BLW: Let’s welcome the new and sensational Indian author Sujit Banerjee to Book Lovers World. Born to Bengali parents in Lucknow, he grew up in Patna where he finished his post-graduation in Psychology and ended up becoming a tour operator instead of a Psychologist. He is glad to be in tourism. It had taken him all over the world including places people would have never heard of. We’re sure, have you heard about Tlacotalpan? It is a popular place in Mexico. Destiny had other plans as well for him to become a reluctant healer. A crazy Shaman in Mexico set the ball rolling and it has rolled all the way to Delhi. Today he both heals as well as read Tarot cards. His wife thinks he is mad. His friends think he is weird. He says he is the combination of both. His first story was published in a magazine when he was seventeen. Thereafter he wrote poems in English and Hindi, which he says that’s his personal collection, and will remain personal. Then again he started writing short stories and it’s a collection now – ‘Rukhsat The Departure’ published by Leadstart Publishing, and is among the top selling books on Amazon.
Sujit Banerjee: Thanks for such generous introduction! It’s great to be here at Book Lovers World.
BLW: Firstly, congratulations on the getting published your debut book “Rukhsat The Departure”. Tell us a little about yourself.
I love to travel and Himalayas call me over and over again
Sujit Banerjee: You have said it all, already! Well – I just turned 55 and it feels good! It has been a tremendous journey – as a healer, as a tourism professional tour operator and now as a writer. I do believe that I always had the gift of words and initially they wove themselves into poems but now… I love to travel and Himalayas call me over and over again. I love photography and nothing makes me happier than to be on the move with my camera in my hand!
BLW: We know that you are one awesome writer. Tell us about your book Rukhsat The Departure, what it means to you, and how did you conceive the idea of writing a collection of twenty six short stories alphabetically? How long did it take to write this book?
Sujit Banerjee: Rukhsat just happened; initially I would scribble the outline of a story and take time to flesh the plot out. In general I am a miser with words and hence they started to get over fast with most of them between 3 to 4 pages. Once I had over ten of them in hand I realised it was getting to be a collection and it just struck me – 26 alphabets and 26 stories! Since each story had an independent character – 26 names was the obvious choice. Then started the long and laborious journey of finishing 26 stories which took me over 3 years to complete!
BLW: Rukhsat The Departure is a collection of twenty-six stories… No people, with well-developed characters. We would like to know the homework you did to write this book.
Sujit Banerjee: A lot of it was easy as I had either had experiences that I wanted to write about or I had heard stirring stories of other – those that had engraved themselves on my mind. Yes, still ran short of the magical numbers to few – very few in fact – were created out of thin air – you will recognise them as you go along! Not much homework as you can see but yes – a lot of patience and effort to polish each one into a gem that contained all kind of human emotion and actions you can think of.
BLW: Tell us your favourite protagonist from the book, and do you have any character inspired from your real life?
Sujit Banerjee: There are three actually and even now I cannot make up my mind which one I am closest to. Hemakshi fighting the fact that she will not have a biological child; Yasmeen Bibi dealing with the world of three “talaks” and Zayan – the last one of a condemned man – what goes through his head as he prepares himself for the inevitable.
BLW: What were your biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?
Sujit Banerjee: The biggest learning was of how no one wants to touch a new author – specially known brands. I don’t know if they even read a manuscript at all and how one person can decide what the world would like to read. Had it not been for the initiative of Leadstart Publishing the stories would have gone untold. The next thing was the amount of time the process consumes from editing to going for final print. A new author can never imagine what goes behind the whole process. We all (new authors) dream that once they finish a book – it will become a bestseller in a months’ time! How far removed is the truth. Lastly, the realisation that nothing works better than being an active participating in promoting your own book and how social media plays a very big role in the process.
BLW: What inspired you to write this book?
Sujit Banerjee: The powerful stories – real life – that I came across. As I heard them, I lived each one of them in my own mind and a time came when I thought I HAVE to share them to get them off my mind and the best way was writing them and sharing with others. The rest of it you already know.
BLW: Did visiting countries help you write this book?
Sujit Banerjee: Not really unless you count the fact that visiting different societies and experiencing various culture did open up my horizon; was was taboo became a reality; what was unheard of here in India – was common out there. That did make a difference.
BLW: What was your biggest learning from writing this book?
Sujit Banerjee: Patience – the art of letting go and flowing with the tide. Writers’ block is a reality and I guess each author has to go through it and deal with it in their own ways. In my case my friends helped out – holding me back – forcing me to let go and then float with time.
BLW: Rukhsat The Departure is a collection of short stories. Would you be sticking to one preferred style and genre in future?
Sujit Banerjee: Right now I am just soaking it in… who knows what will come out next! Maybe a historical story of a courtesan?!!
BLW: When do you write the most? Is there a favorite place at your home or office where you write the most? Any props that you feel lucky to keep with you when writing?
Sujit Banerjee: In bed – on my mobile phone!
BLW: As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Sujit Banerjee: I wanted to be a salesman!!! I wanted to work for an established company and sell soaps, oil etc. all over the country – travelling and visiting places no one even heard of.
BLW: What are your inspirations in life?
Sujit Banerjee: The innate beauty of people around me! How each one has an unique story to tell but they don’t know how and to whom. I was lucky that I could relate to people quickly and give them the confidence to share their experiences.
BLW: What books have inspired or influenced you as a writer?
Sujit Banerjee: Not so much as books as much as writers; the Bengali writer Balai Chand Mukhopadhyay – more popular as Banaphool, O Henry and Jeffery Archer (his Twist in The Tale). Lastly and not the least – Gulzar Saheb has had a tremendous impact on me to the extent that he changed the way I think in life.
BLW: We would be happy to know about any future projects that you are currently working on?
Sujit Banerjee: Maybe a year from now I will start thinking! My wife insists it should be a murder mystery.
BLW: What other secret skills do you have?
Sujit Banerjee: I think the gift of words as the biggest gift I have that even helps me sell my country as a destination to foreigners.
BLW: To be a good writer, one should be a good reader. We know you enjoy reading books. What are the best books you have ever read? Name any five.
Sujit Banerjee: Absolutely – I have my own library with hundreds of books – almost all read and few waiting for their turn. Angela’s Ashes haunted me; The Little Prince made me dream; The Storytellers Tale introduced me to the world of Dastangoi; In Arabian Nights by Tahir Shah I found my angels and demons. Finally – last but not the least – The Kite Runner that tore me up into bits and pieces.
BLW: What advice would you give to all those aspiring authors who consider you as an ideal?
Sujit Banerjee: Be honest; ask yourself if what you write – others would like to read; avoid heartbreaks by deluding yourself that other must like what you do. Have a good story to tell; don’t just write to publish and become famous. Recognise your weaknesses and strengths; work on the first and use the later to the hilt. Take feedback and don’t get hurt if they don’t match your own expectation. In the world of book you have to be excellent – not just good. And be patient – don’t rush your work – take breaks, enjoy the other things in life, get away from it and come back again. Enjoy what you are writing and leave the rest to God and publishers!
BLW: Message for the book lovers in this world!
Sujit Banerjee: Travelling is the best way to get to know the gift God has given to us as EARTH. The second best way is by reading.
Thank you so much for your time, Sujit. It’s our pleasure to chat with you… We’re super excited! And to the readers stay back for more. We’re going to interview the lead characters of the book Rukhsat The Departure, Meera, Aman and Abhay in a short while. We hope you will like reading the response. Stay Tuned!