When you are born in a family with a well-known critic and essayist in Malayalam literature as your grandfather (MP Paul) and renowned novelists and playwrights as an aunt and uncle (Rosy and CJ Thomas), you seem to develop love for literature automatically. May be the reason why Mathew Vincent Menacherry is writing novels today despite being an MBA in Finance and co-founder of a group of companies engaged in the manufacture and export of a range of speciality chemicals. Menacherry has followed up his debut novel, Arrack In The Afternoon, with his second fictional work, Feni Daze (Pegasus Publishers) which is “a no holds barred romp through the underbelly of Goa.
We caught up with one of the directors of The Anthea Group who says he has had a penchant for writing, and for telling stories for as far back as he can remember.
First, Arrack In The Afternoon, and now, Feni Daze, have similarities. One, the first title had arrack (a distilled alcoholic drink) and the second title has feni (an alcoholic drink). Was having the titles of two with names of drinks deliberate? Two, the first book talked about Mumbai, its underworld and dance bars and had shades of Kerala. The second has mentions of Goa’s underbelly and shades of Punjab. Did you experience Punjab in a similar manner or is it also based on “wonderful storytellers” around you?
They say that one ought to write about what one knows, and hence the underlying theme of alcohol in the novels I have penned down. On a serious note, both names were suggested by my brother, and I went with them because they have a saucy, tongue-in-cheek vibe about them. Not great for my reputation, though, since most people assume that I’m an alcoholic.
Regarding Punjab as a setting, the back story of Feni Daze is rooted in certain historical events, including Operation Bluestar and the insurgency. For me to write about these, it was necessary that I acquaint myself with the state, its people and the events that transpired during this period. I have read extensively about the insurgency, visited the places described and interviewed several folks to gain a better understanding of the subject. I wouldn’t claim to be an expert, though, on either Punjab or what transpired. What I was striving for was factual consistency.
How much time did it take you to write Feni Daze?
A few more years than it should have, owing to the fact that I am spectacularly undisciplined when it comes to writing.
Your ideas germinate from…
I don’t really know.. they just sprout, take root and then grab hold of me in a manner that compels me to put them down on paper.
How different do you think are you from other authors?
As different as one individual is from another. Seriously, though, this is not something I have thought about. There are writers I admire greatly, and I’m sure that in some way my own work has been influenced by them. It is not something I do consciously though.
In your opinion, what is that one thing which is the most important part of a book?
The manner in which the story flows.
Is writing energising or exhausting?
It is incredibly exhausting, but also the most fulfilling thing that one can do… if one happens to be a writer.
How much time do you write in a day?
I strive for a certain number of words, which on a good day would number a thousand.
Any book or author that inspired you to take up writing?
I can’t point to just one book or writer. There are quite a few I’d love to emulate.
What does it take to be a good story-teller?
I thought about this… and I do not really know. You either have it or you don’t.
Tell us about yourself – your parents, siblings, education, present life…
My father, Dr Vincent Paul, is the chairman and founder of The Anthea Group. He’s 83 and still comes into work every day, which I find inspiring. My mother, Annie, is the most amazing mum that anyone could ever have, period. My brother, Dr Paul Vincent Menacherry, is the managing director of The Anthea Group. I have an MBA in Finance and stay in Mumbai with my lovely wife, Candice, and our daughter, Shanaia. And when I am not writing, I am a salesman and a pretty decent one at that.