The Book Buzz spoke exclusively with the ‘author of the hour’ – Abdullah Khan, whose Patna Blues is being translated in multiple languages..read on!
The Book Buzz (TBB) : Discussions and talks around your debut novel doesn’t seem to die down anytime soon. With so many publishers willing to translate your book into various languages and praises pouring in every day, how does it all feel? While writing the book, did u have a gut feeling that the book will get such an overwhelming response?
Abdullah Khan (AB) : While I was writing this book, I never thought I’d get such an overwhelming response from the readers and the media. I really feel happy and satisfied as I am being paid back for many years of hard work. There is a great sense of relief that I got a dream debut. A couple of well known Hindi film directors are also interested in Patna Blues and it is expected that the book would be adapted as a film or a web series very soon.
TBB : Since the character of Arif, the protagonist of the book is so deftly crafted, one can’t help asking, is this a character that is someone you know, a relative, a friend or is it inspired from your own life? Please tell us something about it.
AB: Arif is a fictional character and is not inspired by anyone in particular. But, the challenges or the moral dilemmas in Arif’s life are quite similar to those of many lower-middle-class Bihari boys. Some of the other characters in my book, however, are loosely based on some real-life persons.
TBB : By the end of the book, many questions are answered many miseries find their closure. However, there are open ends as well. For instance, it is not known if Arif gets married to Farzana at all, or what happens to his yet unmarried sister? How does Sumitra deal with his final rejection? These aren’t questions that were answered in the book. Has it been done by design? Do we expect then a second part to the ‘Patna Blues’?
AB: It was not deliberately done. I actually did not have any idea what exactly happened to all these characters after the return of Zakir. I have the plan to write two sequels of Patna Blues but so far I have not figured out how to proceed. At present, I am working on a different book and I may return to the sequel once I have a clear idea of the story ahead, maybe in 2021.
TBB : It took 9 long years to publish this book. Please tell us something about this phase. How intermittently did u write? Places, seasons, and areas have a special mark on what you write. Which are those places where you wrote the majority of the book. Let us if there is any special memory attached to it?
AB: It was such a long journey. I scribbled first chapter of my novel in 1997, just after Arundhati Roy’s Booker win. And, I finished the first draft of Patna Blues in 2009. After that, I sent it to an agency for the feedback and what I got from them was horrible. I thought of throwing my manuscript in the dustbin but my wife insisted that I should do another draft on the basis of the feedback received. I was very satisfied with the second draft and started sending it to agents outside India. And, after collecting many rejections, I again worked and reworked on my manuscripts for many years. And, then,on advice of one of my writer friends, I sent it to two Indian publishers and one of them accepted it. Patna Blues will also be published in Hindi, Urdu, Odia, Malayalam, Marathi, Kannada and Tamil. There are many more translation offers in the pipeline.
I started writing my book in Patna but the major chunk was done in Ludhiana, Punjab where I finished the first draft. The subsequent drafts were done in Delhi and Mumbai.