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Interview with Nihar Bhonsule

Nihar Bhonsule

He lives in Mumbai. He enjoys reading various genres like horror, fantasy, crime, and thriller. He has spent years of his life in coffee shops and libraries reading through the epic Mahabharata and decoding the various metaphors to discover the more profound philosophy and way of life embedded in the text. He finds contentment in the simplest things like laying in the warm sunlight on a cold day and experiencing petrichor of the initial monsoon. He is a fan of stories that use rich symbolism to probe readers into more profound thought and reasoning.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
I am very hard-working, dedicated, and passionate from the inside, no matter how jovial, fun-loving, and happy-go-lucky I may seem from the outside. People often have this tendency to assume that I am rather laid-back and aloof. This is not at all true. Yes, I certainly don’t take life exceptionally seriously because that stuff can make you bitter and even physically sick. I am jovial, yet I am in no way dispassionate or disconnected either.

Q.2 When should we expect your next book? What will it be about? Will it be the sequel to The Path Of Sukshmaloka?
The sequel won’t be coming so soon. However, I have two other completely different unpublished books. One is a western fantasy, and one is a noir-thriller. It can give readers a short break from the Sukshmaloka-verse.

The sequel to The Path Of Sukshmaloka will take time. The Sukshmaloka story is a very intense and demanding story that has kind of set a level of standard and expectations. I will be taking my time to ensure that the sequel tells a very memorable and epic tale that syncs well with its predecessor and continues the story further at the same time. While the current part has a sense of realism and urban elements, the sequel will solely be an epic fantasy with little or no urban elements.

Fans who enjoyed part one can expect a more detailed and adventurous journey in the sequel, with some very thoughtful character journeys and many more concepts. This one would be more of a volume than a book, mainly due to the high amounts of world-building that I am aiming at.

Q.3 What made you write The Path of Sukshmaloka?
It has been an initiative to show the deeper side of good and evil, which on its own seems binary and flat sometimes. So, for example, today, if you go and tell somebody they are ‘bad.’ It is kind of an empty allegation, don’t you think? But if they happen to be ‘Ignorant,’ ‘Irrational,’ ‘Insensitive,’ ‘Selfish,’ then automatically it is understood as to why you have called them bad or what the word 'Bad' is or means.

It is a similar case with ‘Good’ too. Why is anybody good? On its own, it becomes very subjective. But now, when you say that person is ‘Spiritually Aware,’ ‘Reasonable,’ ‘Empathizing,’ ‘Selfless,’ then that automatically explains why they are good. So the reason for writing The Path of Sukshmaloka was to bring out the meaning behind what is ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ in the greyest possible scenarios.

It was basically a vision to push the boundaries of fantasy beyond the simple argument of good and evil or just and unjust. It was to show to readers the feelings or traits that lie behind anyone being good or bad. The intention was to bring the attention of audiences who are absorbed in physical world problems to the subtle existence-The Sukshmaloka.

My idea was to express that thought of after-life and astral existence to people. It was to express the fact that higher consciousness exists and earthly woes are not our ultimate reality. The message intended was-Move beyond fear, move beyond rage, and seek transcendence, seek higher awareness.

Q.4 That’s indeed a very unique thought, and it holds true to a major extent. Moving to the next question… I felt that The Path Of Sukshmaloka seemed to have fewer female characters in the important roles. Would you like to divulge a little on that?
That’s an interesting perspective. Ironically though, I must inform you that the majority of readers and fans of this book, around 80 percent, have been females, and they have all tremendously enjoyed the book. So I must discuss your claim.

Before going ahead with my justification, I would like to assert this very strongly, that I am an author who does not believe in having ‘important’ and ‘unimportant’ roles, be it male or female. It is an unfair thing to do as an author or a creator. I craft my stories in a way in which it resembles a domino effect of sorts or something like a network. Every single character in this story is important, be it male or female.

Secondly, please note that my book does not seek to make or endorse any kind of statements on these kinds of social issues like woke liberal culture or any form of activism. I believe these schools of thought have been far too controversial, problematic and are more responsible for dividing people of the world into more and more sections than bringing them together. The book is not trying to show any social group as superior or inferior. There is a disclaimer too at the very beginning for the same.

Q.5 If you could be a member of a fictional sect from your book, would you choose the Dharmayodhas, the Dark Reptilian Forces, or the Rakshasas?
None, actually. I am quite grateful to be human. The reason is that we often see the glory of these races and characters and fail to notice their struggles, which are way more demanding than their blessings and boons.

Q.6 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Sometimes, it is difficult. Sometimes it isn’t. I guess a lot of this depends on observations and experiences. What I discovered in my experience is that the challenges happen only because somewhere, we as humans have been taught to differentiate between things and profile beings of existence in categories. We unknowingly or knowingly view gender or race, or species as different from ourselves.

What happened in my case was that experiences and reading all the Vedic scriptures helped me understand that all races, genders, species, and other beings are equal creations of God. That point is where a realization of sorts occurred.

Things changed for me. I discovered that all these categories like gender, race, ethnicity or species, those are just elementary details of our physical being. In the end, we are all one. We are connected to a higher force.

We all feel happy, sad, angry, and hurt. So yes, there are no difficulties in writing any character, be it man or woman, when that realization comes. When you see that every other being in existence feels the same things as you do and may accordingly have similar motives, writing any character then is a relatively straightforward route.

Q.7 How do you develop your plots? Do you use any set formula?
There are no defined laws or formulas, at least for me. I only write what comes to me naturally. It’s all pure imagination. But yes, I try to drive the story more with the characters and their actions rather than using the premise or the plot device as a tool.

Q.8 How do you select the names of your characters?
For The Path Of Sukshmaloka, they came in a flow. For example, the name ‘Prithvi’ just struck me; I don’t know why. It came from the logic that Prithvi in Sanskrit means Earth. So I wanted the character to come across as sort of a physical manifestation of the spirit of Earth, which has incarnated. This idea somehow, at a later stage, got integrated with the story, very naturally, without any coercion or planning.

In other instances, I only went for a name because of the sound or feel associated with it. This is true for Guruji Harshwardhana. Given his herculean duty and responsibility in the book, along with his colossal struggles, I wanted the name to exude that feeling of seriousness. So I purely went with the name ‘Harshwardhana’ based on the sound of it. Coincidentally, I later discovered that the name in Sanskrit means ‘The Bearer of glory or joy.’ That is the moment I got goosebumps because it was a pure coincidence and so unintended, yet it happened so much in sync, like a divine occurrence.

Q.9 What was the hardest part of writing this book?
It was the gravity of the story that made matters a little tough. The story was so deep, almost like a universe in my mind. I found it very challenging to limit the size of the book. Initially, I had planned to write one big and epic volume spanning over 2000 pages.

But I kind of decided against it. It was far too massive, and the times where people actually read such long books are slowly going past us, for whatever reasons. So yeah, I guess adjusting the volume of content was the challenge. Around 3-4 years went into that indecisiveness. One year I’d chop everything off, and the other year I’d rewrite. They were mad times.

Q.10 Outside of your family members, name one entity supporting your commitment to becoming a published author?
Well, Supported is a very meaningful word. Not everyone can live up to it, you know? But yes, I was lightly encouraged here and thereby a handful of people outside my family. Some even tried to inspire me by contributing a lot of beautiful things into my life, like suggesting me inspiring books, emotional and entertaining video games. I am very grateful for that.

But all this was not really support as such. It came and went away with phases of my life. Supporting someone is a big and challenging commitment and not for the faint-hearted or the lost-willed. In that category were only my parents and my sister.

Q.11 Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
I have never experienced it personally. What I write comes to me naturally and flows onto the keyboard.

Q.12 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
Yes, I do read them. I must admit some of the readers have some really deep and interesting insights into the book. As of now, there are no bad reviews, so that’s a really good sign. Still, if and when they do appear, I wouldn’t be too affected.

I am a firm believer in Krishna Consciousness. I think one ought to only focus on their work in an outcome-independent manner. My job is to write, and I do that. I feel a book that has a good story and leaves matters open to perception is better than a book that is written with the intent of pleasing the masses and gaining the bestseller status. In the former kind of book, the author is being honest to himself/herself about the work, and in the latter, I feel an author is not.

Q.13 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?
I won’t call it a habit, but I sometimes end up being a little too unkind to my keyboard while typing fast, and it disturbs those around me.

But I am not too bothered by it. Especially since I was told once that I resemble the sound of a horse galloping. In a make-belief way, I think of myself as Clint Eastwood in my own western, riding through a hot desert.

Q.14 Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
That won’t happen. I am here to stay. 

Q.15 If The Path Of Sukshmaloka was made into a film, who would you like to play Prithvi Sen?
Not thought about it yet. I’d love to say Keanu Reeves or Roddy Piper or even Johnny Depp. But I won’t get too ahead of myself. I think we would need a completely new face, perhaps since Prithvi Sen is very unconventional in terms of looks and characteristics.

Q.16 What advice do you have for aspiring fiction authors?
Don’t lose faith. Hang in there and keep writing.

Q.17 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
Living: Mr. Christopher Nolan or Mr. John Carpenter; to pitch to them The Path of Sukshmaloka for a film adaptation.

Dead: Mr. Nicollo Machiavelli, to ask him whether The Prince was intended as a roadmap to better social life or worsen it?

Q.18 What is your favorite book and why?
There can never be only one. There are many of them, as I have elaborated in other interviews too. I can literally spend a whole weekend talking of all the beautiful styles of storytelling and writing that have appealed to me and inspired me. Not to mention the various authors and the unique concepts and characters they brought to the table.

Q.19 Your book delves significantly into philosophy and life lessons. So I would like to ask you, are there any big life lessons you as a person have learned till now and which you would like to warn readers about at a personal level?
Quite a few actually. But one prominent one which I have experienced and even seen others experience very unconsciously and ignorantly is that…

People strangely so often blow away a potentially glorious future while trying to rebuild their tattered past, which is sometimes beyond saving. When this happens, it is the person who makes this half-hearted move who suffers the most. Neither do they completely conquer what destiny may be treating them to, and neither do they succeed in building their past because it is already broken.

For example, a broken glass can’t be fixed. Even if it is fixed somehow, it will always have cracks. Isn’t it? So yes, I think everyone should only focus on the present and the future. The past is called the past because it’s gone, and there is no productive way in which it can contribute to our lives, apart from simply complicating things of the present and the future.

Q.20 Share the experience of your literary journey so far?
Fabulous. I deeply thank all the readers who took the time to read The Path Of Sukshmaloka, I thank the bloggers such as yourself for providing critical analysis, I also thank all the middlemen and distribution channels for all their professional support, with all other applicable parties that I may have missed out. I also thank all the friends and family who encouraged me post-publishing.

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