Prominent author Virender Kapoor opened up to DKODING MEDIA on what moved him to take up writing
Virendra Kapoor has penned down many inspirational self-help books that aspire to inspire. We got an opportunity to get to know him better. Through our conversation with the author, we dug out some really engaging anecdotes. Read along to know what it takes to be an author.
What was that one moment in your life that inspired you towards writing? Was it a gradual thing or did it happen overnight?
This would require some explaining.
I feel there was no trigger as such which inspired me to start writing. I never knew that I could write and one day I will become a successful author. In fact, it started pretty vaguely. I used to read the editorial page of Times of India and Hindustan Times regularly and those days- I am talking about 1994 or so- there was a space in the middle of the edit page and was rightly known as ‘middles’. Every day there was a very different topic and all the time it was written by different people. They to my mind were not authors and maybe not even known names. This gave me the idea that I could also contribute. I keep getting one-liners and weird ideas in my mind all the time but never thought of sitting down and writing an article, and that too for edit page of TOI!
So I decided to send in one article and those days we had to type it and send it by post. There were no emails. I was so shocked that my first article got published. Since there was no acknowledgment before it was published, I saw it by accident when during office hours I saw a TOI copy being read by my colleague- and there, my heart skipped a beat when I saw my name on TOI edit page. ‘Oh I can write and people like it’ was the feeling. Then I started writing for Hindustan Times as these are the two biggest giants in the country. I have been published more than thirty times. It is very tight writing as the space for TOI is just 450 words. HT is a little more liberal, around 700 words. Here I learned to experiment with so many topics and that has stayed with me till date. That is why I have written books on so many subjects within the self-help space- now close to 30 books. I have written 8 books on value education for school children. Imagine writing for CEOs and the senior audience; it is a big challenge to write for class 1- a six-year-old kid!
But that is the fun. My first book was on information systems. I was a novice and I got it printed spending my own money, though a good publisher had accepted it but I was told it would take two years to publish. I wanted it faster. First time when a book came in my hand it was an ecstatic feeling.
This book started with an article I wrote for a magazine called computers today. Foolishly I wrote 60 pages and went to the editor. He laughed and told me to reduce it to two pages. I was disappointed. As they say every calamity is an opportunity. My friend who was the creative director at NIIT, Prabir Sen, whom I had gone to for dinner saw me in a foul mood.
I told him that my article was rejected but I have so much more to write. He said- ‘Why don’t you write a book’?
I said ‘How can I write a book’? But he insisted and that is why I published my first book. In fact, Prabir made me an author. Then I wrote another book on telecom. Those days telecom was opening up in India and the book was ‘telecom today’ 750 pages 550 diagrams- it was crazy to write it. I got rave reviews from the editor of Voice and data- that is when my first review appeared. He called it A to Z of telecom- which it was.
I realized that very few people read such books and the market is very small. So I shifted to self-help. And thereafter there has been as they say no looking back.
I was lucky to get good publishers. I wrote for Allied publishers, (Telecom book). Thereafter two books back to back for Macmillan, two for UBSPD, two for Matrix, Six for Bloomsbury, and eight for S Chand. Recently, one book for Vishvakarma publishers. I plan to write some more books for them. They are all big publishers.
Then I started a series with Rupa publishers. The idea was bounced off by Kapish Mehra MD of Rupa Publishers and we discussed the entire thing and that is where this series started from. My latest book, sixth in the series is ‘Winning the Chanakya way’.
As I write, I just got authors copies of the seventh book ‘Resilience the Stephen Hawking way’.
So this has been a long and a very satisfying journey.
Being an educationist, what do you think about the present state of the education system in India?
Our education system is fine. Had it not been then half the scientists in NASA and Silicon Valley would not have been Indians. We have top doctors, lawyers, professors, engineers, scientists and authors who are a product of the same old system. Many of them are in foreign universities and organizations.
Having said that we need to focus on school education and for that, we don’t need to change the curriculum- we need to change the teachers. There are no good dedicated teachers in Government schools and teachers have an entitlement attitude with no accountability.
In our country, you cannot fire a Sarkari (government) peon leave aside a teacher
Let me tell you we had very tough exams in Delhi higher secondary and it was impossible to score 75% aggregate. That is where the merit list started. Out of lakhs of students, there were only 25 to 30 students getting a distinction. Today how are you scoring 100% and that to thousands of students? Is it some kind of a joke? And let me tell you many of these guys who then go to colleges can’t write straight. I have interviewed thousands of students who are engineers of today. So what is wrong- not the curriculum but teachers and we require a tight marking system.
Are we distributing marks for free? This needs to change.
I always say ‘if you are politically wrong, then you are actually right’. No one wants to criticize the system. As a result, you keep inserting jargons, difficult to understand ideas and we are making it worse than before. Keep it simple, but whatever you need to teach, teach properly.
Are children motivated enough to explore various genres of literature?
As far as motivation to read is concerned, it is a sad situation. We have so much to distract young minds. Mobile phones, TV, the internet has killed our minds.
It may sound harsh but let us face reality. There is no way to turn the clock back, it seems
I feel we must have a compulsory subject called ‘casual reading’. Read anything- comics, light fiction, murder mysteries, and thrillers – but please read. Every school kid from class 6th onwards must read at least two books in a month- under supervision of teachers and parents. In all, 24 books a year. This is the only way to build content.
Once they get addicted to reading they will automatically get motivated to read all sorts of genres.
You can visit Virender Kapoor’s website here.
Out of the many books that you have written, which one is your favorite?
Out of thirty, it is difficult to single out just one.
My most difficult and of course my favorite book is ‘What you can learn from military principles.’ A 250 pager, it covers a huge canvas with examples from First and Second World Wars, major operations thereafter, cold war, Arab Israel war et al. This was tough and had too many details and concepts to cover. But it came out very well. It has been recommended for must-read book for competitive exams. So gives you a great sense of satisfaction.
Also ‘Speaking the Modi way’ – a part of the series which I am doing for Rupa- is about oratory skills of PM Modi- yes you can speak like him was the trigger but you can learn a lot from this book. This also is in that coveted list of books with like of Amartya sen, Raghuram Rajan, Jairam Ramesh, Karan Johar, CNR Rao, Sumitra Mahajan, and Shiv Shankar Menon to name a few.
Winning instinct and Passion Quotient are two of my best again. Both are now in several languages, including Vietnamese.
Virender Kapoor wittingly adds, “You asked for one I gave you four. You know 15% of 30 books is roughly four books.”
Being an avid author, which pieces of literature are the closest to your heart?
I am a very casual reader and don’t take positions that I have great command over English. Anyway, for us, it is a foreign language! That is why I read authors of all types. I don’t read any literature so to say. In fact, I will not even attempt literature. I read for fun but there is always some learning in that too. Sometimes I pick up a book just because of the subject itself.
I read for fun but there is always some learning in that too. Sometimes I pick up a book just because of the subject itself.
I write very fast but read very slowly. It is like chewing the cud. That is my biggest weakness. I wish I could read faster. I liked authors like John Toland, Leon Uris, Alistair Maclean, Dan Brown, Agatha Christie, Jeffry Archer, Ken Follet, Daniel steel, and even Ian Fleming and chase. I had to read a lot of books and biographies while researching for Rupa series. I feel you learn a lot as an author during this phase of writing.
Again for my personal improvement, I have read Sun Tzu, Ayn Rynd, William Shirer, Herman Wouk, Will Durant, John Grey, and Michael Bar Zohar and Nissim Mishal. I always liked Lee Iacocca and his style of talking straight and shooting from the hip. He gets his point across and hits the target bang on. No fancy language but it is great to read his books- he wrote only two and the man died just a month ago.
Are there any more books that would be added to this series?
Yes, we are going to take these series to twenty books. Only seven have been published till now. Rupa publishers have a great editorial team. They are a very big support and also good at chasing me.
We asked one final question from Virender Kapoor.
Through the titles of your books, one can trace that you are decoding the ways of successful people. When will we get to see ‘the Virender Kapoor way’?
This is a very flattering question and I am honored you ask me that. In fact, I am doing a session at Pune International Literary Festival on art and approach of writing Nonfiction. Maybe I could write a book on how I write as Virender Kapoor and that may answer your call. Some people have suggested this but I have yet to take this seriously.
As of now, my hands are more than full with at least a dozen more books I have already committed. I have at least six more which are some very unique ideas close to my heart that I have in mind and I need to develop those as soon as I get some breathing space. With that, I also keep getting that itch for writing for Economic Times and Times of India for whom I have been contributing regularly. That also has halted for now.
So that is the long and short of my story and my future plans.