Author interview: My Stories are Based on my First-Hand Experiences, says Bappaditya Chakravarty

Bappaditya Chakravarty, the author of The Huntsmen, is a management expert who has worked at organisations such as the Mormugao Port Trust in Goa, has taught managemnet at IIM and now writes books that are built on the massive experience he has gathered over the years. We managed to catch up with him on the sidelines of a talk about his new book at Kunzum. Some excerpts:

Bhavneet: For those who haven’t read the book, The Huntsmen, would you tell us what it’s about? 
Bappaditya: It’s about crime, terrorism, hot money, a worldwide mafia and some kidnappings and the connection between all of these. The background is Goa from where I gathered my own knowledge because I have seen the place. And it gave me the original idea for this book. It begins in 1940 and it includes some historical facts not very well known to people about how the Germans used to send messages to Germany through German battleships parked in the Mormugaon roads. And there were two German spies – husband and wife – and the British finally got them abducted and killed them. So this is a historical fact. You will find it and part of it is in a book called The Boarding Party made famous by James Leasor. And part of it is also in Mario Cabral’s book called the Song of the Golden Gateway. So this is that’s how I began it. I have seen the places which I described and what happened subsequently, of course, introducing my own characters. 

BSA: You have been a World Bank consultant. You’ve taught at IIM. I am now you’re writing thrillers. How did your own life’s story change so much? 
Bappaditya: It’s as complicated as the stories that I weave. I can say that. Because in between I have also done other things. I handled rehabilitation for the Tehri Dam. Basically, my experience has been, for example, I’ve worked in Cambodia. And there I met people who were actually forced to become soldiers during the Pol Pot regime, Khmer Rouge. I have got colleagues in Liberia who have been terrorized and their families have been killed, were killed by Charles Taylor. So many of my experiences are first-hand, some are second-hand and someday I propose to write an autobiography and explain how the whole thing works out, but I think it’s still a little bit early for me.

BSA: Most of your books have some sort of experiential learning that you witnessed something and then you created a story around it. How does that come about? Where does the Huntsmen fit into this? 
Bappaditya: The Huntsmen fitted in because one day long back, I think that was around 1983, I was a director of the Mormugao Port Trust. During that time, I had gone to North Goa and in the jungles of Mapusa I saw rusting mining equipment and when I asked around, they said, ‘these were brought here in 1939 by the Belgians and they left as soon as war was declared’. And that gave me an idea. When I asked what they were mining for? They said, well, iron ore, but they were also mining for other things. When I asked my geologist friends, what could these other things be, they gave me the idea that these could be rare earths because sometimes you find nuggets of rare earths. So I built a story around it and brought in elements which I have myself experienced, eg, there is a description of a terrorist attack on the India Gate lawns and a reference to Afghanistan. I was present on that day when the attack took place. And I had a very good friend. Of course, her name was not Lucille as I put in the book, neither was I engaged to her, but I had gone to meet her, and we thought we would out for a drink together. And by the time I got there, this had happened. I was the witness to what I’ve described there. 

BSA: Since you are a management expert, have you also brought in some sort of management experience in these books? 
BappadityaYes, if you want to look at it that way. And if you did want to get some learning out of the book, then your takeaway will be how patterns are formed out of disparate bits of events, information and how basically a spymaster, having got hold of lots of pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, puts them together not even knowing how the picture will come out at the end. That is the essential quality and if you want to learn how to do this, you can see how the book evolves. That’s one of the learnings and the other learning is, of course, how to deal with crisis? 
It’s a recurrent theme in my books, both in Swordplay and in this one.  

BSA: You are married to a diplomat. How does that fit into your writing career? 
BappadityaShe is my muse. She finds time to read my books line-by-line and she helps edit the book chapter-by-chapter, everything she goes through. 

BSA: Your books go through her eyes before it goes to the publisher. 
BappadityaWe do a bit of joint editing, then she edits, then I edit again, then she edits it. 

BSA: Have there ever been differences of opinion on a particular edit? 
Bappaditya: Of course, always.

BSA: Who wins?
Bappaditya: In this kind of a game, you make sure you don’t win. But since she’s a lawyer by profession, so whatever she disagrees with has a very clear logical reasoning behind it. That is a great advantage. 

BSA: You know you’ve written historical fiction and have now written a modern-day thriller. As an author, what have you learned while writing historical fiction and while writing your modern-day thrillers? 
Bappaditya: In historical fiction – I have written 2. One is called Samudra Gupta and in Samudra Gupta I was able to interpose – because Samudra Gupta has been called the Napoleon of the Gupta empire – certain very strategic military points of view, for example, the principle of the soft core which was first popularised by Hannibal (Battle of Cannae) when they defeated the Romans and the principles of encirclement which you will find in Clausewitz and the use of the various kinds of forces, especially the guerrilla warriors and he used them very effectively. I have been able to use that so. That’s my own learning interposed into the book. In the book called 2 Wanderers there is the principle of an assassin attack and how it should be done. And there is a there is a lot of management principle that I have put in, of how the hero – there are two heroes – learns some of the basic military principles applied to himself, and I think that will that is equally good learning for any individual to apply to his own life, if he wishes to.

Pick up Bappaditya Chakravarty’s The Huntsmen from any Kunzum store or WhatsApp +91.8800200280 to order. Buy the book(s) and the coffee’s on us.

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