Running a Marathon with Girish Kohli

He is one of the Best Selling Authors of 2012 (Currently at No. 13 on the Nielsen’s Top 50 Bestseller charts in India, beating bestsellers by Rashmi Bansal, Paulo Coelho, Robin Sharma, Durjoy Dutta and others @ and doesn’t sell out himself. He is as warm as a Cuppa of Ginger tea in Rains and loves to talk. He isn’t your typical suited-booted bureaucratic kinds, but young, enthusiastic and a fun loving person. Some call his work utter madness, some are sweeped by his intoxicating words and some believe that no one could have enwrapped the concept of God and religion, without being too obnoxious about it, other than him.

One of our most beloved members, MSM, interviews this stellar author on the highs and lows of publishing his first book and the changes it brought.

All Ye young and old minds, presenting to you – to get high on this trippy, weedy (Yeah, you read it wrong – I said witty ;)) and crisp novella – the Creator of Marathon Baba, Mr. Girish Kohli!

We asked: Hello Mr. Girish, instead of asking the clichéd question, that everyone seems to ask in an interview (Girish Laughs) :D, let me ask you this – What is your favorite in music?
GK: I really love listening to Lucky Ali. He’s been my favorite for a very long time and I really admire him.

We asked: Favorite Food?
GK: Rajmah, Paneer Bhurji and Parathas.

We asked: Describe yourself in 5 words.
GK: Angry, young, gentle, man!!! Let the fifth word be a mystery. Let there be something for people to find out.

We asked: I also heard “Chanchal Mann” – theme song of Marathon Baba. It’s brilliant. You’ve written it.
GK: Yes, I wrote that song. I also love to play the guitar and I would like to learn more, but for this song, we needed professionals and not someone like me. I am just a guy who plays in the moment and less in sync :)

[PS: Guys, here's the video for Chanchal Mann, also called the Running Song.]

We asked: Haha :D You can hire me too, I am currently unemployed and I can sing and play a bit too. By the way, how did you manage to fracture your leg?
GK: If I tell you, you would laugh at me. (I promised him I would not :D GK did share the incident – but I am not going to mention it here. However, he has displaced the bone of his leg because of the accident and is on complete bed rest – with pain killers for another month).

We asked: Apart from Writing and Music, what do you enjoy doing the most?
GK: I love love love travelling. I love to get lost. Travelling is fun only when you reach somewhere and then realize that this is where you wanted to come. Getting lost and using the stars to find your way back is how I like to travel.

We asked: How did your life change after Marathon Baba?
GK: You know, seriously nothing changed much.

We asked: What about the fan mails, interviews?
GK: Yes, fan mails are there. I would rather have a normal chat with the people who’ve read my book than just signing the book for them. I don’t like interviews as there are same repetitive questions and sometimes, what I don’t intend to say is also published.

“I believe I should let my work speak best for me.”

I didn’t really answer your question about life changing, but I remember an incident which really made me feel humbled and indebted. A person, who had read my book, came all the way from out of Mumbai, to see me. We had a nice conversation. Such incidents really touch me. Also, with Marathon Baba published, everyone wanted to publish my works. I also got an offer for writing a sequel to Marathon Baba, but for now I have not agreed to it.

We asked: Is there any change in how your friends treat you, since you are a Writer now?
GK: No. That’s why they are friends. They love me even though I am an eccentric writer who switches off his phone and disappears for indefinite time to an undisclosed location.

“Friendship is never because of, it is instead of.”

We asked: That’s really nice of you. So, you always wanted to write or one day you just decided that you need to write?
GK: I always wanted to be a writer. I had always dreamt of a life that I would have a small house, where I would keep writing. But you know, you do need to earn a small something from your work. My first unpublished written work (The Pilot….) was of 1, 20, 000 words. While I was running around to get it published and was being rejected (Publishers never tell you why they are rejecting you, they just do or rather say that your work doesn’t match their criteria). I realized that it was not me, who had written it. It was just bullshit. You need to accept what you are when you write, that’s how you grow. I won’t call myself a writer until I begin to survive only on my writing and I guess that will happen only when I would have written 8 to 10 books.

We asked: I completely agree with you on that. What about the other unpublished work?
GK: I wrote another book called Junkies, which was 50, 000 words. It had the same Character Description style, which I have used in Marathon Baba. I was really happy with my work, for I had put a lot of myself in it and I believed that no one would reject this one. But 6 publishers rejected it. I would call it a trippy work. Then over the course of one year, I realized there’s no point in denying what I wanted to write, no matter what the publishers said – because I understood that they (The people in general plus the publishers) were not ready for what I had written. And they might never be. I had stopped writing for a while. I also had written an inspirational book of 8, 000 words called AHOY! But things never materialized. Then Marathon Baba happened. Many people said that it was utter madness, while others said I should draw the book instead of writing it. Some said it made no sense, but I mostly received positive reviews.

I also believe that it is not like a movie script – which has to make sense. It is like the script of life, which does not make sense.”

We asked: That is quite an inspiring story in itself! :D So how did you come up with Marathon Baba? Was it already on your mind or you thought as you wrote?
                      “I believe that the first sentence of any story sets things into motion.”

Nothing was planned as I wrote Marathon Baba. Words came flowing naturally while I was working on it.  It was like you are high on writing, like you’re in a trance. And you need to find your own voice through your writing.

We asked: Rudyard Kipling too, had said the same thing. He used to become a different person when he used to write. However, there are a lot of Bollywood-ish references in Marathon Baba. I read somewhere that people did not really like Kiri’s entry and exit as a villain, even though I think it set a good plot for Karna’s exit.
GK: I agree that my characters speak in a filmy tone (everything in the book is larger than life) and I have made no attempt to hide that. It will sound funny if I tell you that Kiri or any other character was not in my control. They did what they wanted to. But Kiri's entry and exit should not surprise anyone because even before you know his name you are told that a folk tale is in the making. Kiri is the devotee who is asking for a boon from god and the devotee will use the boon against god. The plot is set from the first page itself. 

We asked: That’s very intriguing. So, Inspector Saab's character was inspired from a Hindi movie villain?
GK: No. He was inspired from all the real life inspectors that I have met. He was also inspired from my childhood. As a child we all have that one person who never grows old. For example, I had a teacher in school, who still looks exactly the way she looked when I first saw her as a kid. It’s because I have seen her after her face stopped changing.

We asked: There was a point in the book when Karna sleeps for the first time in 12 years - I had confusion, he was dreaming about Honey, but Honey in reality was Khushboo? The one he made love to? (Because she appears in yellow sari with a wig).
GK: Oh no. He thought he was dreaming that he was making love to Honey but he actually did make love to Honey. Honey also appears in a yellow Sari and a wig but that is just a momentary trick for cheap thrills. It leads to some anxiety about the agent's secret identity.

We asked: It definitely worked! Karna's appearance sounds familiar to what you really look like in life. If you were Karna, would you return home after facing threats from your father/Kiri/being house arrested by Maa?
GK: I think I would have never run away from home because I am way more sentimental about my parents than Karna. But, if I would have run away, I would have never come back.

We asked: You’ve also met Ruskin Bond. He’s my favorite Author. How was the meet?
GK: You must really visit Mussoorie and meet him. That man is brilliant, so down to earth. He visits Cambridge Bookstore everyday at around 4 PM. I remember when I had to see him, it had been pouring heavily and it was so cold, that he couldn’t speak. Yet, he ensured to meet me and go through Marathon Baba. It was really over whelming.

We asked: Touché. I would love to meet him someday. :)You spent quite some time to discover your true calling in Marathon Baba. Wasn’t there any family pressure meanwhile? You had quit a job and you were becoming a full time writer, what all did you go through?
GK: There was family pressure. I finished software engineering and joined a software firm. But after 4 months I realized, that the world within four walls was utter crap and I did not belong there. I did a lot of things though. I worked at a Garage for six months.

We asked: A Garage? Wow! Hahaha! I didn’t expect that. And?
GK: I also worked as a Fitness trainer at a gym for one year. Then I quit that and joined Dad’s business – that was to take care of his resort outside Mumbai. He is in land trade basically. I traveled a lot during these days, for the purpose of writing. I’ve traveled all over India and now I can proudly say that I’ve made friends across various states that I’ve been to. Now only North – East is left.

We asked: Nice Nice. :) :) Travelling really adds to your list of experiences. You also have an older brother – Gaurav Kohli. He supports you the most?
GK: How did you know? He takes care of all my social networking and online databases. He himself writes really well, but isn’t really keen on penning down.

We asked: May be you can push him a bit, but since you already are writing, I think he’s happy with it. All siblings tend to do that.
GK: I really want him to write, because I am sure he can write non-fiction really well.

We asked: I wish him Good luck. :) So, what plans ahead, after Marathon Baba?
GK: Currently, I have offers from the film and publishing industry.

We asked: What about FiNGERPRiNT (The Publishers of Marathon Baba)?
GK: They have all the rights of Marathon Baba. We are exploring if we can work together in the future.

We asked: Who do you like in Indian Writers and the works you loved to read?
GK: I have an immense amount of respect for Devdutt Pattnaik. I absolutely love his works. The Pregnant King is one of my favorites. I also loved One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez and Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Also, anyone who’s interested to understand how an organization is built and its hierarchy, the way it must be run efficiently, they must read The Sicilian by Mario Puzo. It is such a brilliant work of fiction. I would recommend it to anyone who’s aiming for an MBA.

We asked: If I ask you to summarize your book in one line, how would you do it?
GK: It’s the story of a boy who runs away from his home and makes an Ashram for all those who have run away from home.

We asked: Finally, would you like to say anything to young writers these days, including me? :D :)
GK: All I want to say to young writers is:

“Don’t write to get published. But publish because you have written.”

We asked: Now that’s something everyone should know. It has been really interesting to speak to you Mr. Girish.
GK: Same here. Same here. :) It has been a pleasure.


  1. woo hoo,now that's what u call a fun interview! great work MSM; i bet the author had just as much fun talking to YOU! :D It's such an interesting, amusing post. and i love it that u highlighted d best bits of it. that really catches d eye.

    i must read this book soon, i like d author already! a big 'thank you' to mr girish. :)

    i especially love what he says about wanting to chat with people about his books rather than just signing them & about being a 'real' writer when all u do is write for living. u have to work initially to support urself but it's so good to know that someone actually thinks of writing as a full time profession. :)

  2. Now this is one fun interview.. You did a great job MSM.
    I already like the author and like Arpita said I really loved his idea of actually talking to the readers than simply signing the books :) I m definitely going to read Marathon Baba next :)
    Thanks to the author Mr Girish for such a wonderful interview with us :)
    His words of advice to the writers is really encouraging.

  3. @Arpi: Hahahah, thank you thank you! I don; know about him, but I surely had ;) :D Yep, he said some wonderful things - worth quoting. :D

    I know, that's the positive thing about him, being a debutant, that he isn't flying over the top... he was patient and coversant. No doubt I liked him. :D :D

  4. @Maiths: Thank you! Really means so much to me! :D Yes, there were some realistic points and seriously, this humility will help him go a long way. :D Yes! Do pick it up. :D


Keep reading, keep suggesting, keep commenting

Regional: 1980 by Anver Abdulla

  Though Anver Abdulla is an accomplished name in Malayalam Detective fiction ( he has given us some genuinely memorable detective Novels li...