Q&A: Kanwar Dinesh Singh, Author of 'Within Minutes: Micro Stories'

Kanwar Dinesh Singh is an Associate Professor and author based in Shimla, where he teaches English Literature at a college affiliated to Himachal Pradesh University. He is the recipient of the Himachal Pradesh State Sahitya Akademi Award in 2002 for poetry. He has brought out several volumes of poetry, haiku and short fiction in English and Hindi, besides books in literary criticism. Presently, he sits on the editorial and advisory boards of several literary journals and has been interviewed on DD National TV and All India Radio, Shimla. He has recently come out with the book Within Minutes: Micro Stories, which comprises of 45 micro fictional stories.

I chat with him about his book Within Minutes: Micro Stories, his inspiration for writing the book, why he delved into writing micro fiction, book recommendations, and much more.

Hello! Tell us a bit about yourself!

I live in Shimla, where I received a doctorate in English Literature from Himachal Pradesh University. I also completed a diploma course in Urdu language from the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language in Delhi.

I’ve had a penchant for poetry since my school days. I used to scribble poems in English, Hindi and Urdu. My maiden collection of poems was published in 1993, when I was in the final year of my bachelor’s degree in Bioscience, and I published two more slim volumes of poetry while I was pursuing my master’s in English literature. I started my teaching career at a government college and published more volumes of poetry in English and Hindi, besides some academic books on modern Indian writing in English and contemporary American and Australian poetry. My poems and reviews were also featured in major periodicals including Femina, Sun, The Indian Express, The Tribune, New Quest, Poetry Today, Poet, Urdu Alive, Indian Book Chronicle and Journal of Indian Writing in English, among several others. My poetry recitations have also been broadcast by All India Radio and telecast by Doordarshan TV several times. In 2002, I received the HP State Sahitya Akademi Award for my poetry in English.

Currently, I am working as an associate professor of English at a government college affiliated with Himachal Pradesh University. I offer my knowledge as an academic counsellor for postgraduate courses and creative writing programmes at Indira Gandhi National Open University. I also hold advisory and editorial positions in some literary and academic journals. In addition, I am a research guide for MPhil and PhD scholars and also an evaluator of PhD theses in different universities of India.

If you could only describe your book Within Minutes: Micro Stories in five words, what would they be?

Experiences, observations, insights, reminiscences, and anecdotes.

'Within Minutes: Micro Stories', published by White Falcon Publishers

Now tell us a little more about the book! What can readers expect?

This book contains 45 micro stories that observe the distinct attitudes, values, ironies and idiosyncrasies of people around us. These short narratives depict the hearts and minds of a range of people living in the small towns and countryside of India. The readers will find insightful micro-observations of complex human behaviour in brief, plain and minimalistic three-minute reads in this collection. In a concise and condensed form, each micro story offers a ‘slice of life’—crystallising the experience of an extraordinary, real-life moment.

What inspired you to write this book? How long was Within Minutes: Micro Stories in the making?

As a micro-observer of human behaviour, I found the quicksilver attitude of people quite interesting. This experience inspired me to pen these short stories. I also gathered that, in the hectic life of today, people seem to gravitate towards reading shorter fiction rather than longer stories and novels, which goaded me to venture into the micro fiction genre.

I prepared this collection over six years. While I wrote 75 pieces, I narrowed down my selection to 45 stories for this book.

What was your creative process like behind writing the micro stories in this book?

I took notes of my experiences with people around me, and later on, these micro-observations built up the plots for these shorter stories. I chose unadorned and straightforward language for these stories of everyday life.

This book is your debut micro story collection. You have dabbled in poetry and academic writing before. What steered you towards the micro story form for this book?

The short stories written by both English and Hindi writers fascinated me with their brevity, irony, satire, sudden twists and end punches. Therefore, I got inspired to experiment with the micro story form. I have also translated select Hindi short stories into English, which I am planning to get published.

As this is your debut micro fiction, were there any authors or works which influenced your writing style?

The shorter fictive works by writers including Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, O. Henry, Franz Kafka, Kahlil Gibran and Ernest Hemingway, besides some classical and contemporary Hindi writers, inspired me to write micro fiction stories. While they have motivated me to write in this genre, I have endeavoured to invent a style of my own.

How have you been coping with the current pandemic and what will be the new normal for you post it?

The current pandemic has shaken the entire world. It has certainly brought some very important life lessons to discipline ourselves for a better future. Being well-organized and punctual in completing my projects will be the new normal for me after this crisis. I have been working on a romance novel and a self-help book for quite some time, which I plan to make ready for publication within this year.

Lastly, are you currently reading anything and do you have any book recommendations for our readers?

I plan to read more short fiction by classical as well as current writers from across the world. At present, I would like to recommend The Complete Stories by Franz Kafka and The First Forty-Nine Stories by Ernest Hemingway for readers.

The book ‘Within Minutes: Micro Stories’ is available online and at your nearest bookstore.

From Jammu, J&K; Studied in DPS, Jammu.