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About Amit Varma

Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. He worked in journalism for over a decade, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007. His bestselling novel, My Friend Sancho, was published in 2009. He is best known for his blog, India Uncut. His current project is a non-fiction book about the lack of personal and economic freedoms in post-Independence India.

My Friend Sancho

My first book, My Friend Sancho, was published in May 2009, and went on to become the biggest selling debut novel released that year in India. It is a contemporary love story set in Mumbai, and had earlier been longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2008. To learn more about the book, click here.

If you're interested, do join the Facebook group for My Friend Sancho

Click here for more about my publisher, Hachette India.

My posts on India Uncut about My Friend Sancho can be found here.

Bastiat Prize 2007 Winner

Recent entries

Delicate Cages

The Monday Poem: TAKING THE HANDS by Robert Bly Taking the hands of someone you love, You see they are…

Uber and Governance

Anant Rangaswami tweets: [tweet] I love Uber, as much for what it is as what it represents. But here’s the…

The Real Issue Regarding The National Anthem

There’s an interesting video that seems to have gone viral on social media showing a bunch of hooligans in a…

Carlsen 1, Fischer 0

In an excellent feature on Magnus Carlsen in the Telegraph, Nigel Farndale writes: He [Carlsen] has always been interested in…

On Winning the Bastiat Prize for Journalism

I was fortunate a few days ago to win the Bastiat Prize for Journalism for the second time. The prize…

28 February, 2010

‘A Solitary, Poverty-Inducing, Soul-Scorching Voyage’

In a superb essay on writing, Dani Shapiro writes:

I have taught in MFA programs for many years now, and I begin my first class of each semester by looking around the workshop table at my students’ eager faces and then telling them they are pursuing a degree that will entitle them to nothing. I don’t do this to be sadistic or because I want to be an unpopular professor; I tell them this because it’s the truth. They are embarking on a life in which apprenticeship doesn’t mean a cushy summer internship in an air-conditioned office but rather a solitary, poverty-inducing, soul-scorching voyage whose destination is unknown and unknowable.

If they were enrolled in medical school, in all likelihood they would wind up doctors. If in law school, better than even odds, they’d become lawyers. But writing school guarantees them little other than debt.

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to take part in a Q&A with the participants of a writing workshop at the Kala Ghoda Lit Fest. I made pretty much the same point there: writing is not a profession. You can take up medicine or engineering or law or management, and you can be a mediocre doctor or engineer or lawyer or manager and earn a perfectly decent living. But if you’re a novelist in India, you have to be among the top five or ten in the country to be able to pay your rent from that. Literary prizes and foreign advances are like a lottery: writing a good book is a necessary condition to get them, but is far from sufficient. And if you don’t hit that lottery, you’d better have another source of income—which, of course, eats into your writing time, and makes it all the more difficult.

So if you want to be a writer, ask yourself what drives you. If it’s anything other than the love of writing—money, success, fame, lit groupies—don’t do it.


On that note, here’s Charles Bukowski.


The Kala Ghoda Lit Fest was a lot of fun, and I always enjoy listening to other writers talk about their work, and the craft of writing. Besides the session I was part of, I got pulled into moderating a couple of other sessions, and had much fun. I can’t understand why the turnouts are so low, though. Are there really so few enthusiastic readers in this city?

On that note, check out this piece by Nilanjana S Roy, “The Lure of the Local Litfest.”

(Shapiro link via Samit Basu‘s Facebook page.)

Posted by Amit Varma in Arts and entertainment

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