Balagopal has been a busy man, working as an IAS officer once, founding a company later and involving in social work through all of it. It was much later that he began writing, prompted by his partner Vinitha. In his second — The View From Kollam, A Day in the Life of a Sub-collector — he writes about the days he worked as a district official in Kollam.
When did the idea for the book germinate?
I love telling stories. Vinitha urged me to put these stories into a book since she found them interesting, despite hearing them many times! Finally, one day I sat in front of the laptop, and, to my astonishment, found the words flowing out of me and on to the computer screen. I suppose I was hooked once I saw what I had written arranged neatly as a chapter.
Which genre draws you the most as a reader and a writer?
As a reader, I have eclectic tastes — I read everything from non-fiction to fiction. Non-fiction interests include philosophy, biography, travel writing, economics, etc. Writers I enjoy include Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Alain de Botton, Ramachandra Guha, William Dalrymple, Niall Ferguson, Bill Bryson, and others.
My fiction interests are rather wide, covering whodunits like those by Ian Rankin to historical fiction by Hilary Mantel, from science fiction to classic thrillers by Graham Greene, Eric Ambler, and others. As a writer, I have so far written only personal narratives based on my experience.
Which book do you keep revisiting time and again?
The Consolations of Philosophy (Alain de Botton), Thinking Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman). I also read books by my favourite author P.G. Wodehouse again and again.
Which is that one classic that you haven’t read so far?
In Search of Lost Time (Marcel Proust). There are many others I haven’t read, but the list would be too long to write down!