By Autar Nehru
Veer Devgun, a 12th grade student at The Lawrence School, Sanawar, having authored two thrilling novels in the past three years, may well get into the league of novelists such as Arjun Raj Gaind and Mohyna Srinivasan, who have schooled at this prestigious legacy school and made a name in the field of English literature. Veer’s first book titled, ‘’What to do if there is a Murderer in Your Family?’ was published on a writing scholarship by NotionPress in 2022 and the second still untitled book is slated for publishing later this year and is being considered by a reputed publisher.
While the two books, he wrote thus far, are absorbing crime plots laced with a lot of hangover and imaginary munitions of a teenager after having read more than 1300 books, his causal walk into the world of fiction writing is actually a testimony of how an environment stimulus can get hidden talent out of you. Only son of a serving Colonel in the Indian Army, Veer, before coming to Sanawar in class VI, went to seven schools, all because of his father’s frequent postings. “Till the age of 10, I may have traveled to length and breadth of India from Ooty to Gopalpur and Ambala,’ he quips.
While on a family vacation to Shimla, his father through a friend came to know about The Lawrence School and also the fee concessions that children of army personnel get. And, after preparing for the grueling and tough entrance exam and interview, he luckily secured admission in the school. Like any boarder who feels homesick and alone at that tender age, Veer also became sad. His condition was aggravated as he had no friends in the school chiefly because he couldn’t converse in Hindi well though he was exposed to several regional languages in his formative years due to changing schools. The strict school rules that included permission of a 6-minute weekly telephonic conversation back home, left no room for him to sulk beyond a point.
All this led him to book reading and gradually books became his best friends. He started loving books and with hardly anything to do or hang around, he read books like guzzling drinking water on a thirsty stomach. Thanks to English Literary Club started by former principal of the school Mr Vinay Pande, Veer was noticed by club in-charge, Mrs. Ashima Bath, who encouraged him in every way and facilitated his reading of books from senior section as well. He started writing articles and took part in club activities but never saw himself as a writer of books!
And, then Covid happened. Like the pandemic did for millions of people, it did for him as well—plenty of time to try anything from cooking to gaming, videoing or music. “It was as if there was nothing more left to be done. I learnt piano, cooked, played games, and watched a lot of TV. My family was also fed up the way I was spending a lot of time watching TV dramas. So, my grandma passed off a compliment saying, ‘you’re a dramatic person yourself, why don’t you write some story?’ That set me on, but I didn’t start with a plan. I told myself, let me write 2000 word every day for a month and let’s see. Then, when I looked at my ‘daily diary’, I could see it was a book!”
So, he became serious and though of publishing it. The book took almost a year in the process from editing to design and publishing. NotionPress offered him a scholarship that covered part of the expense and made the book available on their main website. It’s also on Amazon and Flipkart and most other online shopping platforms.
‘What to do if there is a Murderer in Your Family’ has been described as ‘ ‘Club You to Death’ meets ‘Haruki Murakami’ in this psychedelic, thrilling read’. It’s a story which doesn’t solve a murder but reveals the murderer in the first few chapters. The story is really about why the murder was committed in the first place. The novel focuses on the psyches of the killers and the victims alike, earthing through their motivation and their thought processes.
So motivated was Veer with the success of his first book venture that he soon started writing another book, this time with much more freedom and earned wisdom. “My second book is a philosophical take on a school shooting set in the idyllic calm of an Indian boarding school run the English way. In fact, the school often seems like a crop of the British suburbs was chopped off the Island and transported onto an Indian hill. It’s the experience of teenagers in this school, all smart and brilliant as they try to survive the school shooting with their unique skills while dealing with their inner demons, difficult pasts and other difficulties,” he narrates while keeping the title to himself for the time being as it is being decided between him and the publisher.
He has a strong view on today’s generation having given up on reading books. He is clear that children still love and read books but what pushes them off really is the choice thrust upon them by the adults in the form of classics and old era books. “They should be given what relates to their imagination and is familiar,” he says with urgency. Now if he has read so many books then, he would be cherishing some of them as well. So, we asked his favorite books. He listed four: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones; House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune; Chandler Legacies by Abdi Nazemian; and House on Mall Road by Mohyna Srinivasan.
To a question on how he balances between studies and writing he says, “I study and write easily. I just devote one hour from my day every day to write. I take a break on Sundays, that’s all. Sometimes if the inspiration really gets to me, I write for more than an hour. My writing and my studies are scheduled throughout the day. If one is disciplined enough, it’s not that hard to balance studies and writing, because writing is a very long-drawn-out process. If a person spends an hour a day for the entire year writing; they can nearly finish two, if not three novels. I made it fun by making writing an enjoyable activity. I took inspiration from the day, from the movies I watched the previous day, the books I’ve read and the conversations I’ve had. Often my writing acts like a diary of my day. I listen to songs during that time or spend time creating fantastical images and focusing on my characters.”
Well, he will graduate from the school in 2024 and pursue economics as a major subject but will continue to nurture his creative pursuit in literature.