Students, Parents & Teachers - I dedicate this book to each of them! - In the Corridors of the Coach
We spoke with author Nikhlesh Mathur about his new book In the Corridors of the Coaching Capital. Check out excerpts from the enriching conversation about life, challenges, engineering, and God!
Booknerds: Let’s get to know you more as a reader. Your first book was a non-fiction textbook titled Learning Chemical Engineering for Process Industries. Compared to this debut book, In the Corridors of the Coaching Capital is full of fantasy and fictional elements. Which one did you enjoy writing more and which genre do you enjoy reading more? Nikhlesh Mathur:Being a reader is the basic step before one can even think of writing something. It doesn’t matter what you read. But reading is a must for achieving anything in life. Yes, my first book was a non-fiction book. Learning Chemical Engineering for Process Industries – It is an academic reference book that I thought to write after gaining substantial experience in chemical industries. At that time I got so engrossed in gathering the practical technicalities which I had learned over the years that I could not think of my other interest which was, of course, fiction writing. Being a chemical engineer myself, I wanted the present-day students to know what is practically required by modern-day industries before they walked inside the processing factories. Once this academic book was published, I wanted to check if I could write fiction too because stories always impacted my mind.
In the Corridors of the Coaching Capital – my latest book is not my debut fiction work. I wrote – The Storm in the Silence before this and that was my first attempt at fiction, which, of course, was quite near to some realities which unfortunately keep happening in our country. Well, to be frank, I enjoyed writing fiction more than the academic book because of the twists & turns in the story – the excitement even made my adrenaline rush faster at times. As a writer one needs to think more to make the narration entertaining and design the ideas to keep the readers glued to the book. For academic books, the information is all known and it is only how descriptively you pen it which is important. One cannot take many liberties in writing an academic book. But in the case of fiction – even the sky is not the limit. Coming to the next part of the question, strangely speaking I enjoy academic reading more. It could be because of my job requirement as a chemical engineer or an inclination towards my academic qualification. But yes, I enjoy writing fiction. It is really fun imagining the odd characters, shaping them, and knitting them together in a story.
Booknerds: As an alumnus of NIT Rourkela, is any part of this story based on your personal experiences? Be it the education, lack of passion, or family pressure - is it an ode to your journey as an MBA student? Nikhlesh Mathur:No, the story is not based on my personal experience, nor is it based on my journey as a student. It is based on my observations and my interaction with the students who come to Kota to take coaching. You see I basically belong to Kota Rajasthan and therefore have had opportunities to interact with several students there. The coaching system, let me tell you, is simply fantastic there. But the problem is that many students come there unwillingly. This is one part. The other part is the stringent competition which tends to demotivate several students. For some youngsters coping with the pressure to get selected for IIT or medical is enormous. They wilt under the pressure. This is where the role of the parents becomes extremely important. And there is a message in this story regarding this. Maybe the parents will pick the solution as well from here.
Booknerds: What inspired you to combine the divine aspects of the story? How did you come up with the concept of Raasbihari seeing the future every time he touches the Hanuman idol? Nikhlesh Mathur:Well, I believe that God has given each one of us a divine ability to keep realizing, understanding or at least keep discovering the varying aspects of life. Knowingly or unknowingly, this, I believe, happens to all of us when we slip into a specific environment, a typical situation, or a diverged thought process. Some people recognize this ability in them and draw good mileage from it while some don’t. You must have heard many writers saying that they sit at a particular location on a particular chair to have more creative thoughts. Students often say that they understand the subject matter better when they study at a specific place in their homes. People from all walks of life tend to discover weird methodologies by which they feel they are more successful at whatever they do. Some wear specific dress materials, some take a chosen route to work despite traffic issues, etc. Here in our story, the main protagonist gets an idea of the future happening when he touches lord Hanuman’s idol at a particular temple. Of course, I have dramatized the narration a bit to keep alive the interest of the reader but this idea germinated from my belief that every one of us you, I, and all can have a feeling of divine intervention under specific circumstances. We must recognize this fact.
Booknerds: The story is quite a unique concept that I haven’t read in any other book before. It is either about romance or spirituality or IIT perils. But this book has the best of all three worlds and more! How did you club all three elements and how did you research and enhance them? Nikhlesh Mathur:From your question, I can make out that you liked the book very much. I am glad to share that all those who have read it have messaged that they enjoyed the story. In the Corridors of the Coaching Capital has love all over the air, spirituality in the right doses, humor to make the readers smile plus a strong message to both the students as well as their parents, and a bit of suspense in the end. Now how could I effectively combine all the elements because of three factors: - Self-belief that there is always someone up there to help us out but provided we observe, listen & act accordingly and timely - I gathered all my characters from society and gave them common names suiting their personality and more importantly the words & actions which they would normally use under the circumstances depicted in the story. So it all went in a smooth flow when the elements were knitted together - And lastly, I read as I wrote. Yes, every time I wrote an event in the story I read it from the perspective of the different-different people whom I know. You can say that I read what I wrote several times and each time assumed that I was someone else. So I not only used my mind but also the imagination of other people. This helped me in creating a liking by all who have read this book
Booknerds: Is this book dedicated to anyone in particular? As there are so many aspects in the story - love, education, family pressure, divine interventions, and more. Is this story meant for particularly someone in your life to cherish? Nikhlesh Mathur:Students, Parents & Teachers - I dedicate this book to each of them. It is they who have effectively combined to make this book a roaring success. The story is also meant for all those students who are planning for coaching or parents who have decided to send their children to coaching classes. They are the real heroes behind this book.
Booknerds: I came across your Instagram profile and how you are actively promoting your book. How have you used technology and the power of social media to put your book out there? Nikhlesh Mathur:Technology is something that is an integral part of our life now. One cannot and should not run away from it. Instagram is one of the most powerful tools to exhibit your product. People need to know that a good product exists. Then only the people can utilize the product. The same thing is with books. Social media has set the ball rolling. More & more people are now buying copies of this book – In the corridors of the coaching capital which is published by the renowned traditional publisher TreeShade book of Delhi. I must add that my publisher TreeShade is extremely glad and already asking for my next book now. Social media brings one to the limelight faster than any other mode. I am glad it worked for me too.
Booknerds: Of course, one of the best parts of the story is the romance. Your feminism is visible clearly as you have given Manjri fair parts as the story's heroine. It was a fresh perspective rather than seeing Raasbihari take centre stage every time. Was this intentional and how did you plan it? Nikhlesh Mathur:You are right. Even as a writer, I am always influenced by the female characters that I imagine for the story. In my 1st fiction book - The Storm in the Silence – the main protagonist is a young married lady fighting the odds with all her might in a manner that only a lady can do. I believe that females have more courage & intensity when it comes to handling complications & hurdles. They are generally not afraid to think in broader terms. Even in this story, Manjari is the guiding force behind the main protagonist Raasbihari. You cannot say it was purely intentional, but yes it came out this way automatically in my writing. And I believe it provided a lot of amusing moments in the story, like adding a delicious gravy to the curry, if I am not wrong.
Booknerds: There is a brief mention of Raasbihari’s ancestors also possessing this skill. But the story is not elaborated on, giving us scope for a substory or even a second part set in the past! Have you planned to elaborate on this aspect more in some later edition of the book? Nikhlesh Mathur:Yes, that was just a passing hint that what Raasbihari experienced was not new to the family. A similar thing had happened earlier. I did not want to delve deeper into it in the story. Such passing references establish a sort of connectivity with the readers. They must not think that only our protagonist is someone very special to have experienced divine effects in his life. And yes the scope for a sub-story according to me lies more at its end, like what we call a sequel. I won't reveal the end here. It is suspenseful.
Booknerds: Finally, what are you planning to write next? Back to some nonfiction or into the fictional world again with some new concept? What else are you working on at the moment? Nikhlesh Mathur:Ah! That's a million-dollar question. What next! Well, I have some interesting ideas in both fiction and non-fiction genres galloping into my mind. But it takes time for me to write more because I am in a regular job in one of the top chemical manufacturing companies of India – Kasyap Sweeteners Limited. Recently I got promoted to Group Vice President and that has increased my responsibilities at a new workplace. So let me see how I manage & ‘re-engineer my time’ to come out with my 4th book overall. But I promise I won’t keep my readers waiting for long!