Allow me to introduce Sudarshan Mahabal whose loved one knows him by his pet name Sudu, and it is reflected in his social media handles also :).
Sudarshan is an engineer by qualification, data scientist by profession and a writer by his passion. Sometimes the roots of the things we love to do are conceived in us at an very early age but often we got captured in our daily life and fulfilling our goals and responsibilities that these things take back-seat. However, they keep nudging us from inside and eventually we get time for them and we give it the maximum we can, because we are passionate about those stuff.
Recently we got a chance to read Sudarshan’s debut book, “Love Trumps All!” which talks about cultural crossovers and many Indian IT engineers can relate to the same quite easily. And, don’t worry if you have not even a remote connection with the IT industry, the book is still worth reading. You can read our detailed review for the book at:
Love Trumps All! by Sudarshan Mahabal
We were curious to know more about Sudarshan, have a conversation with him and explore his vision about various stuff including his book. Fortunately the things worked out and we got a chance to had a Q/A session with him.
It is a thrilling and liberating experience.
I have been appreciated in my job for being objective, technical with strong business acumen.
This is the first time, I am appreciated for my creative work dealing with emotions.
It is the feeling of getting “out of the box” or “frog out of the high-tech well”!
Most readers find my book to be an honest realistic fiction. There are few who did not find the book interesting (especially fantasy heavy readers). As a creative artist (if I can call myself with that title!), I create art for my own joy and as long as MOST people find it interesting, I am good with that. I am at peace with the realization that I may not be able to make 100% of my readers happy. 90% happiness is a good “key performance indicator”.
I am a trained industrial engineer who switched to IT, Business, Data Science and Machine Learning.
My job is at a large multi-national company where I key decision makers to help make strategic, multi-million dollar decisions with data, insights and predictive analytics. My life is split between the US and India as a result of job and my love for both the countries.
Besides my profession, my passion is in teaching what I have learnt to young minds in MBA schools. Also, I love singing Hindi film songs. I can sing MOST annual top 10 song from 1950s to 2018 without referring to lyrics. Finally, traveling across the world and cutting across cultures and beliefs. Life it too short and there are too many interest.
The inception of the story happened after two key events:
- After me and my family returned to India after 12+ years in the US and we were answering questions from so many people curious to know our reasons of return. It was hard for many of those questioning us (Americans and Indians) that why would we leave behind glory of the US to relocate back to India. It did not appeal to their objective thinking.
- My coast-to-coast US trip during 2016 really put in touch with real Americans during a divisive election. During my 4 month+ travel across the US, I used to live in the basement of common Americans with different religious beliefs, had a chance to cook with them and enjoy daily dinner with them. That led to hours of interesting debates about politics, religion and immigration.
Those two key events, created the whole plot in my mind. To paint a story of an Indian with American dream, American with Indian dream, Global American with American heart, Global Indian with Indian heart. Beyond that, something that bonds all of us as human beings no matter how we look, what language we speak and what religion we follow.
Besides the book “7 Habits of Most Effective People“, one famous dialogue from Bollywood changed me in my outlook on time management.
Time milata nahi hai… nikkalana padata hai
Life is short and we got to find ways to pursue our passions.
I have an Indo-American job. That means, I work during odd hours (no matter which country I am working from). That gives me most of regular business hours to do something interesting that gives me joy like gardening, teaching, writing etc.
I do my office work when most people around me are sleeping!
I am an impulsive writer. I (and my wife) hope that I am more methodical about everything I do but overall I am too impulsive with my life is general. I like it that way!
That overall plot of the book came to me very first…. That “Aha!” moment in the form of the “yin-yang” symbol on the book cover. The story, characters, plot and everything else took over from that. I sketched the diagram in a notebook and took help of creative artists to illustrate the raw sketch even before book was only half written.
Most of us tend to think in a box. We see ourselves as someone from a religion, a caste, a gender, a nationality.. and so on. But I believe our true human nature is much… much broader and encompassing than that. Anyone who is willing to explore the world beyond religion and nationality should read “Love Trumps All!“.
There are few scenes which I myself adore and I have spent enough time to paint them by re-visiting those places over the course of writing this book.
- Opening scene at the Marine Drive, Mumbai
- Stargazing scene where young couple falls in love at the ‘Glacier Point’ in Yosemite National Park. I was at that place sketching that scene with my head-lamp pointed to notebook in my hand until 2am while 4 of my friends gave up on me and preferred to sleep in the car and asked me to drive them back home after I am done writing that scene!
- Return to India inception scene at the Shoreline Park (near Google campus in Silicon Valley). Everest Base Camp adventure during earthquake (yes, I was there as an observer and a survivor).
- Few more scenes at the site of twin towers in New York, New Hampshire fall, (now deleted scene at Boston Liberty Trail), Sameera meeting her dad in Hyderabad, open air marriage on the backdrop of Golden Gate bridge, stranger meeting Sameera at her hospital, Sameera’s shaving her head and meeting Amy, and couple of lovemaking scenes where I refrained myself from elaborating.
I made it a point that I was physically and mentally there where the scene plays out.
No, I am not making this up. I restate for the record… I visited every place during the course of writing this book where every major scene plays out.
Watch this video for pictures:
There are more similarities than differences in my view. These are biggest democracies in the world with diverse people with varied backgrounds and cultures. There is a lot common in the Spirit of being and American and an Indian.
The difference is in freedom of choice. Every child, adult is treated with the basic assumption that they are free to make their life choices in the US. In India, you see parents, friends playing a key role in person’s upbringing.
Both worlds have their own pros-and-cons. My views in a nut-shell –
Kabhi kisi ko mukammal jahan nahi milata. Kahin jamin to kahin aasaman nahi milata
Broadly, one would relate my experiences with that of my character Anant. After finishing the book, you would know who Anant is really painted after. His personality of hiding his intentions is taken from a close friend of mine (not to be named here) and his looks are inspired from another friend. For those who ask me if I have painted myself as “Anant“…
Simple answer is NO. I had an all arranged marriage! You can now see where reality ends and where fantasy begins 🙂
Sameera‘s name is the name of my ex-boss’s wife and her struggles are from that of daughter of my dear friend.
Amy is Amy (who looks like my colleague Amy and speaks like her too). I was in a work-related video conferencing with Amy when I was writing that character and then after our business discussion I told her that she will be a character in my book with her name and looks. She was excited on that possibility but later she was very upset for days after I told her what happens to Amy in the story!
Madhura is painted after a dear friend of mine (male gender) who was completely opposed to the idea of Indians going to the US. Few years back, he came home with his all British wife and his British passport.
Grant Gallaghar is inspired from my ex-boss Brent and my discussion with him in his old convertible BMW.
Ajji‘s character is inspired from my own grandmother who worked as a cook when her husband died at a young age.
Only 100% real character in the book is that of ‘Vishnu‘, guide from Everest Base Camp. Yes, I was there with him and many others.
Teddy (from Hershey Trump Rally) is inspired from someone I met over my coast-to-coast trip.
Chris is also inspired by someone I met over my US trip who is in the process of relocating to India.
The process of writing ‘Love Trumps All!’ gave me a reason to think beyond myself and to look at the world from different points of views. It gave me new perspectives on my relationship and life in general.
I call myself a ‘literally untouchable’. It is an offensive term but you would need to go through the experience of being a new writer to feel the gravity of that title.
A writer is the last node (leaf node in programming language) and most ignored element of the publishing food-chain. It follows simple rules of how market works. Demand and supply. There is a plenty of supply of new writers and less demand from how many books a publisher can take on.
Any new artist, software programmer, banker faces the same challenge so it will be unfair to blame anyone specific. Behind every data scientist I hire in the company, I reject hundreds of other newbies. I get that and I don’t take my rejections personally. I don’t watch movies below 3* ratings from Shubra Gupta from Indian Express!
But if you are a new author and you believe in your creation, there are ways and places one can get to get the book published including options of self-publishing it. Self-belief keeps changing with every new review but one has to have hope and faith in themselves.
Gardening (Growing most common fruits and vegetables in my home garden).
Dancing (Latin Dance form – Salsa and Bachata)
Not any specific genre. I read (listen to audiobooks) all types of books from non-fiction to fiction, self-help, religion to fantasy.
My liking has changed over the years…
Now I read all leftover books that my wife reads. She is a big fan of Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, RJ Pallacio, JK Rowling so I tend to read them after she finishes reading these authors. I wish I had read more famous Indian authors like Mr. Bhagat and Mr. Tripathi to get a feel for what Indian readers like to read before I took on my own writing.
There are lot of interesting characteristics of lot of people I interact with on a daily basis do inspire me. Especially those who think beyond themselves, display grit and those who have clear motives. More technologists inspired me in the past. Now a days, more artists inspire me. Every individual who has made a positive impact on the humanity is an inspiration.
There are two books in the making / design stages. One is thriller around social networking and another is about dogs. I am interviewing different people to build different points of views at this time.
Honestly, I read very little. Our book shelves are overflowing but I do not find time to read. In my eagerness to do better time management, I end up listening to books during my drives and dull moments. Technology is changing us and in my humble opinion it is more important to assess ‘What’ is the generation reading Vs ‘How’ are they reading.
True. In the internet age and a place where one can source stories from several sources and several kinds, it is an age of stories like Game of Thrones. I was told it is a gripping story but I could not watch beyond first episode of GoT. Just too much graphic to give me sleepless nights!
- GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36557578-love-trumps-all
- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7k_KoJ8xxZo&t=95s
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/enlighten.ing.stories/
- Amazon Author profile: https://www.amazon.in/Sudarshan-Mahabal/e/B0789CD68T
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LoveTrumpsAllTheBook/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/SuduMahabal
- Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sudarshan-mahabal/
- Website: https://sudarshanmahabal.com/
Our world is open for those who are willing to ‘Open Up’ to the World!
Over To You:
Hope you have enjoyed the Q/A session with him. And many of your questions might be already answered. Let us know that what do you think about this Interview session? Do you want us to ask anything else to him on your behalf? Do let us know. Also, let us know which other authors you like us to interview? Do let us know your thoughts and remarks via comments below. Do not forget to share this article with your friends over various social networks via Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and others. And yes, you may like to subscribe to our RSS feeds and follow us on various Social networks to get latest updates for the site to land right in your mail box.