas Joshi: My second book, is a non-fiction work and it should have come out next year, but due to the pandemic I guess it would come by the year-end 2022 or perhaps the first half of 2023. It is set in the freedom struggle era; can’t say more but I am very excited about it. It has huge potential, of that I am very confident and I believe the audience will really like it.

RAD TIMES: What is creativity to you? Can we train a person to be creative?

Author Vikas Prakash Joshi: Creativity for me, means among other things, looking at things with fresh eyes, questioning why or why not something is done in a certain way, and being in touch with the part of oneself, deep inside; where nothing is absurd or stupid or to be ridiculed. Our task is to temper and meld that creativity with practicality. Selecting an idea and backing it enough to make it a reality. As far as can we train a person to be creative, I am not sure whether it is something you can train a person to be. I believe if a person has a certain spark, we can nurture and kindle that spark with support and guidance. That creative spark need not be only in artistic or cultural fields; after all, creativity can show up in any and every field. Creativity isn’t only “what” but also “how”.

RAD TIMES: What is an enabler to a good writing day? Coffee, music, travel or being in a room:)

Author Vikas Prakash Joshi: I consider myself very lucky that I generally don’t have writers block; if I just sit down for an uninterrupted chunk of time, words tend to come out. More anything else, just to wake up early in the morning, in silence, sitting with a notebook and writing down with no noise around me, except early morning sounds (crickets and birds chirping). That is the main enabler I need. Tea/coffee, music and so on are good as mid writing breaks, and travel definitely gives you new ideas and stimulates your mind; but the best enabler is time, personal space and silence. A second enabler for me is high quality stationery; I love good quality pens (gel pens like Uniball is my personal favorite) and attractive, vibrant, jazzy notebooks in colourful or funky designs. I like to write my first drafts by hand, in a notebook and then transfer those to the desktop or laptop over time, at the time of the second draft. There is something different about holding a pen in your hand.

 RAD TIMES:  Kindly, tell us about what excites you when you set pen to paper ?

Author Vikas Prakash Joshi: When I sit down to write, I have a series of fragments in my mind. A line, a photograph, a visual memory, a stray remark, a historical event, a sound, a smell—basically random items in my mind’s attic. What excites me is that the story is revealing itself to me, as I am writing it. The excitement of seeing all these random images in your writing suddenly connect with each other, and then you know that *This* is how the story is supposed to be. In a way, you are discovering the story as you write it.

RAD TIMES:  In the present milieu, of chaos, and shifting work environments, why should we read more?

Author Vikas Joshi: At their best, stories make us understand that we are all humans living in an interconnected world and that none of our challenges are so unique or specialized to ourselves as we think. This also helps us understand, that there are others who went through these issues and that we are not alone. So this is a plus point of reading. Along with reading more, we should also pay attention to “what” we are reading. You can read the same book multiple times if you want to understand it better, rather than reading new books.

RAD TIMES:  A lot of your writing is translated in Italian and more languages. How does writing for a world audience empower you as a writer? How does it feel to be read by audiences the world over?

Author Vikas Prakash Joshi: When I was a child, I read stories about and from different parts of India and the world, in English and Marathi translation. It was my dream, that seemed so absurd at that time, that my stories would reach audiences in other parts of India and the world, in their language, in whatever small way. That my short stories and articles (hopefully book later on) are translated and published into 30 languages, Indian and foreign, is a huge, huge honor, humbling and a dream come true in every sense. I never thought that it would happen. It empowers you because you know stories can and do cut across boundaries of language, geography, ethnicity and culture. At this stage, I sincerely thank and express a huge debt of gratitude to all my translators in all the languages; ultimately translators are “the eyes of the world” as a Tibetan proverb goes, and if my stories have been accepted by people and publications in other parts of the world and in other languages, they have a major share of the credit.

But it is also very challenging because when you write, you write deeply out of your own soil. I don’t live in fashionable Manhattan or Paris, war-torn Syria, or the slums of Nairobi. I am a Maharashtrian, an Indian, a person from a middle-class background, I live in Pune, I belong to a certain milieu, and I eat a particular cuisine in my daily life --these unavoidably bring a certain set of baggage with them. There is no denying it. The thought crosses your mind as to whether, if you write in a very local context, a person in (say) Bulgaria or New Zealand will understand it, one has doubts. But in the end, my own upcoming book was read and appreciated by people from 30 countries, (almost all non-Indians) and though I was very apprehensive, as it is a very Indian-rooted book, they all enjoyed it and nobody had any issue with the countless localisms in the book. In the end, I suppose, when we are most local and personal, we often become highly universal.

RAD TIMES: Do tell us more about the book My Name is Cinnamon?

Author Vikas Prakash Joshi:My Name is Cinnamon” (forthcoming Hay House 2022) is an adventurous, heart-warming, and deeply poignant tale of a little boy whose life is nothing short of a roller-coaster ride. Cinnamon is a very special boy for many reasons, the foremost being that he is a ‘heart-baby’ and not a ‘tummy-baby’, i.e. he is adopted. He grows up seeing love and laughter in his life, and not to mention silly banters between his parents over food preferences and lifestyle, as his father and mother are from very different regions of India. From the bustling city streets of Pune to the chaotic and charmingly infuriating city of Kolkata to Nandurbar’s hilly, vast, and breathtaking lush green vistas, the book explores diverse landscapes. The attractive illustrations are done by the well-known illustrator of children’s books Niloufer Wadia. It is an original, sensitive, and moving tale which will make you think, laugh and cry.

RAD TIMES: Would you be working on any screenplay?

Author Vikas Prakash Joshi: I would like to!  I strongly feel my own first book has cinematic potential, and I would love to collaborate with any director who feels it can go on the screen. Screenplay writing is a part of writing, and I would be happy to learn the basics of it. I am keen on a screen adaptation, let’s see how things play out.

RAD TIMES: Can you recall reading any Ruskin Bond book?

Author Vikas Prakash Joshi: Ruskin Bond is a writer who I admire deeply; his writings inspired me to become a writer myself, as I am sure he did for so many others. His writings have touched and moved the hearts of so many around India and the world. I have read most of his books. To be frank, I wouldn’t want to identify a favorite book, as they are all my favorites. I especially admire Ruskin Bond for his simplicity, gentle humor, and felicity in all forms of writing---novel, autobiography, essays, poetry, and short stories—A tall order but he pulls it off with aplomb.

RAD TIMES: In an interview to you say you are writing a book, an ebook that focuses on the challenges writers face. Could you tell us something more about the project/eBook?

Author Vikas Prakash Joshi: To put it briefly, writing and publishing is an extremely opaque industry, and despite all the information out there, writers are still highly confused, especially first-time writers. I intend my book to be a sort of guide, for all first-time writers about the mechanics of writing and publishing. Not feel good with vague stuff like “You can do it!” “Just write from your heart!” “Just be yourself!” but the actual nitty-gritty: from the time you start writing, to actually approaching publishers, to finding a publisher, to the pitfalls, and then the journey after your book is published (which nobody really talks about much). I intend it to be, an evolving thing; as I go through ups and downs, I will keep updating it. It’s meant to be a live document, answering the questions authors have but are embarrassed to ask.

RAD TIMES:What is your relationship with food and writing?

Author Vikas Prakash Joshi: Oh! What a question! . Food is such a versatile part of writing. You can use food in so many ways: to show aspects of a person’s character, humor addition, to bring out the unique aspects of a situation, and of course to add spice and variety to an otherwise a boring passage. Food and drink evoke memories, time, space, and place, gives geographical definition to a story, and demarcate the different characters as well as the backgrounds. Food is also related to what is allowed and not; a symbol of what is dangerous, permissible, and adventurous in a given society. It is also really fun to write about . Food is a major part of my upcoming book My Name is Cinnamon, it is a character in the book in itself, as can be seen in Turkish food writer and columnist Aylin Oney Tan’s review here

We can all agree; who doesn’t like food, whoever and wherever you are? It connects people.

Thank You so much for speaking to us! We would love to read more of your works!

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