A veteran journalist, Oswald Pereira has worked for leading newspapers and magazines in Mumbai, New Delhi and Muscat. Oswald, who has taught journalism at The Times School of Journalism, is an editor and an English language trainer. Oswald is the author of the widely-acclaimed, best-selling crime thriller, The Newsroom Mafia, published by Grey Oak Westland in December 2011. He was born in Thane, Maharashtra, and studied at St Xaviers College, Mumbai. He now lives with his wife and son in Noida. Revenge of the Naked Princess is his second novel.
He joins us for a small little chat –
Aseem: When and how did you decide to start penning down novels?
Oswald: Before entering journalism, while doing my post-graduation in Economics in Bombay University I wrote my first novel in the young adult genre. It was liked by the editor of a top publishing house. But the editor-in-chief overruled the editor. I was unfazed and wrote my second novel in which the protagonist was a priest who falls in love with a girl. Then I joined journalism and reporting and writing front page stories seemed far more exciting than churning out fiction. My two novels written back then, which still remain unpublished were a forgotten story. They still lie somewhere among my old papers that include a big scrapbook of hundreds of news stories.
Aseem: From being a journalist to a novelist, how has the journey panned out?
Oswald: I was first a novelist, albeit unpublished and then a journalist. But yes, the journey from a published newsperson to a published author has been rather thrilling. I think I have a lot more shelf life now, because in a newspaper or a magazine, you are as good as your last story.
Aseem: What was tougher or shall I say more challenging? Being a journalist or an author?
Oswald: Both are equally tough and challenging. But as a journalist you break a story and it’s over. While as a writer you write a book and you need to stay on the radar of your readers for a long, long time. That can be a tough call.
Aseem: Your first book “The Newsroom Mafia” was a smash hit. Did you ever feel the pressure of living up to the expectations with your next one?
Oswald: Yes, of course. I felt the pressure as I had to live up to the expectations of my readers and publishers. But I have paternal feelings towards both books; like they are my children. And the beauty of these babies is that you can have a really large family.
Aseem: ‘The Newsroom Mafia’ dealt with the unholy nexus between the politicians, media and the underworld. Didn’t you ever feel scared / worried that some people may not take the content too kindly?
Oswald: I was not really scared about the underworld mafia. But yes, I was scared about The Newsroom Mafia; they can be quite dangerous. Journalists love to point fingers at others. But they don’t take too kindly to criticism about them.
Aseem: From a crime thriller dealing with underworld to a historical thriller about forced conversions (Revenge of the Naked Princess). Do you make a conscious effort to choose different kinds of topics from the norm?
Oswald: I don’t choose the topics … the topics choose me. The ‘Newsroom Mafia’ was a story crying to be told; it was there — all inside me after spending more than three decades as a journalist. My life would have been incomplete without writing it. Similarly, ‘Revenge of the Naked Princess’ was a story dying to be told. The character of the protagonist Princess Darshana Kamya Kathodi was inspired by a fable that my grandmother told me as a child. But the brutality of forced conversions seemed to be buried deep inside my subconscious mind. This seemed to pour out very graphically when I began writing the story as if I was experiencing it myself. I truly felt a compelling need to tell the story.
Aseem: There are different theories / stories which keep floating about forced conversions in India. What’s your view on that?
Oswald: There may be different theories. But my view of forced conversions is that it’s inhuman and goes against your right to practise a religion of your choice.
Aseem: Since you have dealt with the concept of religion, did you ever feel any religious fanatics could have a problem with your book?
Oswald: I don’t rule out the possibility of religious fanatics having problems with the book; though no one has contacted me or the publisher. In fact, noted Christians and some members of the Catholic community have praised the book, because they are aware of the truth about forced conversions.
Aseem: Reading or Writing – What do you prefer?
Oswald: In order to write you need to read to keep abreast of what is happening in the literary world. But if you ask me to divide my time between reading and writing, I’d prefer to write, because that’s how I can pen the stories that I want to tell the world.
Aseem: What kind of books do you generally read? Any favourite authors?
Oswald: I generally read serious fiction, not necessarily thrillers and definitely not romantic sagas. My reading list also includes books on the English language and some self-improvement books. My favourites remain the classical authors like Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Henry Fielding, Emily Bronte, Thomas Hardy. But I have read G K Chesterson, Aldous Huxley, Alex Haley, Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Yann Martel, Dan Brown, Gregory David Roberts, Khaled Hosseini, Stephen King, Nora Roberts and Robert Harris among others.
Aseem: One thing about you none of your readers or colleagues know?
Oswald: I love to sing old Hindi songs by Mohd Rafi, Kishore Kumar and Talat Mahmood.
Aseem: How do you spend your free time?
Oswald: I spend my free time with my family and singing and chatting on Facebook and Gmail with my young friends.
Aseem: So any new novels we can look forward to?
Oswald: I’ve begun writing a mythological story; it could be funny or a thriller, depending on where the characters take me. I also plan to write a children’s book; it would be a touching story with a powerful message. Then my readers have been demanding a sequel to my first book, The Newsroom Mafia … and there are already rumblings for a sequel to Revenge of the Naked Princess.
Aseem: What’s your message for your readers and ‘wannabe’ writers?
Oswald: To my readers, my message is a big thank you for their support. To ‘wannabe’ writers, my message is: Make writing an addiction; Write at least five times a week, no matter what your mood is.
Thanks Oswald for giving us your valuable time. We wish you all the best for your future endeavours.