You had tweeted that the novel took 5 years to complete. Any particular reasons why that happened?
Yeah, I started writing about 5 years ago and I realized that the book needed a lot more research than I had anticipated. I wanted the story to be perfect (which Im not saying it is, since every story as its flaws) and I wanted it to be well-researched and well thought out to an extent that I feel happy reading it.
Now, I think the novel is dark, its well researched and I like the characters in the book. Theres a lot of strange and weird stuff on the novel and I wanted to validate my primary character Arjun Singhs actions and why he does the insane things which he does (including killing dictators, yes!).
This is my 3rd novel and this is the one where I feel Ive got the narrative and writing process right and I believe thats why it took longer to complete.
What kind of research went into writing the book?
The novel is a sci-fi fantasy. It also features a life-like Chinese robot dragon warring with an Indian superhero. A large part is set in Arunachal Pradesh amidst Indo-China strife. It borrows from mythology, history and today’s world. So, I needed to know a lot to get the story right, like the origins of Pawan, the powers of the Chinese dragon, Indo-China relations, Tibet, POVs on both sides, and current affairs. Because, no matter what we believe, wars are fought when both sides think they are right.
It took five years to get the tone right; this was interspersed with me getting distracted with stand-up and earning money to raise two kids. My hero is an accountant, and I needed some world-class puns on accountants. It took 11 tries – the number of attempts an average CA takes to clear the examinations.
How do you intersperse jokes or humor in the plot? Does it come naturally or is it hard work?
I enjoy books that are fast-paced. So, pace was the key for me. I also wanted to ensure there was a joke on every page: which I succeeded in, I think. One feedback I got was, Really enjoyed the novel but, its too many jokes.
Im a comedian and an author. I want there to be many, many jokes. And, all kinds of stuff. Theres satire, insult comedy, absurdity and tons of dark comedy. My only regret is not making it even darker than it was! Some really macabre jokes in there.
Theres one scene where two terrorists are making out and Pawan interrupts them. Made some people nervous on my behalf. But, my assumption is that terrorists dont read.
What is your take on free speech in India?
I think we have a reasonable amount of free speech in India compared to other Asian countries. I have toured all over the place specifically Asia and I think literally barring countries like Australia, Canada, US and parts of Europe, I dont think the world is very open in general. I am not saying we are great, but we are not as terrible as we imagine it to be. However I do believe that recently and specifically I have started feeling that.. Everything said is being questioned by somebody like I get a death threat or a physical threat every week. Its gets a bit exhausting because its not funny anymore. If you want to have a conversation, do it in a proper way.
How is Pawan: The Flying Accountant different in terms of writing style as compared to your previous novels, The Wednesday Soul or Under Delhi?
So, The Wednesday Soul was a fantasy/fictional book about what happens after you die and Under Delhi was much more linear. Mostly, my books are about just crazy stuff happening here and there but to put it in perspective, I understand that my books arent for everyone but my dad, who reads about a 1000 papers in a day liked The Wednesday Soul and Pawan, as well. So, theres something or the other for everyone.The depth is similar, lots of jokes and dark humor in the book and its similar in that space and I assure you, youll find the novel very different compared to any other novel by any Indian author out there.
About the Interviewee: Sorabh Pant is a popular stand-up comedian from India. He has hosted about 1500 stand-up comedy shows across eighteen countries (but he claims to have done them only for Frequent Flyer Miles). Hes the ex-founder of East India Comedy, some of his most popular comedy videos are Rant of the Pant, EIC: Outrage, etc.Pawan is Sorabhs third novel. He is based in Mumbai, India.