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Tête-à-Tête with Arjun Nath

What was your latest “OK Boomer” moment?

This is a tricky one because I’m nearly old enough to be considered a Boomer myself! I was attending a wedding recently and an older gentleman — within a few minutes of meeting me for the first time ever — asked why I wasn’t married yet. When I asked him why he felt I should be married, he said: Vedon mein likha hai ki yeh tumhara dharma hai. Really? So being happy with your highly personal life choices is a big no-no, but preaching a 3000-year-old sacred text at a complete stranger about the ‘right’ way to live their life is somehow fine? OK Boomer.


Any tips on bridging the generation gap with parents?

It’s a big subject and I’m nowhere near qualified enough to be handing out tips on it. But in my experience, parents are nosy as hell. I mean, aside from being the ones with the money, that’s basically their one defining trait. It comes from fear. They don’t want to control your life, they want to know that you’re safe. So throw them a bone once in a while. Let them know when you’ll be out late, and who your friends are. Share any one meal with them every day. It’s no big deal and it’ll make your life much easier.


Any personal #litAF friendship stories you still cherish?

I made a friend when I was at a drug rehab 10 years ago. For the sake of anonymity, let’s call her by the oddly specific name Kajal Sheth. Because she lives in London and I in Delhi, we’ve met only a handful of times since. And because I dread speaking on the phone (to anyone), we are sometimes not in touch for months at a stretch. This is a frustrating, often hurtful, situation for her. And yet, no matter how many calls I don’t take or texts I don’t respond to, she’s always there for me when I need her to be. Gehna’s baby, in the book, is named Sitara after Kajal’s daughter.


Who do you relate more to: Eram or Gehna?

At a circumstantial level, Eram. He had, like myself, a father with Parkinson’s. He also enjoys games of chance, and strives to be better than he is. Gehna is more of a manic pixie — overly sensitive, bipolar, spontaneous, and self-absorbed, and I am none of those things.


Rom-coms or Thrillers?

Thrillers. Rom-coms are a guilty pleasure, and they have this annoying habit of sneaking up on you and stabbing you right in the heart.


Favourite sports movie?

That’s an impossible question. How to narrow it down to just one? Sports movies, even the badly made ones, always make me cry. Probably something to do with the winning-against-all-odds trope that hits deep. In English, Seabiscuit. Closer to home, Lagaan.


What’s the story behind the title [“Not All Those Who Wander”]?

JRR Tolkien, in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, wrote a poem that starts with the couplet: All that is gold does not glitter / Not all those who wander are lost. I borrowed from it for the title of the book, partly as tribute to the literary master craftsman and partly because feeling LOST is such a common experience for teenagers.

What food are you craving right now?

Sev Puri. I am always craving sev puri — even while eating it! Indian street food is the best street food, Chaat is the best Indian street food, and sev puri is the best Indian chaat street food.


Be honest – how many drafts did it take for Not All Those Who Wander to take shape?

I’ll be honest — one draft. I take no pride in that fact. A famous author, I forget who, was asked a similar question in The Paris Review. She (or possibly he) said that there are two kinds of writers. One: those who just put words on a page willy-nilly until the first draft is done and then work out the kinks in the rewrite. Two: those who are constitutionally incapable of moving onto the next sentence until the preceding one is polished and perfect. I’m the latter sort. It takes me a long time to finish a first draft but when I’m done, it’s done.


Any procrastination tactics you employed while writing the novel?

Yes. Netflix, the Internet, and examining the contents of my belly button. Getting anything done without a deadline, a boss, and irate clients is no easy task. The only thing that works is a driving need to see where the story goes.


What’s your typing speed?



What’s the last book you read?

George RR Martin’s A Dance with Dragons. Each year I re-read the entire series in the hope that this, finally, will be the year he finishes Book VI, The Winds of Winter. But he never does. I’ve never been more cross with a person in my whole life. He’s probably watching Netflix. Finish the damn book, GEORGE!


Favourite chat slang?

Not a huge fan of chat slang, tbh. All that “wer R u *smh *idk” business drives me up the wall. But I have of late become a rabid emoji user. My favourite is the rolling-your-eyes yellow face. So useful!


What has been your best 3 AM idea?

To cash-out of a poker game. I know you probably meant to ask what has been my best 3 AM story idea, but I’m re-interpreting the question. Cashing out of a poker game is the best idea at any time, and especially at 3 AM. Go home. Get some sleep. Do NOT try to calculate how many meals you can afford for the rest of the month.


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