In Conversation With TGC Prasad

T.G.C. Prasad lives in Bangalore and offers strategic, advisory, general management and HR consulting services to several start-ups, small and medium enterprises, Indian and MNC companies. He also offers executive coaching to senior management.

He has been on the board of Misys India, and worked as country manager, global VP for Misys Plc. He has also worked with companies such as Wipro, Coopers & Lybrand, PWC, IBM, MindTree, and Alcatel-Lucent in various senior management roles globally.

He works as management committee member of the Dayalbagh Educational Institute (Deemed University)”Information Communication & Technology (ICT) Centre, Bangalore, and is also the national executive council member of Systems Society of India.

VoB: It was when you injured your ankle that the thought of ‘Unusual People’ formed. But, I wonder, why writing? Were you an ardent reader as a child? Or were you in the habit of indulging in a little writing here and there even before UPDTD?
I have never written before publishing UPDTD. The only thing I did was write good business reports and publish great PowerPoint slides for clients. I think two things have influenced me to write. Firstly, as a child I was an ardent reader. The nearest bookstore was HigginBothams at the railway station. As a young boy, I used to cycle down to the railway station, which was about 6 kms away and take permission of the station-master to go buy books, so that I didn’t have to spend that Re 1/- on platform ticket.
Secondly, I owe it to my father. He used to come back from work, make us sit on the dining table and tell us stories about how he and James Bond ventured into the jungles the previous night and had many memorable adventures. He used to tell these stories with background vocals and one could really visualize.
Looking back, the reading habit and the stories that my dad told me, I guess, immensely helped me to write.

VoB: I haven’t read both of your books, but Along The Way seems different from UPDTD. Is it so? And if yes, how did this happen?
Please read both of them, you will enjoy. ‘Along the Way’ is an out and out fiction and relates to the lives of three software engineers working with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). It starts with campus placement and then their entry into corporate life and how they emerge reasonably successful. The story details romance, career, tough boss, inconvincible parents and interesting trivia. It captures the culture of the software industry and traverses from India to New Jersey. Many people have read that and have commented that it is utterly hilarious.
On the other hand UPDTD (Unusual People Do Things Differently) is non-fiction. I have captured what 65 people did/are doing and how they are striving hard to do extra-ordinary things. I have discussed that success is a spectrum and happiness is the key. Now, how did this happen? While writing UPDTD, a thought came to my mind, ‘can I write fiction?’ and ‘Along the Way’ was conceived. It is as simple as that and fortunately both got published and both are national best sellers, a big thanks to the readers.

VoB: What are you working on right now? How is it different from your previous attempts?
I don’t like sticking to a genre, I choose a ‘subject’ to write upon. UPDTD is management book for every person on the street. Along the Way is about lives of software engineers, with a huge romantic twist. My next one is Naughty Men, up for release in June 2012, it a rib-ticklingly funny story of men in midlife, what they do, how they think. I am currently writing, The Case of The Missing Wedding Ring, this is brain wracking, because I am writing in first person narrative of a nineteen-year-old autistic girl. Because of the huge success, I have a contract with Penguin to do UPDTD Ver 2.0, and I am researching on entrepreneurship. So, you can see that the plate is more than full.

VoB: How do you deal with your critics, if any?
Some people like what you write, some don’t. Can’t help it. I read and understand what they say. It is always a balance between what I write and what people want you to write. If I totally write what people want me to write, then I don’t feel good in my heart. If I write what is in my mind without any understanding of the context of the readers, then the book will be damp squib.
So I listen to them; say ‘thank you’ and move on. What else can I do? They have purchased the book, and unfortunately they didn’t like it. They were decent enough to let you know what they didn’t like about the book. Though so far, I haven’t had people write me off!

VoB: Tell us about your experience when you received your first fan-mail?
If you go to a bookstore, there are thousands of books. I thought, ‘mine are just two of them’. I expected my books to be read by a few people, probably no more than a handful. I thought my friends and family would pick them up. While they did, what excited most was when people in thousands started to pick them up and sent me emails. The best has been from this lady, who said, ‘I am reading a chapter of UPDTD everyday at dinner time to my daughters, you have simplified it all’. And then, I got this email about ‘Along the Way’, ‘Myself and my boyfriend went on this holiday, I gave your book to him and now I am walking alone in the garden, it is un-put-down-able‘. It feels great when people love what you write.

VoB: Where do you see yourself ten years from now? Still in the writing industry?
I enjoy writing and I am hoping to write a lot more. Ten years is a long time, as a friend of mine told me once, ‘in ten years, elephants may fly and for all you know Jahanpanah might come alive’

VoB: If there was one person you could claim had influenced your life the most, who would it be?
Revered Professor P S Satsangi, Chairman Advisory Committee on Education, Dayalbagh Educational Institutions and prior to that Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi. There is so much humility and so much learning one could imbibe from him.

VoB: Has your life changed after the success of your novels?
Really not much, it is just the same. I am not a film star or a rock star, I am just another writer who enjoys writing books and people seem to like my books. So, there is nothing more to it.

VoB: When it comes to reading for pleasure, which is the book you would never hesitate in picking up?
I usually don’t read the same book twice, because the true experience of reading a book is when you do it the first time. I have thoroughly enjoyed most of R K Narayan’s books. They are a treat. Even P G Wodehouse is awesome.

Thank you so much for your time. We wish you all the best with all your future endeavours.

Back blurb of Along The Way:

Venkat Subramaniam Adishankara Tanikaburla (VSAT), needless to say, from Andhra, while studying engineering, falls in love with Anjali Cariappa, a coorgi girl, whose father is a retired colonel and who believes that good son-in-laws are those who are great at trivia. VSAT has two best buddies, Raj, a pure ghee Punjabi fellow, and whose father wants him to sell used cars; and Adithya, a techie who loves booze and food! Raj has theory on almost everything in life and he experiments these theories on VSAT. Besides, Raj also falls in love with anything that is young and female. Adithya is a gay and finds a partner in Swamy. All of them work for TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) as software engineers and they have a tough, short and gaunty boss named ‘Mani’. Mani has six rules for everybody to comply and one of which is ‘boss is always right and don’t ask salary increases’. Then there is the HR manager who has thinning hair, rough as hell like ‘Godfather’ and who is nicknamed ‘pappu’ by the trio,.

As expected, the three of them land up in under-performance category, manage to eke out reasonable salary hikes, explain that Bangalore bandh happened because ‘Veerappan kidnapped Rajkumar’ to Steve (their US client) and though unbelievable, somehow convince Shah Rukh Khan to call Anjali’s mom on her birthday. Also the US police in New Jersey questions VSAT and Raj, ‘Is Gurgoan in Afghanistan or Pakisthan?’ Another US client falls from his chair when he learns that some software engineers have gone to celebrate snake festival and are pouring milk into the anthill for King Cobra to drink! When Steve asks about nightlife in India and ‘availability of strippers in Bangalore’, both VSAT and Raj explain that nightlife in India ends with soaps on Starplus ‘once upon a time, mother-in-law’ was a daughter-in-law’ too! (kyuki saas bhi kabhie bahu thi). Hmmm….

VSAT’s father, a conservative teacher believes that his son should marry Srimangala, a local girl who asks VSAT, ‘who is more beautiful – Anjali or I?’ The story is hilarious, packed with emotions and drama, explores the depth of relationships, brings alive the freshness of the software industry, has punchy dialogues, witty outcomes, not to mention brazen romance and pre-marital sex!

Check out the flier of his debut novel Unusual People Do Things Differently.

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