Interview with Venkataraghavan Subha Srinivasan, author of 'The Origin Story of India’s States'Interview with Venkataraghavan Subha Srinivasan, author of 'The Origin Story of India’s States'
on Jan 14, 2022
Venkataraghavan Subha Srinivasan is a writer, actor, and strategy consultant from Bengaluru, India.
‘The Origin Story of India’s States’ is his first non-fiction book.
Check out his interview:
Frontlist: Your Twitter bio says, you’re a multi-talented person - a writer, actor, brand strategist, author, audible narrator, and Byju’s presenter. Who is the real Venkataraghavan Subha Srinivasan amongst these?
Venkataraghavan: They're all the real me. I believe that none of us is ever just one thing. We're all multi-talented and multi-faceted. We're a lot like India's states - there are multiple stories and truths about each of us, and we can't be contained to just one story, skill, or talent. It simply is a matter of what we choose to develop and are able to amplify.
Frontlist: What is the main objective behind this subject that is illustrated in your debut book?
Venkataraghavan: Your state forms an integral part of your identity. Maybe you were born there or you studied or worked there, or maybe your grandparents were from there. When you introduce yourself, you often say which state you're from as well. And yet, while nearly everyone knows the story of India's independence, very few people know the story of their state. I believe everyone must know the story of their state. This book tells the origin stories of all the states and union territories of India in accessible language so that everyone can read and engage with it.
Frontlist: As the book title comprehends, it must require very demanding research. How did you start the research process and carry on till the end?
Venkataraghavan: This book was researched and written entirely from my desk. I referred to academic journals, research papers, government documents, books, and articles - and they're all available online! There are sites like jstor and academia dedicated to scholarly knowledge; they were incredible storehouses and resources for me. And I've dedicated my book to all those who researched and wrote about specific states; their work has made mine possible.
Since I had to write about 36 states and union territories in one year, I allocated on average ten days per state. I would first dive into the research material and figure out the major players and plot points and overarching narrative. Then, I would write out that narrative. This discipline helped me stay on schedule and complete the book in a year.
Frontlist: Do you think this book will resonate with readers and convey the right interpretation of India’s birth?
Venkataraghavan: Yes! I have three wishes for how this book will connect with readers. One, I would like readers to have a sense of satisfaction after they read the story of their state because it's very personal to them and I want to do justice to every state's story. Two, I would like readers to have learned something new about their state. And three, I hope these stories will ignite curiosity in readers so that they go and do further reading on their own.
Frontlist: Through this book, you’ve defined each state and union territory. Which state was the most difficult one to write about and also share which one of the state’s birth history is your favorite?
Venkataraghavan: One thing that quickly became apparent to me as I wrote this book is that we have been taught very little about all the states. There was so much I didn't know. And this is especially true of all the Northeast states. It took me a while to get a sense of all their stories and figure out their narratives.
Every state's origin story is unique. No two states share the same journey. I thoroughly enjoyed diving into every state's past. Sikkim's origin story is a real page-turner, how it wasn't even a part of India until 1975 and then became a state. Similarly, Goa has had a real rollercoaster ride to statehood, even nearly becoming a district in Maharashtra at one point.
Frontlist: Have you always been into the ‘non-fiction’ genre? Share your favorite authors who reflect your writing style.
Venkataraghavan: I've written and published short fiction and children's books before this nonfiction book, and I hope to expand into writing for screen and audio formats. In terms of favorite authors, I love how Gayatri Prabhu can devastate you with sparse prose. And I've really been enjoying translated books from across the country; they're as diverse as the origin stories of the states they come from.