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Interview with Arsch Sharma

Q.1 Tell us a little about yourself?
A. Hi. Well, I just recently turned 26, and I have been writing for around two years now. I hail from Himachal (Kullu-Manali), and it was in the summer of '18 that I picked up full-time writing.

Q.2 Do you have any upcoming books?
A. Yes. I have been working on a full-length novel titled, We, the Ugly, for a little over a year and a half now. Hopefully, it’ll see the light of the day soon.

Q.3 What inspired you to write Three Stories and a Burial?
A. I often go out on strolls in the evening. Mostly I go to the woods or some café where I have a cup of coffee. At one of these cafés, there’s a broken idol that later became the cover for the e-book. So I guess that’s what inspired me to write those stories. They were all written in a single sitting, that is, a story an evening. And it was shortly after writing the first story, The Broken Idol, that I had myself a collection.

Q.4 What do you want readers to take away from your book?
A. Nothing, really. I mean, I’ve written it and I’m done with it. However, the readers see it is a matter of their perspective. I did write these stories on a basic underlying theme of hope, with the top notes changing now and then.

Q.5 When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
A. As I said, it was the summer of 2018, and I was living in Delhi at that time, charmed by the city and its spells. The realization that I can write struck me at this strange moment in my life when everything was falling apart. And I firmly believe that if there is that you are remotely capable of doing when you feel rotten, that’s what you should be doing. I don’t enjoy writing, but it keeps me functional. Over the days, I visited a little café in Khan Market, Café Turtle (which I got to know, has been sadly shut permanently because of the COVID pandemic), and I’d spend my weekends there scribbling into pocket diaries. What can I say, it’s a disease?

Q.6 If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
A. Love better.

Q.7 Tell us about your writing process?
A. Well, Hemingway said, There’s nothing to writing, all you need to do is sit at the typewriter and bleed. Now I might be paraphrasing a little, but that’s how I reckon most creative writers write. Though it’d be a sin to mention Hemingway and most creative writers in a single breath. I would say I mostly puke on the paper, and then I wonder later on how to make sense of the chunks.

Q.8 If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your books?
A. I think the stories I tell once, from a certain perspective are something that I must not fiddle with anymore. They’re out there, they represent a certain way I saw and said things back then when I wrote them. More than anything, time binds us to a certain contract of sanctity. I wouldn’t change them one bit, but yes, when I do revisit them sometimes, I find countless places where I either muzzled or overshot the narrative. I guess that’s how one grows.

Q.9 Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
A. I’d kill myself! I mean, it’s the only thing I can bring myself to do. It’s what makes me get out of the bed at noon. Without it, I’m absolutely dysfunctional. But if you did put a gun to my head, I do like playing instruments like the violin and the guitar, so maybe I’d either be a violinist or a wannabe Rockstar.

Q.10 What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your book?
A. That too much espresso makes you dizzy. But no, I mean, maybe the most important lesson that came to me while writing these stories was that nobody cares. So I would finish a story, and I would raise my head and look at the humanity around, and they would still be going about making small talk, buying vegetables, walking their dogs, stuffing their faces with food…it goes on, and to think that one matter, even in one’s own life is a flawed notion.

Q.11 Who would you most like to thank for their involvement in your writing career?
A. I don’t know, really. The way it works with me is that I particularly wouldn’t want to thank anybody for it. Maybe if someday I win a beauty pageant, I’ll write a false speech, but for now, I have my wretchedness to thank. I guess it’s never about one person or a group of persons. It’s more about how each one of them unsettles you.

Q.12 Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
A. I don’t believe in it, but I have experienced what might come close to the term. I don’t believe in the term. I just feel some people start writing way before they start living and dying. Unless you’ve lived and died a few times, the words won’t be kind to grace you with their presence. It’ll all be a funny feeling mush in your chest until then. It’s only when you stop caring that you write. But well, that’s just me.

Q.13 Does writing energize you or exhaust you?
A. It flows when I write a new thing, and after I am done, I feel a strange fever that grips me. It makes me fuzzy-headed. But later, when I edit, it is actual work and it does exhaust me.

Q.14 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?
A. I don’t meet enough writers to know that.

Q.15 What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
A. I don’t know. I mean, I see people answer this question in different ways. The ambitious ones say, “The next one”, the ones basking in well-deserved sunshine are too warm to their recent and past works. I think accomplishment is an artificial term. It’s like asking a lumberjack cutting a tree which jab is he most happy with.

Q.16 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
A. Apart from Three Short Stories and a Burial, I have just come out with a collection of poetry on Amazon called, Verses from the Shitter: Eleven failed poems. And as I have mentioned, I am working on a full-length novel that I plan to get published the traditional way. I have no favorites.

Q.17 What do you think makes a good story?
A. There’s a saying, I don’t know who said it, neither do I know the exact words, but it says that a good story is one which doesn’t hinder its own narrative. The narrative is something one must pay more attention to; it must be born out of a genuine place. Countless young scribes commit the folly of pretense. Hence, live first, write later.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
A. I think I’m good away from most people. To meet someone specifically would be horrible.

Q.19 What is your favorite book and why?
A. Again, no favorite books. But I do enjoy certain books tremendously. I have enjoyed Kafka's stories. His The Trial was moving. I have also been fond of the neo-philosophers of the 20th Century like Camus and Sartre. Bukowski interests me amongst the more recent writers, while I go back to Dostoyevsky and Pushkin now and then.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
A. It has been grueling. It’s not an easy job to establish oneself in the creative field. It takes more failures and frustration than what a safer road entails. It includes starvation, being broke to the penny…it involves a constant dread of not being enough and not having any reassurances, and the inability to reconcile with the path you’ve chosen. It’s like a million bugs crawling under your skin. In short, it’s not been a bed of roses. But well, each new day is a clean slate.

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1 comment:

  1. I found Arsch on LinkedIn and started reading his stories. For the first time in a very long while, I discovered something different and real, pieces that didn't calibrate their narratives to the standard specifications that tastemakers dictate and sadly, too many writers follow.

    I find Arsch to be in place of his own, something I frequently search for and rarely find. Simply put, I was joyed to find his work, inspired too. I hope he's okay because it's been a couple of years and I haven't been able to get in touch with him. Maybe he will see this and knows that his works have touched me and continue to do so. All the best.