BENGALURU: As a debutant fiction author, Keshava Guha, son of veteran historian Ramachandra Guha, is often posed with two questions: ‘Oh, you’re just like your father [in terms of being inclined to a career in writing] or, ‘You’re so unlike your father [having chosen to write fiction.]. To that, Guha junior has only one response: “I have two parents, and I’m equally influenced by both.”
The 29-year-old, who released his book, Accidental Magic, at the Bangalore Literature Festival over the weekend, explains that writing fiction is an art form just like design, his mother’s area of expertise. "If fiction writing is what I wanted, my parents have always given me the freedom to explore what I want to. Had my father written fiction, there might have been some sense of comparison. But since he doesn’t, it’s different," Guha opines.
Having grown up in a “house full of books”, Guha always knew he would be a writer at some point in his life. Now, in Delhi with Juggernaut Books, a job that requires him for two days of the week, Guha spends the rest of the week writing, and is in the early days of his second book, on contemporary India.
Meanwhile, his debut –which has got a rave review from Man Booker Prize winner Aravind Adiga, who called it a “terrific debut novel. Sparkling, very (very) funny and deeply moving” – is about a group of young people from different countries and social backgrounds who are united by a mania for Harry Potter. While the title of the book and the reference to Potter may throw some off track, classifying the book in the fantasy genre, Guha vehemently denies it.
“The story is very real even for those who haven’t read Harry Potter, like Aravind Adiga,” he says. Interestingly, when he was figuring the title of his book, his mind went back to a copy of Alice Hoffman’s book, Practical Magic, at home, which he had for some reason always thought it to read Accidental Magic. “That phrase had stuck on in my mind, and when I was looking for a title and I suddenly realised that the other book was called Practical Magic. When I looked up Accidental Magic, it was something that hadn’t been used, and I decided to go with it,” he says.
Working as a freelance journalist, Guha finds himself sticking to deadlines, and doesn’t really understand writers’ block. “When you’ve got to write, you’ve just got to do it,” says Guha, who admits he’s a slow writer, taking time to figure the right work and craft each sentence carefully. “I care about sentence structure, language and everything in between,” he says.