V Kumaraswamy is an alumnus of IIM, Ahmedabad. He has been working with some of India’s top corporates for last 35 years. Now as Chief Financial Officer with one of the leading groups.
He has travelled to over 50 countries at last count on official account as well as due to deep interest in leisure and exploratory travel. He has been to some of the remotest places in countries off the regular circuit – Swaziland, Estonia, Myanmar, Brazil, Finland, Bhutan…and Syria and Egypt right during riot/civil war times.
Mr. Kumaraswamy has met people from various walks of life – from farmers and foresters to policemen to presidents, politicians to parliamentarians, pole dancers to chefs, lions, and paupers. He has taken a keen interest in knowing about other cultures and life stories of various people he has met on his voyage of discovery.
Written 2 books – Making Growth Happen in India (Sage Publications), Weird Adventures and Uncommon Lessons (Authors Point). Over 100 articles and of late poems.
Featured in the inaugural Bhopal Litfest, 2019. As an amateur economist has consulted with the newly formed state of Andhra Pradesh and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.
TBE: Hello, Mr. Kumaraswamy, Thank you for taking the time to speak to us here at The Bookish Elf about your book ”Unsung Heroes, Uplifting Stories”. When I was reading the book, I kept wishing it was being read to me by the interviewees, in their voices. It would make great radio, or a great audiobook. Can you share with us something about your book that isn’t in the blurb?
V Kumaraswamy: It is nice to be on your blog. Glad to hear that you felt like the characters in the book were conversing with you directly.
These were gathered from people from various walks of life in different contexts and settings. I started none of the conversations with an intent to publish them later. They all evolved and only those which have evolved to reveal some purpose have been recounted. Obviously, there were several more conversations (for an inveterate conversationalist like me) which have not succeeded or given great insights or inspiring stories. Again, that has never been the purpose either. I converse because I like to but what comes out is rarely known before or engineered that way.
As much as I start any conversation with strangers without any prejudice, I have evolved over a period of time into being non-judgemental during my conversations. I do not try and apply my scales or standards on anyone – so there is an inherent fascination for whatever is laid out as their story. I am discovering the pleasures of being non-judgemental while listening to people narrate or recount their stories in their voice, language and emotions they know best.
Probably that is the reason why you feel as though you are conversing with them directly.
TBE: What inspired you to publish these observations and interaction with the people? Was it a particular moment or had you wanted to share your experience with journaling for a while?
V Kumaraswamy: I write these pieces of experience as and when they occur – say within 2-3 days of the event or encounter and share them on the social media. People like insightful stories, inspiring stories especially given the sea and surfeit of negativity all around thru social media and TVs. There is a dearth of positivity and hence my stories (which are mostly positive as well as insightful) seem to find a resonance with my audience. During Covid time, I found the time to re-organise them (these may have been gathered over a decade) into publishable books.
TBE: Could you explain your process; how do you go about writing a book like Unsung Heroes, Uplifting Stories?
V Kumaraswamy: There is no process. As any cricketer would testify, it is not that they bat and bowl with a script in hand or at the beginning of career they know what exactly will be the statistics of their career when they end. I gather these pearls from time to time and when I have sufficient number of them, I felt like publishing them. The day I try and manufacture stories to fit the stories, the stories will lose their meaning. As one of my reviewers said, I don’t try to find extra ordinary heroic qualities in each of my characters, but reveal the unearthed qualities that I can celebrate in each of them. They might not fit the definition of heroes or heroism in a conventional sense, but they are heroes anyway.
TBE: How do you want readers to engage with your book? What do you think would be a reader’s ideal experience with it?
I would like my readers to read and start the habit of engaging with anyone and be non-judgmental in conversations. The beauty is in admiring as you find them rather than mould them in stereotyped ways. You lose the fun and charm if you interpret than understand and admire as things are.
And more importantly start sharing positive stories with all their friends and colleagues, relatives and schoolmates without fear or favour – positive stories. See how much it enthuses you and how you transform yourself to like your experiences.
TBE: It’s interesting that you talk about your role in this, like it’s not just one person talking, it’s a conversation. And you actually feature in the book as a character. I imagine a lot of the work in creating this book was the layout. Can you tell us a bit about the process of creating layout? How did you know what you wanted and what would work well?
V Kumaraswamy: As I said before I hardly knew what was in store like no cricketer knows how much he would score before any innings or during it leave alone at the beginning of the career. I gathered these stories – never hurried about them – and when some time got created due to Covid, I regrouped them in some sequence and published them. I admit that a professional author may have done a far better job both of the narrative and the sequencing itself.
TBE: Do you think the readers engage differently with this type of book than they do with fictions or biographies? How?
V Kumaraswamy: Attention span has decreased significantly. The number of people who are going to engage themselves with lengthy books is getting smaller. The readers would like to find and feel their heroes far quicker (with fewer pages to read) and something that resonates with them and their ideal more quickly. Biography is one person centric, but to find multiple heroes between the two covers may be more exciting and rewarding.
TBE: How was your publishing experience with Leadstart?
V Kumaraswamy: Good. Experts from Leadstart at each stage concentrating on a specific aspect draws in the experience and focus required for speedy execution.
TBE: Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
V Kumaraswamy: While I continue to share my positive stories, I am also working on my new book Ideas for $ 5 trillion.