Facts, Fiction and the Making of a Novel
The right-wing politics in the United States and India is very similar, says Braham Singh, the U.S.-based author of Bombay Swastika.
For a long time, Braham Singh, a United States-based senior corporate executive, felt the compulsion to bring alive his creative ideas for the world to read. He has finally made a debut with his book, Bombay Swastika.
The newly-minted author spoke to Little India about his future projects and his love for literature and politics, which is also apparent in his writing.
“Bombay Swastika took me three and a half years to write. It shouldn’t have taken that long but since it was the first novel, you need confidence and have to get your voice as a writer. It took me almost a year to start writing comfortably,” says Singh, who is a senior vice president in Reliance Communications (RCOM) and its subsidiary, Global Cloud Xchange (GCX).
Bombay Swastika is a historical fiction and a crime thriller panning Berlin in 1935 and Mumbai in 1964. The story, which is based on a true chain of events, follows a German Jew who is entangled in a world of mystery in Mumbai.
Singh, who is in his 50s, is already working on his second novel, Her Browser History, which will be set in Washington DC and Alibagh, Maharashtra, in present times. The book centers around a Sikh young woman who had an affair with an older American senator and has to move to India after her indiscretions. This book is also based on some incidents that took place in Vancouver and Washington.
Singh grew up in Mumbai’s Chembur and lived there till his mid-20s after which he has lived in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Oakton, Virginia, where he currently lives with his wife. His daughter studies medicine in San Francisco. His grandfather was a writer and poet, and that’s perhaps the reason the love for fiction has been with him for many years, during which he devoured works by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Gore Vidal, VS Naipaul, Paul Theroux, Kiran Nagarkar, and Khushwant Singh, among others. His own writing process, he says, involves writing in the early hours of the morning, and to do his “brain dump,” he uses a fountain pen and ink.
“Some people smoke weed, some drink to bypass their self-censor, I use a fountain pen,” he says. He also acknowledges that some may find his books too sexual and abusive, but others have loved it completely.
Singh shuttles between the United States and India for work and his books now. Before writing his first novel he considered using a pseudonym for a short moment, but gave up the idea wanting to keep life simple.
Having lived in the United States and India, he draws comparison between the politics of the two countries. The right-wing politics in the two countries are very similar, he says.
In America, there is outrage against Muslims, anyone of color, and the president is obsessed about a southern wall, while in India, Muslims are now the scapegoat, he says. “Growing up in India, there was an aggressive Muslim persona but after Mumbai attacks in 26/11 and after Pakistan became a failed state no Muslim wants anything to do with Pakistan,” he says. “I have interviewed Muslims extensively – in slums, the Borah community, in Aligarh, in Delhi — and they want nothing to do with Pakistan. Given the case, why this animosity towards Muslims now? This outrage is misplaced and it’s similar to a small white population in America. Even in India, there is a vocal minority against Muslims and it’s growing.”