In conversation with Ashoak Upadhyay
Can a story change your life? You bet it can! I found out how by interacting with Ashoak Upadhyay, the author of the book titled, ‘The Hungry Edge.’
Born and raised in Mumbai, a journalist with a Ph.d in Economics, Ashoak Upadhyay works for the Hindu Business Line, a national financial daily as an Editorial Consultant and columnist. He currently lives in Pune. ‘The Hungry Edge‘, his debut book, is a layered tale about the unexpected impact of a stranger’s story on three characters and the cataclysmic turn their lives take, in some cases tragically, as their fragile connections with family and self worth snap.
Ashoak reveals, “The story is set in present day Mumbai, the connecting narrative of the ‘confession’ in the book is set in what used to be The Wayside Inn, where Mahesh a recluse with a ‘story in his heart’ joins quite by chance the three diners, the self-styled Gang of Three, one Saturday afternoon. He returns every Saturday for his cathartic journey into the past. Every Saturday after long conversations, they return to their respective lives with their attitudes to love, sex, money, each other and their sense of self-worth subtly altered. These attitudes are remembered, recalled, reflected upon throughout according to their readings of Mahesh’s failed and eventually futile passions as they unfold.”
“The Hungry Edge draws upon my knowledge of Mumbai’s social and moral history and business practices acquired in the course of my professional career. Journalism’s inherent limitations made me turn to the fiction form to explore the shifting currents of life in the city, their effects on self-worth more vividly and poignantly perhaps more ‘truthfully.’”
Ashoak would like to think his passion for 19th and early twentieth century ‘Masters’ and their depiction of characters and societies in tumultuous transition–Dickens, Balzac, Robert Musil and Hermann Broch among others; has provided, what the writer Jonathan Lethem once described as the ‘Ecstasy of Influence.’
“Joseph Conrad’s use of the character of ‘Marlowe’ influenced the story-within-story structure of ‘The Hungry Edge’ with the peculiarly Indian experience of the ‘adda’, the ‘dens’ of like-minded folks, journalists for instance, swapping yarns, ideas or gossip in cafes and tea-shops. The Wayside Inn becomes the crucible in which individual destinies will be shaped and reshaped. The novel is also a tribute to The Wayside Inn, a great haunt, adda actually, for poets, writers and shoppers. Its lazily whirring ceiling fans, red and white checked cloth over wooden tables, beer and indifferent continental fare added to an ambience for conversations that could stretch into the early dusk when the lights would be switched off and the Inn would fold up for the night.
On one of the tables a lawyer with cruel memories and burning ambition took the first step towards his own immortality by penning the first draft of the Indian Constitution. At later times but no less slow, artists and poets defined and refined the city’s cosmopolitan sensibility. It was into this Wayside that Mahesh walked in and changed destinies.”
Ashoak Upadhyay has a couple of short stories under his belt too. He is also working on a second Mumbai novel as part of a series ‘The Indian Comedy‘.