Ashwin Sanghi, bestselling author of the recently published The Sialkot Saga, in a chat about how he began writing, his marriage to wife Anushika and the advice his son gives him
How did you meet your wife, Anushika?
Well, ours was what one would call a typical Indian marriage where two aunties from two known families met; saw a potential groom in the boy and the potential bride in the girl and then ‘arranged’ their marriage. That is what happened to us. Both of us are Mumbaikars and the families knew each other. But, I must add that although it was arranged, Anushika and I were allowed to meet often. This was way back in 1997. After about six months, my father-in-law got agitated. (Smiles). Eventually, I proposed. We got married in 1998.
As a son, what are the two most important values that you imbibed from your parents’ marriage?
That you need to respect your spouse and give each other a lot of space.
Are these two values then the ‘keys’ to your successful marriage as well?
Oh! Absolutely. Both of us – my wife Anushika and I believe that respect and space work wonders in a marriage. Marriage is a wonderful institution, but for it to work and become more beautiful, spouses must give enough ‘elbow room’ to one another.
And how can couples do that? What do you and Anushika do?
Your ability to spend time together as a couple within an extended eco-system is a must. Anushika and I bond by spending meaningful quality time with one another. There have been days when we have gone for a movie, left it halfway because ‘it was stupid,’ went to a coffee shop, ordered hot cuppas and laughed about the movie. You and your spouse are a force and you should celebrate that every moment of your life.
Does that mean that you two don’t argue at all?
Where is the time for that? I keep such a busy schedule you know and I think that in itself is a blessing in disguise (Laughs). I wake up at 5 am; write till 9.30 am and then catch up with my family. I rush to the office at noon and I am there for the next four-five hours. Once I return home, I sit down to read; research on the topic that I am writing about et al. I also make it a point to spend an hour with my son, Raghuvir. I go to sleep by 11 pm because I need to get back to my writing chair by five the next morning. Now that you know my schedule, tell me is there any time left for arguments?
Hmm…Okay, now on a more serious note, your wife is obviously very supportive of your work…
Do you know how I became a writer? It is because of my wife.
In 2006-2007, I had started reading about all the theories of Jesus having lived and died in Kashmir; the tomb of Isa…and became so obsessed with all the discoveries and the theories, that no conversation of mine was complete without discussing them. One day, Anushika said, “Ashwin, you have become a big bore. You keep talking about the theories and the discoveries and Srinagar. Why don’t you write about it? That will be the best outlet for you.” That is how I started writing – a dissertation of sorts and tried to connect the different theories. Once it was done, I asked Anushika to read it. Next morning, she said, “Ashwin, congratulations, you have discovered the cure for insomnia.” (Laughs)
And what happened next?
Well, although she was not impressed by my dissertation, Anushika suggested that there is enough material and my research is very good. She was of the opinion that instead of discussing the theories, I should use the material and think of developing it into a story. That is how my first novel, The Rozabal Line was written. I had to self-publish it in 2007 under my pseudonym, Shawn Haigins.
Does Anushika get to read your work first even today?
Yes. My wife is the first one who gets to reads the chapters or parts of it. She gives great suggestions and I value them. At home, my work also gets scrutinised by my mother, my maternal aunt, and my brother. The feedback I receive from them spurs me to do better.
Tell us about your son, Raghuvir? Do you give him relationship advice?
Well, he is 12 and you know how smart today’s twelve-year-olds are! It is he who advises me not just on relationships, but on a wide array of topics.
Considering you have received so much love, can we expect to read a ‘love story’ from you in the near future?
Not really. I love conspiracy theories, you know. I believe in love, but I do not see myself penning a ‘love story’. The storyteller in me might one day write science fiction, though.