In Interview with Mohul Bhowmick: the Author of They Were My Heroes

An Interview with Mohul Bhowmick: the Author of  They Were My Heroes

Mohul Bhowmick is a national-level cricketer, poet, sports journalist, essayist and travel writer from Hyderabad, India. He writes consistently for the e-magazine LiveWire and The Times of India’s blog. 

To his name are some prominent books in the poetry and travel writing genre. He looks quite promising in the Indian literary arena with his new poetry book ‘They Were My Heroes’. 

He speaks to NEWS WORLD INC about his new book, cricket, writing aspirations, and much more.

NWI: After having tasted relative success as a travel writer with Seeking Kathmanduwhat made you go back to poetry and come out with this collection- They Were My Heroes?

Seeking Kathmandu was my debut work in non-fiction and I relished working on it. Taking a solo voyage to Nepal when I was just 21 years old was an eye-opener for me- partly an education, in a manner of speaking. I learned a lot about myself on the trip, going inwards whenever I was racked with challenges; the acknowledgement that the story needed to be told came much later. 

The book, fortunately, was received exceptionally well, managing to stay on the Amazon bestseller list for the best part of three weeks or so. Although I did not seek approval as such, this told me at a subconscious level that I had not done too badly. I recognised that I could explore myself outside of poetry as well.

Having said that, poetry is what I connect to the most- it comes naturally to me as a writer- and something that I seek in the minutiae of everyday life. They Were My Heroes, as a book, took two years to come out (as my last collection of poems Soaked To The Skin was published in 2020) and is a treatise on different aspects of my emotions. I am glad that I have been loved by my readers as a travel writer, but I know that I have unfinished business as a poet still.

NWI: Is the book dedicated to someone, as the title suggests?

They Were My Heroes is dedicated, specifically to Akshath Reddy, Ibrahim Khaleel and Habeeb Ahmed, and in general to all other heroes of mine in Hyderabad cricket, about whom I feel that not enough has been sung in the mainstream media. 

These men were brave hearts who carried the Hyderabad cricket team on their shoulders in domestic cricket. Without knowing it themselves, they inspired me and a lot of others with their devotion, dedication and fidelity to their cause. In no small manner were these men behind the raucous stimulus that I got upon wearing the colours of Hyderabad with pride whenever I have had the privilege to do so. 

I felt that such a tribute was necessary, overlooked as they have been by our friends in the media. This collection only mentions them in patches; I think I have failed to do justice to them no matter how hard I have tried. All these men were my heroes when I was growing up, and I can never repay them for what they have given me. 

NWI: What is your greatest achievement in cricket?

My greatest achievement in cricket? I am far from it yet. I have had the great honour of getting selected and doing well for Hyderabad at the under-16, under-19 and under-23 levels in national level competitions organised by the Indian cricket board (BCCI) and I am extremely grateful to the Almighty for this blessing, but I am nowhere close to where I want to be. Making it to the Hyderabad senior team, doing well for it and then getting picked to play Test cricket for India- that is the objective. My best is yet to come.

NWI: How is They Were My Heroes different from any typical poetry book?

I cannot say if They Were My Heroes is different from any other collection of poems; I certainly did not intend it to be so when I put pen on paper. It is, nevertheless, distinctive in its own way. I have tried to encompass the rudimentary gamut of emotions that a human is capable of partaking in and only the readers will be able to establish if I have succeeded or not. 

The book consists of five sections- Travel Capers, In Tribute, Demons, Romantic Leftovers and Residues of the Heart. Each offers a fresh perspective on observations that I have made- either within me or of the world outside. This collection is a sketch of what I have felt, determined and discerned over a period of time, and I feel that a lot of people will be able to relate to it on some level.

NWI: How big a role has the city of Hyderabad played in shaping you as a poet? 

I owe a lot to my hometown of Hyderabad for moulding my tastes in poetry and literature. The city has produced exceptional poets in Urdu and Dakhani. I believe that it has something to do with the fact that the founder of the city, the king Muhammad Quli Qutub Shah, was a poet himself! However, the remarkable Sarojini Naidu- a forebear of mine- had set standards so high in her day that there appears to be a noticeable vacuum in English poetry now. 

Nonetheless, the city has given birth to and hosted doyens such as Waqar-ul-Mulk, Josh Malihabadi, Zaheer Dehlvi, Talat Aziz, Jalal Manikpuri and Jalaluddin Ashk. Of course, the pick of the lot was Dagh Dehlvi, who was also the tutor of the penultimate Nizam, Mir Mahboob Ali Khan.

Even the last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, was an ardent poet and his writings would surface every so often in the dailies of his time. There is something about the laidback nature of the people of our city and the slow pace of life in it that I feel inspires poetry of the highest order. The more you slow things down, you go inwards and search for your true Self. Poetry is but a medium. It would not be incorrect to say that poetry, of some sort or the other, runs in the veins of every Hyderabadi, and I consider myself greatly honoured to follow in my predecessors’ footsteps. 

NWI: What is the major theme in the book?

As I have mentioned earlier, They Were My Heroes consists of five sections, each of which focuses on a refrain of its own. In ‘Travel Capers’, travel writing converges with poetry while ‘In Tribute’ consists of homage paid to the people whom I have known intimately and who touched my life, enriching it along the way. 

‘Demons’ has verses in which I talk to myself, trying to discover ways and methods through which I can achieve self-attainment by delving deeper inside my psyche. ‘Romantic Leftovers’ and ‘Residues of the Heart’, as their titles suggest, try to speak in a neutral tone about matters of the heart, connecting its dots thanks to a dalliance that I was favoured enough to be witness to.

NWI: How do you see your career as an author?

I think that God has been extremely kind. When This Means War first came out, I could not have seen it becoming a bestseller. I experienced the dread that all first-time writers do- to fall straight on one’s back soon after publication- and face rejection from my readers. 

However, things turned out quite differently. An Audience Of One and Soaked To The Skin did well too but what turned the corner, in a manner of speaking, was Seeking KathmanduI was exploring myself as a travel writer, and did not recognise in me the ability to hold my own in this genre or keep my colour, if you like. However, the response from the readers belied all my fears. 

By and by, through my spiritual practices, I have embarked on a journey where the response from the outside has started to matter very little to me; the destination is but a pit stop in my own happiness. I have thoroughly enjoyed bringing out They Were My Heroes and the early response, thanks to the Almighty, has been fantastic. It is, however, not the end goal, and I have miles to go before I sleep.

NWI: What are you working on next?

My next project is one on travel. I really cannot divulge more at this stage. Although poetry has, and will continue to remain an integral part of my writing life, I now have this urge to indulge myself more in my passion for travel writing with an element of the spiritual included in it. Travelling is also about seeking inner journeys, and my adventures have certainly brought me closer to my real Self. My readings of Peter Matthiessen, Paul Brunton and Franz Kafka and re-readings of Marcel Proust have also prompted me towards it. It is an idea, I feel, whose time has come. 

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