Ankit hails from Lalitpur, a sleepy little town in central India. Writing and telling short stories and poetry brings him comfort. As a Ph.D. scholar, he gets to spend a lot of time with children in government schools of India, listening to their stories and learning from them about life. At the moment, he is in England, practicing storytelling.

Please tell us more about your story ‘Not a fancy Dress’?

As a child and now as an adult, I have tried hard to make sense of what a child may learn from something like a fancy dress competition in school. I do not get the point. It could be fun if students are allowed their own expressions through colors and fabric, but that’s hardly the case. It becomes reduced to a show of social status where some parents get to put their resources on display while all others watch in dismay. Imagine what kind of an improvement a child should visualize if she does not win the competition. Such practices defeat some students even before they learn to play.  This story tries to question traditions and ritualistic practices of schools by bringing in perspectives of parents.

What was the writing inspiration behind this story?

It was the zeal of parents who struggle really hard to give their children a future where they could be more free and worthy. I have witnessed hundreds of such parents from small towns to the suburbs of metropolitans.

Do you have particular rules and rituals you follow as a writer?

Not so much. I spend more time feeling about the story rather than writing the story. And, when I feel something strongly, I have to write it down, even if it is not comforting.

What/who is your writing companion? You know like tea or coffee etc.

Early mornings I would say. And I have a dear friend, Vaidehi, who listens to my story no matter what time of the day (or night) it is. Having a listener completes a story.

Where do you go for inspiration?

I am fortunate to spend a lot of time in schools as a researcher getting to observe children in classrooms, at play. It helps a lot in exposing me to the curiosities and wonder children possess naturally. Most of my stories come from the time I spend in public spaces – train stations, bus stops, restaurants.

The first book you fell in love with and the author you admire the most. Why?

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ is a book I absolutely fell in love with. I read it last year and it has changed the way I imagine stories and perspectives. I admire writings of Premchand and Manto for their brutal honesty about ordeals of life.

Any writing tips you would like to share with fellow writers?

Too early for me. But I can share what I am trying. And that is to be true to my feelings and the story without flavoring it with concerns like how would it be published or would people like it or not or what is selling good in the market. I am striving to be a person who simply writes at one time, rather than someone who does editing, publishing, marketing or reviewing at the same time.

You can read his book Not A Fancy Dress here.


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