Amrita Verma Chowdhury is a multi talented writer. She holds engineering degrees from IIT Kanpur and UC Berkely and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon. Her work as an engineer in Silicon Valley earned her seven US patents for semi conductor fabrication. She is currently the Associate Director of the India Research Centre division of Harvard Business School. She is also deeply interested in contemporary Indian Art.
How did the idea about the book come from?
The idea came about because I love art and am interested in art. And also because forgeries in art have been in news off late. So I thought it would be fun to write a book on it.
How did you zero in on Tara Malhotra as your protagonist?
I think trough some extent Tara evolved through the writing of the book. I myself came from the US just a few months before I started writing this book. So to some extent, the initial bit of Tara was the things that I had seen and experienced. She sort of evolved from there and she gained more definition of who she is.
Have you included your own experience while shaping up the character of Tara Malhotra?
Mine and that of many others who have move from the US.
You mention that plenty of research has gone into this book. Can you share a few experiences what you unearthed through the research?
I interviewed and spoke to a lot of people in the art world. I met everybody from the artists to art gallery owners, people who write about art, people who conduct art auctions, art critics. I interacted with them a lot. Nowadays there are also a lot of online sources available, which provide a lot of information about art. Also I have been interested in art for a while. So that also helped. I have my own collection of art books in my library.
How long did you take to finish this book?
It took about a year and a half to write and about six more months for the whole editorial process.
One of the twists in the book is about an Amrita Shergill painting. Are you a fan of hers?
You also have an E book on Tara Malhotra in your blogs. What inspired you to create that?
To some extent they are the things which we edited out of the book. There’s a lot of social commentary in the book about life in Mumbai, about the world we inhabit. Some of the stuff is rather funny. If you look at it from a distant lens, its vey tongue in cheek. Since the book is an art thriller, we had to take out some parts which were slowing down the pace. But they were all very funny scenes. So I have included them in my blogs.
An engineer, an art lover and now a writer. How did the last part come about?
I have actually always wanted to write and have always loved to write. It’s been a long journey. When I was studying in Berkeley I did a couple of courses in journalism. I also did editorial internship in National Geographic Traveler magazine as I love travelling as well. But other things beckoned and I had to get back to engineering. So now I have taken up writing.
This is your first book. What are your expectations from it?
I hope people enjoy reading it. It’s a fun read. It is also a multi layered book. It also contains a lot of information about the art world and also about the whole process of reverse migration. All of it put together it is a very fun book and I hope people enjoy it.
The books and the authors who have inspired you?
It has probably evolved over the years. I have had my phase of childhood reading. Now I increasingly love things which are fun read as life is hard anyways. I like most of the Indian authors-Amitav Gosh, Jumpha Lahari, they are amazing authors. I also read a lot of popular fiction.
Any other book in the pipe line?
Yes, I am working on another book.
Sneak peek into that book.
It’s about young girls coming of age. It’s going to be in a setting which is totally going to be different just like this was in an art setting. I won’t reveal about the setting though.
Indian fiction is opening doors to more aspiring authors today. What would your advice be for budding authors who want to write a book?
Two things are very essential. One, it requires a lot of patience. The second thing is it’s a long and a lonely road. You need to persevere.