Q1: By profession you are a cosmetic Surgeon. What gravitated you to the realm of creative writing?
I have been a precocious reader and also used to write half-baked poems for the school magazine. However, after entering medical college, general reading was restricted to newspapers and periodicals because the bulky medical books acted like obsessed lovers- they demanded exclusive attention. Later, professional commitments left little time for anything other than work, sleep and some mundane activities. However, around ten years ago, when I reluctantly accepted myself as middle-aged, I decided to become a writer for diversification of the mind and gratification of the soul. The memories of hits and misses of my long career as a doctor proved to be handy for writing the first two fiction books which have humour in medical profession as the theme.
Q2: What made you choose to write a romantic comedy within the premise of the medical profession?
Workplace romance is generally frowned upon but it still happens everywhere including the hospitals. If we ask doctors about where they met their wife for the first time, many would reply that it was in a hospital ward. So, even though the medical profession is synonymous with sickness, injury and death, humour and romance have a place here. In busy teaching hospitals, the junior doctors face the triple whammy of tyrannical bosses, demanding kin of the patients and acidity inducing medical books. Humour and romance often guard them against going nuts.
Q3: your latest novel ‘Lights! Scalpel! Romance!’ published by Rupa has Nipun as a trainee doctor. Tell us more about his character.
Dr Nipun is a prankster to the core. However, he has matured with age and presently he makes do with witticisms and one-liners. But he is very ambitious as regards his profession and wants to become as renowned a surgeon as Dr Ujjwal, the chief. He is not the typical handsome hunk who draws pretty ladies like a magnet. The average looking guy is further handicapped by a below average luck. But his perseverance pays and ultimately endears him to his boss, Dr Ujjwal, as well as to the lady doctors.
Q4: Does romance find time and space in a doctor’s busy life?
Wherever the two sexes intermingle, romance is a distinct possibility. Interaction can happen when two doctors are discussing professional matters or taking a break in the cafeteria. It is well known that to impress the pretty junior doctors of the fairer sex, some doctors take extra pains to teach them the theory and the clinical aspects of medical sciences. The ladies often judge the male doctors by how caring they are for the patients. But the candle light dinners and long drives on a rainy night are a rarity since the free time of the couples rarely coincides because of long and erratic duty hours.
Q5: Your female characters are strong-headed ones. Are they inspired by real persons? Are you a feminist in a broader sense?
Ever since my son has joined his job at another city, the balance of power in my house has tilted in favour of females. Presently, I am putting up with three strong-willed and strong-headed ladies in my home- my mother, wife and daughter. Need I say more!
Since I am a cosmetic surgeon, most of my patients or rather clients are females. I have noticed that they have amazing mental strength and a positive outlook on life. If their personality is allowed to flower, our vision of an advanced nation with a humane society will surely achieve fruition. So, I am a sort of feminist. But I am also aware of some instances where the fairer sex used unfair means to harass men.
Q6: Dr Ujjwal is a character with diverse shades. How closely does he represent the senior-junior relationship in the medical fraternity?
Dr Ujjwal is a character who exemplifies the saying- No one is completely good or totally bad. While his personal life could be the subject of a C-grade movie, he has been a brilliant surgeon throughout. He is like a typical chief surgeon- Hard on the outside and soft on the inside. He takes great pains to teach the steps of surgeries to junior doctors and shapes their career. Mostly they don’t mind his scolding because the teachings which are tinged with rebukes are always retained the most. Sometimes he does act unreasonable. But the junior doctors have their defence mechanism too- they laugh over it during the lunch break. Of course, a sensitive person may respond with downturned angles of mouth or saline drops streaming down the cheeks. Dr Ujjwal hates tears- so he is softer on Pushpa and the other lady doctors.
Q7: Which authors in the literary world have influenced you the most?
The writings of P G Wodehouse have had a huge impact on me. His humour is timeless. I also like the style of Ruskin Bond- he can create magic out of the day to day life of a simple being. Lately, it has become a fashion to ignore Chetan Bhagat’s contribution- but I feel he has helped bring Indian authors into the orbit of the Indian readers. In the last few years, I have been reading more and more of the Indian authors because they are coming out with extraordinary books in different genres. Moreover, I can relate to the characters, situations and the cultural milieu.
Q8: Writing a light- romantic comedy around such a complex profession, didn’t you feel that it may narrow down your readership as non-medicos might find it difficult to relate?
This book has been written for the general readers as well as doctors. So, only simple medical terms which are absolutely essential for the script have been used. All technical descriptions have been avoided. However, nowadays, thanks to the internet, even non-medicos have reasonably good understanding of the medical profession and some of them have even startled me with their knowledge!
Q9: Does your profession help you grow as a writer if yes, how?
My first two fiction books have been on medical themes. So, in a way, my profession has given me a kickstart by providing me with many stories and themes upon whom I could build up a fiction book by using creativity and imagination. However, I am deviating from the medical fiction them in my third book which is a satirical novel on materialism in Punjabi society. In my speciality of cosmetic surgery, there are no emergencies. So, I can write past dinner with a free mind.
Q10: There is a glacial rise in the number of the writers from various professions in recent times. Does this affect the quality of the literature?
The process of bringing out a book is a mammoth task and sometimes takes years to achieve. So, every book and author should be appreciated unless a shoddy book has been written with a devious intent- to achieve quick fame or to impress the opposite sex! Many professionals have been writing fiction and non-fiction books related to their profession which gives them an obvious edge. But they have also taken up themes like romance and mythology with finesse. However, many professionals suffer from delusions about their command of English language and it is better if they accept the superiority of a good editor in this respect.
Q11: Though your book is in the category of traditional publication with one of world’s best publishers, I wish to know your take on self-publishing?
Although I have no experience of self-publishing, I think it may be resorted to if the author doesn’t want to wait in the long queue for traditional publishing. Also, it gives you the complete control of your manuscript. On the flip side one may end up with a book which has gross errors and has poor flow of the story. Some of the established authors have begun with self-publishing. Also, many others have found great success with Kindle Direct Publishing.
Q12: What is the message you would like to convey to the budding writers?
My message to budding writers is to do a lot of reading alongside writing because that will make life more interesting and also open new windows for the mind. Also, do read the books on various aspects of writing like emotions, characters, plotting, dialogue etc. As far as publishing is concerned, one must have astounding patience to get a good publisher. Approaching a literary agent can save a lot of time and effort. Dream big and put everything into the promotion of the book but don’t link your happiness with the commercial success of the book. There are so many tangible and intangible rewards of being an author- they will reveal themselves to you gradually.
Title : ‘Lights! Scalpel! Romance!’
Author : Dr Jas Kohli
Publisher : Rupa Publications India
Available : Amazon