An Interview with Paritosh Uttam

After reading, “Dreams in Prussian Blue”, I had to interview the writer, Paritosh Uttam…So here is my interview with him, and Paritosh it is a fantastic book. All the best!

Why “Dreams in Prussian Blue”? Why not Bloody Red or Sunkissed Orange?  

Yes, in theory it could have been any colour. But I wanted a colour that gave off a dark, brooding impression, rather than a bright, cheery one. I just liked the name ‘Prussian blue’, when I first heard of it as a child, so perhaps that influenced my choice subconsciously.  

While reading the book, I had this weird sense that Michael was based on Howard Roark? Was he? And if he has been based on someone , then who is it?  

No, I didn’t consciously base Michael on Howard Roark. I only made the association when you first mentioned Roark in your review. I suppose they are similar in the sense of their obsession for architecture or painting. Roark is almost a mythical, exalted character with no faults; Michael has his large share of faults, and in that sense, more human. Michael is purely a fictitious character. Many great artists are known to have been extremely self-centered or tyrannical in their personal lives. You could say I based Michael on this generic fact, rather than any particular person. 

From an engineer to a writer, how does it feel? Its almost like you were meant to write. Do you feel that writing is your true calling?  

I wouldn’t say I have turned into a writer from an engineer. I am both of them, and I think it will stay that way for a long time. I was pretty good at acads all through school and college, been to IIT and all that. However, reading and writing was always a part of me, but I took it more as a hobby, or something to do at my leisure. It’s only in the last 7-8 years, that I grew serious about it. I agree writing is my true calling, because the urge, the pull, and the satisfaction I experience doing it doesn’t come when I am involved with other work. But again, I have been a techie for so long, that I don’t think I can shed that skin forever. 

Which authors have influenced your writing?  

I wouldn’t want my writing to be imitative or derivative because then I would lose my style. I admire many authors for their works, for different reasons, but I would not try to write like them. There may be some characteristics that I have subconsciously imbibed from different reasons, but I wouldn’t be aware of them. If you want specific names, I like V. S. Naipaul’s style, his wonderful usage of dashes and semi-colons to punctuate his sentences and to avoid verbiage. 

We all have wonderful memories of books and reading. Which ones have been yours?  

I have been an avid reader since childhood, when I used to take out books from the school library. I could get more than my permitted share because my mother was a teacher. I can divide my reading life into stages as my tastes evolved. Started with all Enid Blytons—Secret Sevens, Famous Fives, and the like; then the adventures and mysteries of the Hardy Boys, The Three Investigators, Nancy Drew; then dozens and dozens of P. G. Wodehouse; followed by thrillers and bestsellers—Forsyth, MacLean, Follett, Archer, Hailey. Only after exhausting them, did I get the sense to move on to real literature. Just too many to list here. I have a penchant for books that deal with different timelines; set in the present, but unraveling the past.  

I am a great list-man. I kept careful records of all the books I have read, and I have put those up on my website. It’s a great way of looking back at how my tastes evolved over time. Now I go based on reading lists and guides and recommendations and prize winners to decide what to read next.  

What are you currently reading? 

Currently I am reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, last year’s Booker winner. 

One book you wish you had written and why? 

I admire these authors: Naipaul for his non-fiction; Nabokov for his great style and variety; Dostoyevsky for getting inside the head of a mad character; Tolstoy for his sense of the epic, how his characters age before your eyes. But those wouldn’t be the kind of books I would write. 

One book I did wish I had written is Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. A different kind of love story, jumping back and forth in time and realizing the futility of wasted time at the end, and then the great ending. That would be the kind of book I would have liked to write. 

How important are colours to your life? Did you try and paint while writing the book?  

In actuality, you could say I am almost tone-deaf and colour-blind! I know what I am good at, and what I should leave alone. I didn’t try to paint, but I did research a lot on colour theory and oil painting. I was writing about painting which I didn’t know much about, from the point of view of a 20-year old woman, so I tried to be extra careful not to make any glaring errors. I certainly didn’t want to write about life at IIT or an engineer, so I chose something far removed from my actual life and experience. I hope I have not done too bad a job.

You can read more about Paritosh on:


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