Ajay Hotchandani

“The Even Stranger Case of Dr. Ajay & Mr. Hotchandani is easy to read and most will get a kick out of it” ~ Ajay Hotchandani

Ask me and Ajay Hotchandani could easily become a successful popular stand-up comic. But the doctor author who has recently penned “The Even Stranger Case of Dr. Ajay & Mr. Hotchandani” which he answers, in the most humorous of ways, the dreaded marriage dilemma faced by all Desi youngsters. The writer took on a different approach while researching for the book. Using his “alter ego”, Ajay posted dual profiles on a prominent matrimonial site only to contact the same women and record his interaction with them. The book also goes on to discuss the pressures young girls face when they reach of a marriageable age, community and religion concerns— all of course in the most hilarious of ways. The book went on to become extremely popular clearly making it a must read. Riding on the success of his first book, Ajay is now in the process of writing his next book which needless to say, will look at another aspect of the Indian community in an amusing light. If you’re not already convinced to order the book, take a read at Ajay’s interview with Roshni Magazine where he talks about his current and upcoming book, his alternate method of research and the realism associated with his writing. Oh and if you’re still not fully persuaded, check out the disclaimer that came with the book: “The Even Stranger Case of Dr. Ajay & Mr. Hotchandani is a book that was written while under the influence of chocolates, tacos, Bollywood music, and lack of sleep.” Enough said.

Alright Ajay, how does someone go from being a doctor to an author? Do explain.
I think the misconception is that a person cannot be both.  I have not gone from being a doctor to an author, I happened to be a doctor who writes something other than medical notes and articles. I got into writing without knowing it.  In 2002 I was living in England where I would write my friends and family these long emails filled with my daily activities and the nonsense that occurred, such as having a patient chase me down in the grocery store, or the German hairdresser who gave me a head massage while I waited for my food at the local burger place.  By some odd twist someone in Hong Kong got a hold of these emails and forwarded it to her cousin, Rachana Mipuri, who was starting the magazine Beyond Sindh.  Based on the emails I was asked to be the “Humor Columnist” for the magazine.  In essence I was awarded a job I didn’t apply for.  After two issues, I also started to write a health article, which means the guy who is giving you medical advice is also the guy trying to make you laugh with his antics couple pages later.

What prompted you to write The Even Stranger Case of Dr. Ajay & Mr. Hotchandani?
In 2004, while living in Chicago, I had the idea to do an article based on setting up two profiles and contacting the same girls, for fun and for an article, of course.  It didn’t take long before I realized that it wasn’t going to be that easy to do and I could do so much more with it, so I put a halt to the project.  In 2008 I had some time, and thought why not.

What message does the book give if anything? Why did you choose to take a humorous route on the topic of relationships, the trials and tribulations associated with them?
Initially when I wrote it, the purpose was suppose to be strictly humorous with no message.  Within a week of starting the book I realized that there were all these reoccurring themes in the profiles, such as girls ‘lying ‘about their weight, skin color and so on. That is when I started addressing it in a humorous way but at the same time I wanted to put on paper what so many of us talk about in an almost taboo manner.  By no means am I an expert on any of it, it’s merely my opinion and observation.  As for using humor, I feel it makes it easier to read and maybe even accept.

How close to real life are the situations depicted in the book?
A substantial portion is based on observation and interpretation of those observations so it’s safe to say that to some girls it might be as real as it gets while for others it may appear to be fiction.

How do you feel women will react when they read your book?
For those who were brought up in a culture similar to Indians they might read the book and be able to identify with it, where as those who aren’t, the book might make them aware of a world that exists beyond their boundaries.  Hopefully, most of them laugh while reading it that is a reaction I can hope for.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
Hmmm…(thinks) Boy, this is a tough one.  I guess for girls, I hope the book gives them some sense of empowerment or the knowledge of knowing that they aren’t the only one going through this situation.

Most of the topics and subjects you cover are actually good conversation starters. Do you think they may also be argument starters?
As long as people understand that the topics of marriage, relationship and culture and so on are opinion based, of which each person is entitled to their own, there shouldn’t be any arguments.  You see arguments are not a result of the topic but of the individual's belief that their own personal opinion is actually fact.  As long as one is mature and respecting of another person’s opinion, even if they don’t agree with it, then there shouldn’t be any problems.

What did you find was the hardest to write about? And the easiest? And was it easy to find case studies to use for the book?
The hardest part of writing the book would have been trying to imagine what Indian girls go through when they start feeling the pressure of marriage. I once heard Jhumpa Lahiri speak and she said “sometimes, in my mind, I have to go to an unknown place” and I used that to try to imagine what it would be like.  The ‘easiest’ part would have been the wit or humor that just happened.

As per ‘case studies’, sifting through the hundreds of profiles were not the easiest task.  Funny thing, after the book was published I had friends who would talk to me about certain personal issues and half way through stop and comment “you better not be using any of this for your book!”, which I thought was pretty funny.

You’re Sindhi so does that mean the book is catered to Sindhi’s only?
No.  The target audience is Asian Indian girls between the ages of 18 and 45, however it’s a book that is easy to read and most will get a kick out of it.

How has the reaction been to your first book?
The reaction has been very positive. Friends and relatives will never be completely honest with you, so I only know the true reaction to the book when random people started messaging me telling me how that they were so relieved that for the first time someone understood what they were going through.  Several girls commented that they felt like I wrote their life story, especially the part concerning their volcanic relationship they had with their mother when it came to the topic of marriage.

What are some criticisms you received from readers? And were they mostly men or women?
The main criticisms were that there were too many profiles [50] and some would have preferred about 35 to 40.  The other main was that the editing was not done properly – which I am really annoyed with my editor, especially since I paid for the service.  But other than that I really haven’t gotten any other negative feedback.

And what do some of the happier readers have to say?
The unanimous sentiment was that it was really funny and finally there is a book that addresses some of the issues regarding what they go through.  What most of them were amazed at was that it was written by an Indian guy. Few people have told me they finished the book in one day, which was really surprising to me.

What is your next book about?
Since the first book was about women and maybe empowering them a little, I thought it was only fair I gave the guys something.  The second book is called “The Court of Man Law” and it is legal parody regarding actual laws that guys can make reference to when they get into trouble with their significant other.  It is an almost universally accepted fact that no matter what a guy says or does if he is in trouble he will continue to be in trouble regardless of his defense.  However, this book will change that as it will provide concrete laws to which the couple can make reference to when dealing with the situation at hand i.e. shopping, in-laws, and promises.

~ Roshni M.
(November 2009)

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