Vishaal Pathak was born in Lucknow, India in a middle-class family. Curious yet introverted, he spent his time taking apart toy machines and putting them back together. His parents saw an Engineer in him, and before he knew it, he was chasing the conventional Indian dream.
Apart from a game of cricket each evening, books were his only friend for the most part. School books during the week and story books during the weekend. In seventh grade, he convinced his school librarian to issue the only volume of Sherlock Holmes in his name indefinitely because the mammoth book of complete works was too big to finish in a week, too heavy to carry to school every week for reissuance and too tempting to give up. When he still couldn’t finish them, his parents eventually bought him a copy. To this date, the collection lies unfinished in his personal library and he hopes to revisit the stories someday.
By high-school, the occasional cricket and the odd story books were gone. All that was left was academic books. All through his engineering at National Institute of Technology, Allahabad and later MBA from Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, he rarely had the chance to pick up books, except maybe for a gift or a talked-about Booker of the year. Although, occasionally, he’d contribute with the pen to the institute’s annual magazines. He was drowning in spreadsheets, wireframes and user stories when the unthinkable happened and brought the world to a screeching halt.
It was only around June 2020 when the situation got the better of him and he turned to writing, nearly full-time. Since then, he has self-published two small-length books (notably, “I Can, Sir!” based on the true story of his dear friend) and has a couple of short-stories published as part of anthologies. Writing, he believes, is medicine for the soul. The topics that pique his interest the most are time, memory and ethics. Among his favorite books are ‘Catcher in the Rye’, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and ‘Never Let Me Go’. While currently writing short stories, he hopes someday to be able to write something of relevance – ambitious in both length and depth. When not writing, he can be found daydreaming or cycling.
We asked Vishaal a few questions to get to know him better and here’s what he had to say:
I have been writing since…
For about as long as I can remember. Being introverted, it is my go-to place.
My favorite author(s) and book(s)?
My favorite author is Sir Kazuo Ishiguro. I was deeply moved by his book ‘Never Let me Go’. My other favorite books are ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and ‘Catcher in the Rye’.
My journey as a writer:
I think I am just beginning to chart a path for myself. While I have been writing for quite some time now, it was only last year that I began sending them out, and have since had some of my work published in a few anthologies.
Why should we read you?
This is a very important and relevant question. We are all too hard-pressed for time, and there’s always a lot to watch, hear or read. You should give my writing a chance if you like to look at things – often even mundane, day-to-day things – in a different light, if you like questioning why something exists a certain way and if you don’t mind your own opinions questioned.
My favorite genre to read / write:
The genres I enjoy reading and writing are Drama, Comedy and Satire. I am especially drawn towards stories that deal with memories or perception of time as a theme.
What advice would you give young and aspiring writers?
Writing is essentially about getting to know yourself. And sometimes, if you are lucky, about making sense of the world we live in. You may have your own reasons to pick up writing and keep coming back to it – your drive, if you will – but if you really do spend enough time with the pen and paper (or keyboard and screen), you will have a friend for life. And will also get to know yourself better.
Here’s an excerpt from Vishaal’s winning story The scent of kindness that is now published as one of the short stories in Wafting Earthy.
My best times are outside. Sunshine, sprinklers, a walk around the park, chasing away the birds, rolling in the grass sometimes when my back feels itchy and no one’s looking. Almost always that’s also when they all start looking. Except Jerry. But he can tell. Jerry hates the smell of grass on my skin. More than I hate baths that he almost always has to give me if he sniffs it on me. Or the nice lady who pretends she’s all nice but clips my nails and distracts me to look somewhere else while she jabs my skin with some sort of shot that’s supposed to protect me. I fall for that trick every time. But she gives me a treat the next instant without fail so I try and not make a big deal about it. Last time around she took Jerry in the corner and whispered with concern, albeit hesitatingly. Now, I couldn’t hear what she said – not that it would’ve made a difference – but I know what it was all about. I very well do. Jerry has since been a little off. I see it, I can sense it, but most importantly, I can smell it on him. I have that power.
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