The Laidback Storyteller

Meet Melbourne-based writer Nishant Kaushik, author of seven published novel.

It’s almost two years of living within lockdown and everyone is craving some sort of normality, but does the creative process stall for an artist? No! Stories don’t take a back seat, even for laid-back writer Nishant Kaushik (38), author of seven novels including Romance with Chaos, My Father is a Hero, Chaos Down Under, The Chaos Project and the upcoming Good Boy Joe. By day, he is a telecom consultant in a telecom firm and by night, he is churning up stories in his Melbourne home. As he sits with G’day India and The Indian Weekly chief editor Mr Sethi and me, he talks about his struggles, success, aspirations, dreams, and upcoming novel.

“I moonlight as a writer,” says Kaushik, explaining that he has taken writing full-time intermittently but writing has always been his first love. He is a versatile writer, saying that he has tried everything so far other than romance and horror, but he still likes to diversify. “I am working towards a journey where I can eventually quit my day job and focus purely on writing because that’s where my passion lies.”

His first desire to write dates back to nearly twenty-one years ago, when he was an engineering student. His mind wandered to anything except his engineering curriculum.
Going back further, when Kaushik was seventeen, he was lured by the concepts of friendship, teenage romance and films, which prompted him to write his first book about friends. Kaushik’s first manuscript was rejected fifteen times before a Delhi-based publisher signed his first contract as an author. His debut novel was published in 2007.

In 2012, he wrote Good Boy Joe; he was three books old in the market, thinking it would be easy for him to publish with his existing associations in India, one of them being Rupa Publications. The book is a dark comedy centred on Joe de Costa, a jobless twenty-year-old youth in Bombay who comes face-to-face with his favourite but failing actor seeking his own redemption on a comeback film – fate brings them together in a comical adventure. It was inspired by Kaushik walking past ‘Mannat’, which is Shahrukh Khan’s bungalow, and thinking, “What if I were able to open the door of his house and greet him?”

He was confident it was diverse and fresh enough to be picked up, but to his shock Rupa rejected the manuscript, saying, “It’s not something that our readers will appreciate. So how about we extend your contract for two more books, but not Good Boy Joe.”
So, the book took a backseat until 2014; by this time, he had approached several other publishers, literally all leading names in the Indian market, and they had all rejected the manuscript. A confessed lazy writer, he was not up for self-publishing as it involved a lot of hard work on the author’s part and he did not understand book distribution – but he still did it, because he so badly wanted the story to come out. He did not understand how his book reached the UK market, and it was only during the 2020 lockdown that Emmy award-winning radio journalist Kate Delaney got her hands on this book.

One thing led to another. In September 2020, Kate’s interview with Kaushik was broadcast to about 110 stations across the USA. It landed on the ears of a literary agent, who then took a leap of faith and passed the word on to UK-based publishers Austin Macauley. The publishers declared they wanted to publish the book and released Good Boy Joe under their imprint.

Speaking about the success of his novel My Father is a Hero, Kaushik reveals he drew the character Vaibhav Kulkarni from the shadow of his own father, who always believed, from the Bhagavad Gita, “Never get let down by failure and never get too arrogant because of your success, always create the middle path. And there is an element of that middle path in this book as well.”

Nishant with wife, Kamini with sons, Kayaan and Nivaan

This book had a journey of its own as well. At that time, he was interning as a film script consultant for a company in Mumbai in 2011. One of the projects asked him to write a film script for the technician – and critics were looking for new and diverse film strips. He wrote this as a film script and screenplay that was never picked up, so he turned it into a book.
Commercially, his second novel, a corporate satire named Romance with Chaos, has done the most business; it has sold more than 100,000 copies since its release in 2009. But on a personal level, My Father’s a Hero is the dearest to Kaushik.

He is also known for kicking up a storm with his tweet with writer-director Siddharth P Malhotra. In March 2015, Kaushik was given a one-liner brief about what Malhotra was trying to direct, and based on that he had to come up with a synopsis. Kaushik’s immediate question was about a contract, but he was told that it would all be signed once he brought up a good synopsis. Like most writers, Kaushik did not want to miss this opportunity and rub the director the wrong way, so he submitted a synopsis.

In December 2017, he had gone on a vacation to India and the day he landed, he saw on Twitter the trailer of a film called Hichki, directed by Siddharth Malhotra, which immediately made him sit up in his seat. While having lunch he started tweeting about the film’s similarity to his synopsis, and his tweets went viral with about 600 retweets and thousands of likes, and celebrities like Anurag Kashyap and Saurabh Shukla endorsing Kaushik’s opinion.

All Kaushik wanted to say was that he was robbed of his dignity. He didn’t intend to take legal recourse to this, because it was pointless. “I’d be fighting against a magnet,” says Kaushik, noting that it is high time that the Indian film industry starts recognising and compensating the effort made by writers and stop hiding behind big flashy banners.
As a message to budding writers, Kaushik says not to take advice from established writers, and to write beautiful or ugly, whatever format it takes. Wait for it to be out and then worry about how it will get read; getting read is the second part of the story, the first part is actually writing it. So, baby steps, emerging writers!

We thank him for sharing his remarkable journey with us and wish this passionate writer the very best for his upcoming novel and future storytelling. I can’t help quoting JK Rowling: “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

By Nandita Chakraborty