Interview with Ranjit Kulkarni: Discussing his Latest Novel ‘Give Me a Break’ and Much More

Ranjit Kulkarni is an Indian writer based in Bengaluru. Ranjit’s writing style, according to readers, blends the humorous with the spiritual, the mundane with the meaningful, and often revolves around philosophical musings peppered within tongue-in-cheek, slice-of-life anecdotes.

He speaks to News World Inc about his new novel Give Me a Break.

NWI: Would you mind telling a bit about yourself?

I was born and brought up in Mumbai in a regular, middle-class family where education was paramount. I completed my engineering from NIT Warangal and later an MBA from IIM Lucknow. I spent 22 years working with various MNCs before taking up writing books. I am based in Bangalore now.

NWI: What elements make a comic novel worth reading or great?

I have always found that it is mainly the characters and funny situations articulated with a good sense of timing that flows naturally make a comic novel great. Most of the humorists I have read never had complicated plots or settings. It was their ability to see and find humor in regular situations that made me laugh.

NWI: How did you evolve characters like Swami and Jigneshbhai?

Jigneshbhai and Swami appeared first on my blog many years back when I wrote on investing which is one of my pet passions. Whatever I had to say about investing got over in the first set of articles, but I still wanted to write. That is when I decided to create these characters to make my writing entertaining as well as enlightening. I then expanded them to situations beyond investing to other situations and found that they took to those well too. SO when I took up writing fiction, I thought of putting them into comic situations around the broad plot that I had in mind and see what happens.

NWI: How do you see your career as an author of novels? Any aspirations…

This is only a beginning. When I started, I was not even sure I will be able to finish fiction novels. Now that I have managed two, I hope to write more books in the Jigneshbhai and Swami series – hopefully more novels and novellas. I also want to write independent short stories beyond humor. Beyond that, who knows what the future holds? Let us take one step at a time and see where it goes. As long as I keep enjoying it and have a story to tell, I will hopefully keep writing.

NWI: What books or authors has been your greatest influence?

I have always read humor a lot. Wodehouse without a doubt, Douglas Adams. RK Narayan – I love their style. In Marathi, which is my mother tongue, I am influenced by the style of P.L. Deshpande. And when I was younger, I read a column in Mid-Day by Busybee who I still remember when I write. I read a lot of stories by Chekhov, Saki, O Henry to feed my brain with ideas and learn. Earlier, I used to read lots of non-fiction on investing and business which has reduced now. I am an avid reader and learner of spiritual scriptures and books which exert some influence somewhere in my writing too!

NWI: In your opinion, what makes a novel successful?

I wish I knew. I am told that if it transports the reader into a world of the writer’s making, that is the recipe. But then, success is an illusive goal. I guess what is in a writer’s hand is to write – and try to write well – something that is timeless. And then hope readers like it.

NWI: How is your Swami character different than R.K. Narayan’s young Swami?

Actually, apart from the name, they are quite different. Honestly, it is quite an honor if the Swami in my books reminds you of the Swami of Malgudi. That was not the intention. To be fair, they belong to different eras, are of different ages (mine is middle-aged!) and may have different temperaments.

NWI: Is this novel part of any Swami/Jigneshbhai series?

Yes, I plan to write a few more. It is not a continuing series – in the sense that the stories will not follow a sequence. They will be independent, the situations will be different with Jigneshbhai, Swami and some characters and references common. Readers do not need to read one to get the other – though I hope they would like to spend time in the world of Jigneshbhai and Swami.

NWI: What are you working on next?

A book of independent short stories, and another Jigneshbhai and Swami book, hopefully in 2021.

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