When local author Rosalia Scalia visited
A recent trip to
It's fitting that Sandhu's inadvertent red ant migration micro-experiment doesn't escape his keen eye and even keener wit: currently, he's hard at work on his third book, tentatively titled Ticket to Canada, an exploration of human migration from the Punjab -- India's veritable bread basket state -- to points west, namely North America.
Born in Rourkela India, Sandhu, 38, has lived in Orissa, Uttrakhand, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Karntatka, and currently calls Delhi home. Like many Americans, his love for story, books and literature developed as a youngster via comic books. Indian comic book heroes such as Badal, Chacha Chaudhry captured his attention as did Phantom, Spiderman, the Green Hornet, and other famous crusaders.
Despite the prevailing Jatt Sikh family culture into which he was born that relegated the study of literature as an “unmanly” and “impractical” career choice, Sandhu prevailed, earning his first master’s degree in Literature from the University of Hyderabad in 1996 and his second master’s in journalism from the Asian School of Journalism in 1997. Like many writers-in-formation, he held a variety of jobs on the way to becoming a wordsmith, including farm hand, woolen-garment seller, a shop assistant, a tuition master, teacher, journalist with The Economic Times, a technical writer with
"Literature, for me, is an understanding of the essential human struggle to become complete. I write to understand myself and my world, and to sleep peacefully at night," he says. Still, the road from reader to literature student to writer came with the familiar struggle of daily blank pages during which "I couldn't write a single sentence in any of language," says Sandhu, fluent in English, Hindi, Punjabi, and speaks Urdu, Oriya and Bengali
Published in 2008 by Rupa & Co., India’s largest publisher, Sandhu’s first novel, Sepia Leaves, earned high critical acclaim. An autobiographical narrative,a fiction that alternates between memory and reality, Sepia Leaves chronicles the impact of a mother’s
But Sandhu travels beyond, demonstrating how grace under pressure can result in resilience, hope and love. The novel earned Sandhu critical acclaim and a plethora of speaking engagements and is available in bookshops across the India, while his second novel, Roll of Honour, is expected to hit
RS: What brought you to literature in the first place?
AS: I was crazy enough to do my masters in Masters in English Literature from the University of Hyderabad. Crazy because the kind of larger family and background I came from, boys did not study literature. Boys joined the Army. I did not come from a so-called refined family, one that placed value on the Arts. In India, in the 90s, literature was an "impractical" course to study. The country paid engineers and doctors, not school teachers or peons which is what I would have become if I had tried to get a job through my degree. I knew I was hopeless at competitive exams for civil servants. So, I was really crazy to study literature which I did because I knew no other way to address the angst in me but by reading and trying to understand how great writers had explored and written about the human condition.
RS: Are you a comic book fan? Asking because I'm thinking of what Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy said in a radio interview I heard. He said, "If you're looking for monsters, pick up the newspaper. If you're looking for characters struggling to be human, pick up comic books."