NEW DELHI – Sanjeev Sanyal wears several hats. From India’s chief economic adviser to urban theorist, from environmentalist to writer, Sanyal brings a vast backdrop to his body of professional experience.
The economist went from writing non-fiction to writing news in his latest book titled “Life Over Two Beers” (Penguin Random House India). The book contains a series of mostly satirical stories about modern India. According to Sanyal, these stories reflect the times in which we live.
“I am convinced that the art form of short stories, which was the main form of writing fiction until the 1960s, is dying. I wanted to revive the art. There was, of course, a great deal of tradition of writing short stories in India, including by (Saadat Hasan) Manto and (Rabindranath) Tagore. But around the world, the art of writing short stories is being replaced by the art of writing novels It’s a shame, âSanyal told IANS in an interview.
He said newswriting has been a critical way to record history as it happens. “In a way, it is more faithful to its time. Unlike a complete novel, which can create its complete universe, a short story cannot,” he added.
An Oxford Rhodes scholar, Sanyal was a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society of London; visiting scholar at the University of Oxford; associate researcher at the Institute of Policy Studies, Singapore; and senior member of the World Wide Fund for Nature. He is widely regarded as one of Asia’s leading economists and was the global strategist and managing director of Deutsche Bank until 2015.
âI wanted to bring back the art of satire. Of course India has an ancient tradition of satire that goes back to Sanskrit literature. This tradition of satire has been replaced by comedy, which is different. Satire is a second-rate humor, âsays the author.
Sanyal started scribbling short stories in the early 2000s, when he had just moved from Mumbai to Singapore. âOne afternoon I started to write without really thinking about it. Over time they just kept adding up and I ended up with a bunch of short stories in 2005. Then I thought that maybe I should try to publish them, âSanyal said.
But publishing stories and poetry – he has three poems in the book – was a different cup of tea.
The book being a kind of “reflection of our time”, he speaks in his short stories about social mobility and intellectual openness. He discusses social media – Facebook and Twitter – and the idea of ââtrolling, and has woven a story around contemporary technology. In one story, he talks about sexual harassment at work.
He says he likes to observe things up close when writing about them. He travels to places he wants to write about and has lived in cities that he has used as a backdrop in his stories.
When asked if there was a reflection of his own life in any of the stories, Sanyal replied with a laugh, âNot really. A lot of them are derived from my personal experience of living in cities. like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. I also mentioned Singapore and London very briefly, along the way. “
âIn one or two places I made fun of myself. For example, I mentioned myself as a Singapore-based economist who claims to be an author! But neither of the characters are me. Throughout the book, there are references to my favorite authors. “
There is also an underlying idea about the lives of single men throughout the book. “It’s a tribute to Ernest Hemingway and his book (of short stories) ‘Men Without Women’,” Sanyal said.
The cover of the book was inspired by PG Wodehouse, the writer who has legions of fans in every generation.
âAll of my writings are derived from a philosophical framework. Whether it’s my economics, my urban design work, or my historical writings – they are all derived from a philosophical framework called the Complex Adaptive System. fundamentally is the idea that the world doesn’t work in a predetermined path. It basically works unpredictably. And is full of unintended consequences, like the butterfly effect, “Sanyal explained.
This is his fifth book. Previously, he wrote âThe Indian Renaissanceâ, âThe Land of Seven Riversâ and a children’s version called âThe Incredible Geography Story of Indiaâ and âThe Ocean of Unsubscribeâ.
He is currently preparing a book on the independence movement from the point of view of revolutionaries. He comes from a family of revolutionaries – on both sides of his parents – closely involved in the struggle for freedom.