Techie’s Novel impresses Actress
When Atulya Mahajan, a Delhi techie, went abroad, he started a blog, Amreekandesi.com, observing life around him. The blog has had visitors from 197 countries, and a total of 800,000 page views, till date. Atulya’s debut novel, a humorous take on the archetypal immigrant experiences of a dorky techie and his pal, is therefore rightly titled Amreekandesi: Masters of America.
Atulya has an Electrical Engineering degree from the Delhi College of Engineering, and a Masters in Computer Science from the Florida State University, where he scored a perfect 4.0 GPA. He has worked for CMC, Oracle, and Lehman Brothers before his current assignment. Here’s our chat with this debut author.
Techgoss (TG): Could you detail your career trajectory for our techie readers? What was your first job, and where?
Atulya Mahajan (AM): I started my career with CMC, a software consulting organisation. From there I moved to Oracle, where I spent my days (and nights) developing an application that eventually got patented. From there I moved to the US for my Masters, following which I have been working in the financial services industry. I have seen the best and the worst of investment banking from up-close. I was at Lehman Brothers when it went down. Before that, I worked for another hedge-fund that blew up about 8 billion dollars of money in the matter of a few days. Currently I work as a Vice President at the Royal Bank of Scotland managing development on a couple of projects.
Investment banking was the last place I would have expected to reinforce my faith in karma and destiny, but life does throw unexpected surprises at you, doesn’t it?
TG: How and when did Amreekandesi.com happen, and why? Why did you choose the name, and how has the name evolved into the USP of your website?
AM: The blog began in 2007 when I was living in New York. I like to observe people and the sort of things they do, and the American experience fascinated me, in terms of the changes people undergo when they land in that country. The blog started with an intent to document the lives of Indian people living abroad. Eventually the scope widened into current affairs and politics, and of late I have been almost exclusively been doing satire on our society, politics and current happenings.
As for the name, my original choice was ‘AmericanDesi’, but it was taken, so I ended up adding a Punjabi flavor to it by making it AmreekanDesi. In hindsight, it was a great move, as today it has become a brand name that people recognise and appreciate.
TG: How has the traffic to your site evolved over the years, and which country gives you the most visitors?
AM: Ah..traffic. The bugbear for aspiring bloggers. I remember the initial days when I used to get elated seeing a hundred hits in a day. Over time that number has gone up to much bigger levels. I have had a total of 800,000 page views till date, and a few posts that went viral saw as many as 50,000 hits in a single day.
Google analytics tells me that people from about 197 countries have visited my blog, which is flattering. In terms of the biggest clients, I get the most traffic from India and the US.
TG: How did the book happen? How has been the response? Give us one response which made you thrilled.
AM: The book was something that I have wanted to write ever since I completed my Masters, simply because it was such an eventful experience. During that period, I came across so many different characters, events and incidents that I just had to tell the story. The success of my blog gave me the confidence that I was ready to finally write that book, and a bout of chicken pox allowed me the solitude of a couple of weeks that helped get into that frame of mind.
The response so far has been encouraging. I have had people writing in to me to say that they loved the book and that it reminded them of their own time when they traveled abroad. Some of the reviews have been very flattering, though I have got my share of critical reviews as well. All I can say is that you learn from your mistakes and try to mature as a writer. There’s plenty more within me. I am here to stay.
I’ll mention two responses that are close to my heart. The first is actor Gul Panag, who read and loved the book and even agreed to release the book in Mumbai where she called it a tightly knit, witty story that could be made into a great movie.
Another incident was a Facebook post from an old friend I last met about 16 years ago, asking me to send him my phone number so his mom could talk to me. He called up from London and handed over the phone to his mother. To my surprise, she wanted to talk about the book and said that she absolutely loved the characters, the events and the descriptions. That call truly warmed my heart. Such moments are what make writing worth it.
TG: What's the future of the website? Do you plan any strategic diversification?
AM: I want to concentrate on the website now as I have not been able to focus much attention on it over the last year or so, as I spent most of my time working on the book. So yes, I would like to write more posts, make fun of more politicians and cricketers, and do more opinion pieces even. These are great times for doing satire in India, especially with the elections coming up. Just as long as none of the holy cows gets seriously offended and shuts me down.
TG: Would you have anything else to tell our readers?
AM: Yes, a very important one at that. Last night I had a dream where goddess Durga told me that whoever buys my book and gets five more people to buy it will suddenly discover a great fortune hidden within the walls of their bathroom, while those who don’t could find great misery, like the water running out right after you cover yourself in soap. Go ahead, the choice is yours. :)
Techgoss Note: Read more from Suneetha at suneethaspeaks.wordpress.com