Born in Guwahati, Siddartha Bahri spent most of his childhood and youth in Chandigarh and Delhi. Starting out as a tele-calling executive he grew to become a General Manager before quitting the corporate world and settling down in the hills of Kumaon. He currently lives in Majkhali with his wife. ‘The Homing Pigeons’ is his first book. Read IndiaBookStore’s interview with Sid Bahri.
1. An hotelier by education, a banker and outsourcing executive by profession, a writer by choice – would you consider this an apt description for you? If not, do you have anything else in mind?
A wanderer, a confused soul in search of his calling and a man eccentric enough to give up a flourishing career to follow his passions are other ways to describe me. Yes, I was a banker, an outsourcing executive and a hotelier by education but like Jack Welch said “Yesterday’s papers wrap fish today.”
2. From Guwahati to Chandigarh to Delhi to Ranikhet – when do you plan to head back home?
Well you missed Toronto and Makati, Manila in that list. I am a quintessential wanderer and a nomad. Home today is Ranikhet but will it be forever, I’m not sure. Even though, I’d love to stay here but knowing myself, I am not sure I will be here forever. Home is where the heart is – Today, it’s definitely in the hills.
3. The “homing pigeon” is a quaint old-world concept in today’s world of Facebook and Whatsapp. How relevant do you find it today?
The Homing Pigeons have this uncanny ability to come back to their mate and that’s where the book drew its inspiration from. Even though, Homing Pigeons are out of fashion but love never does go out of fashion. Does it?
4. The synopsis of your plot has a strong Gabriel Garcia Marquez feel to it. Do you consider him as an inspiration?
For my sins, I’ve never read Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Thus, he can’t be an inspiration for this work. I would give that credit to The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I read her book while I was writing The Homing Pigeons and even though her work and my work are as different as chalk and cheese, she did inspire me to write better.
5. “Behind every successful man there is a woman” – do you agree?
My wife would kill me if I said anything otherwise. On a serious note, writing is tough on the family. It takes hours and days away from the family and if it weren’t for Puneet, my wife’s support, I wouldn’t have been able to write the book. I don’t know if I’m successful yet, but she’s the one who’s stood by me through the highs and the lows.
6. Would “The Homing Pigeons” have turned out different had writing been your day job?
The Homing Pigeons was written by night while I was still in a full time day job. I doubt if the book would have been any different but it would certainly have impacted the time I spent on promoting the book. Now, that writing is a full time job, I find myself writing faster. That’s probably the only change that’s come in the writing.
7. Conversely, do you think your corporate life experiences added some extra zing to your debut novel?
While the story is set in Citibank and has references to places that I’m familiar with, I am fairly certain that the book is detached from me as a person. The book was started in 2008 but took about five years to finish. I matured during this time, writing blogs, content for websites and ghost writing articles for corporate Executives. Practice makes perfect and I’m glad that I didn’t publish in a hurry. The book wouldn’t have been half the book that it is today.
8. How difficult is it to give up on success? As a corollary, how easy is it to follow your heart?< It depends on how you define success. If success were to be defined by your bank balance or the apartment that you own, then I was successful. But, for me happiness was more important. The difference between living a good life and earning a good living is enjoying what you do. I have found my calling in writing and even though I don’t know where my next paycheck is coming from, I’m a lot happier than I was in my job. Following the heart is easy – you just have to overcome your fears. I was fortunate enough to stare my fears in the face when I was younger and had fewer responsibilities. It told me that if you’re willing to jump, the safety net will appear. 9. Are you more of Aditya or Radhika (the protagonists of “The Homing Pigeons”) as an individual?
Neither. Both these characters share some common traits with me but I don’t think I’m either one of them. The characters are figments of my imagination – flawed, imperfect and yet, relatable.
10. How does it feel to be “far away from the madding crowd”? A lot of writers – Ruskin Bond, Allan Sealy – seem to crave the solitude of the mountains… is it the same for you?
Life can’t be better. Its serene, its quiet and it’s the closest that you can get to heaven. It comes with its fair share of challenges but overall, I can’t complain.
11. What does Sid Bahri do to unwind?
I love to cook. Cooking to me is a passion that helps me relax. Food to me is a religion.
In the absence of a lot of entertainment avenues, a long walk down the hillside is probably the only other form of relaxation that I can afford.
12. A successful entrepreneur or a successful author – how do you want the world to remember you?
Definitely as an author. My endeavor is to render stories the best way I can. Success, if it comes, should be incidental to the cause.
13. What can we expect next? Are you a big fan of switching genres or would you build another “universe of sentiments”?
The sequel is almost ready. In another few weeks, it will try and find a home for itself. The sequel is a fairly different book from what you’ve read in The Homing Pigeons. I definitely don’t want to stereotype myself in a genre so, there is more to come.
Thank you very much, Mr. Bahri, for taking time out from your busy schedule for this interview with IndiaBookStore. We wish you all the best for your future endeavors.