Book 7 Untold Secrets of Living Abroad
Following is the interview conversation of me and Author Karan Agrawal.
SAHIL : Tell our Readers about yourself?
KARAN : I am a story teller. I have been telling stories since childhood, mostly to myself. With ‘7 Untold Secrets of Living Abroad’ I decided to tell my stories to the world! The book went on to become #1 Best Seller on Amazon India on the day of listing itself. I have been writing on my personal and social blogs for more than a decade.I was top 1% contributor to Trip Advisor in South East Asia region till 2018. Writing helps me a high!
I am from Nagpur. I was University Topper for all three years of graduation. I then completed my MBA majoring in core Finance from IBS, Hyderabad.
I am also a technology consultant currently working in Cognizant Technology Solutions, Hyderabad. I have lived in Singapore for six years and have travelled across continents for work and leisure. I am a big-time foodie, loves cult movies, tea lover. Loves to take long shot on life. I currently live in Hyderabad with my family.
SAHIL : Did you ever aspired to be a Writer? Which year you seriously started working on that Idea?
KARAN : I have been writing for 12 years on personal blog and Trip Advisor. I always wanted to write a book; infact, I have two half-written fiction novels. While I lived in Singapore, I became sure that these experiences and stories need to be told to benefit larger migrant professionals…In December 2018, I decided that it was time and I set out a timeline of six months to get published… which eventually got published in nine months!
SAHIL : How many Books have you read roughly?
KARAN : Till date? I can’t put a number. While preparing from MBA, I was given a list of 50 must read books in 4 months. I managed 15 of them that time. I am putting a rough number of 200 books.
SAHIL : Which is your favorite book in Non Fiction Category?
KARAN : I was always drawn towards non-fiction, by chance my first book is also non-fiction. For a long time, I loved Sam Walton’s Autobiography Made In America. Then I loved Iacocca: An Autobiography. ‘Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple’ touched me emotionally and made me research about Steve Job when Internet was available at Rs 20 an hour only in Internet Cafe. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson also ranks high on the list.
SAHIL : What inspired ( situation or condition) you to become a writer?
KARAN : Some of the extreme situations, experiences made me pen down this book so that I can fill a gap and empower migrating Indians with real experiences.
SAHIL : Who inspired you most to write this book?
KARAN : There was no external inspiration. I wanted to write. It came from internal and I was sure I have to publish it in six months. I have talked to few friends on how to begin the journey including Mr. Nitesh Gawade. But a lot has been exploratory and I was spending 6 hrs on a working and 12-13 hrs on non working days; in these 6 months.
SAHIL : How much time it took you to write this book? How was this journey?
KARAN : Finding time and balance was tough. I also had shifted to India from Singapore and was not use to pollution, temperature and huge crowd. After an initial trial and error to strike balance, I followed a strict regime of 5AM to 8AM and 8PM to 11PM on working days to put my thoughts together. I completed writing in 5 months but those were extremely solo, with no social life at all. Thanks to my wife who managed house, kid, etc. I would attend office and do what was required but most of the lunch time also I was building stories in my thoughts.
Discussing with NRIs from 12 destination was challenging. I had discussions at 3 AM, 5 AM, midnight and all the time we can think off. I made myself available during their free time which also meant canceling some of the planned weekend outings with family because they were only available on weekends, I could not afford to miss my timeline.
SAHIL : Did you take break from work for writing this book?
KARAN : I did not take break. I managed my writing in 5AM to 8 AM and 8 PM to 11PM. I had taken one day off, two times to complete writing work as Editor had given me a deadline for submission.
SAHIL : What was the first reaction of your better half when you told her about your idea of writing this book?
KARAN : She was delighted. She pushed me to do it. ‘I want to write a book’ I have told her during our courtship, is what she tells me though I don’t recollect telling her that time. I always wanted to. She is the reason I could follow my dream of writing a book!
SAHIL : What were the challenges you faced while writing this book?
KARAN : Finding time to write
Finding right people who could contribute. (There have been not so fruitful discussions also).
Overcoming write’s block.
Connecting with people in China and UAE, as usual communication channels did not work.
Getting right photos and all inputs in a timely manner.
Arranging the content in book in a proper structure.
Writing itself, at times!
SAHIL : Who chose the title of your book? What other title you could have given to the book if not this one?
KARAN : The title stuck with me after initial deliberations. All the title were around key words – following dreams and living with dignity.
Living the dreams with respect.
Earning dollars with respect.
Dream & Dignity.
Conquering the 7 Worlds!
SAHIL : You have covered almost all important countries in your book. what was your criteria of selecting those 12? what more could you have added if given option and why?
KARAN : I have tried to cover entire World within 12 countries. These are countries of regional importance and Indians migrate in large numbers. The idea is to give a holistic view. Example, if somebody read about United Kingdom, France, Netherlands and Germany; they can predict what they experience in other European countries. These 12 brings out cultural diversity and various colours sufficiently well. I could not have added anything more to this list. I had a list of 18 countries and with proper deliberation based on migrant numbers, regional importance, cultural diversity, I arrived at these 12!
SAHIL : I was quite impressed by way the chapters and their sub sections were named especially hindi translation part? was it your idea ? how did you come up with that?
KARAN : Yeah, it was purely my idea. The original name of Secret 6 was ‘Jaan hai, Jahan hai’ and I couldn’t come up with anything better. So I have named all chapters in Hindi. That was not sounding well for few sub chapters. So finally I arrived at English and Hindi names. Being the language I speak, I wanted some Hindi-ness in it! 😀
SAHIL : The flow of the book was awesome. How many times you changed the draft to make this happen?
KARAN : Twice. Once the title was final, I restructured it to suit the title. Before editing, there was no Epilogue. Satisfaction Index, Cloud of word was part of a chapter. It was sounding a drag. Few shuffling of detailed topics has happened to make it one flow reading!
SAHIL : You have touched various aspects in your book eg tax laws, medical insurance etc. what were your sources of information?
KARAN : For Tax, I have referred to each countries tax website and the links are part of Appendix. These are facts and I cannot misrepresent them. Medical-Insurance is all personal experience of myself-contributors.
SAHIL : I completed this book within 1.5 days. I am sure other readers would have same experience but what about your family or friends, who liked your book the most and who didn’t liked it ?
KARAN : Honestly, everyone has liked it. Family and friends may be little biased also. But they took 3 to 4 days to complete reading. My friend’s father called to appreciate my intentions and work. Beyond that I want to take everyone on their face and believe what they are saying like the Dutch or Kiwis do! 😀
SAHIL : I loved story of hari. while reading I was so attached to the character of hari that I started worrying about him. When i read that he was having suicidal thoughts , I just stopped for a while wishing that he wouldn’t have committed suicide. I want to ask you how close are you to this person and what he is doing now ? Also if possible please say hello and well wishes to him from a concerned reader.
KARAN : He is my close friend, though personal and organisation names are changed. We are close enough that I witnessed the changes in him but didn’t realise the gravity of situation initially. His story is also a reason I wanted to complete my book, because that story needs to be told. He is in his happy space, working and helping others. When he notices anything of that sort he becomes alert and offers a helping hand. I will convey your wishes to him. He is happy that his story has been taken in right spirit. He was kind of worried that he may be blamed for not being capable enough and was somewhere reluctant at few stages. I convinced him and offered to change the names.
SAHIL : When can we expect another book from you and on what subject it would be if you like to share this information?
KARAN : The next book may come out in 9-10 months. I have rough idea on what I want to do yet it is too early. I am still focusing on taking this book to places and increasing its visibility. It is just a month old baby and I need to take care of it till it is on its own.
SAHIL : What are your hobbies?
KARAN : Reading, Writing (it really gives me a high and ups my mood), playing Chess, Badminton, travelling to new places (cities and countries), cooking.
SAHIL : Last Question.How do you think reading habits can be inculcated among young minds since they trust internet more than books( original source).
KARAN :Parents and teachers shape initial growth, upbringing and habits. It is a culture. Every house need to have a reading culture. Schools need to encourage 30 mins reading everyday rather than limiting to one library period in a week. Curious minds need to be shown direction.Internet versus Original source is tough as few have time/ interest to go deeper to original source. That makes collective responsibility to flag incorrect news, like Singapore government does. With reading culture in place and if reading habit is imbibed like brushing teeth; mind would remain curious to know the source than believe what they see!