Sridevi Narayanan

When he decided to quit studies at the age of 16 and began to visit places and people who brought him face to face with different cultures and languages, few would have thought that one day he would go on to publish four books within a year, that too with the likes of Harper Collins, Amaryllis and Picador. Not only did he get published, he went on to win a prestigious award – the Hindu Literary Prize 2013. The story of Anees Salim is one that is bound to amaze and inspire young writers.

Novelist Anees Salim. Image courtesy:

Novelist Anees Salim.
Image courtesy:

Being rejected by publishers many times over did not make the 42 year old give up.  He decided to write more books. It was in 2009 that he decided to try his luck with a young Indian agent – a decision that saw him getting three novels published. Titles like The Vicks Mango Tree, Tales from a Vending Machine and The Blind Lady’s Descendents would mark.

Anees, who heads the creative department of an advertising agency in Kochi, feels that his characters reflect a bit of his experience. An avid traveller, he began exploring at a young age. “After dropping out, I travelled a bit, started reading and writing. More importantly, I started dreaming and I read upon the subject, visit places where my book is set and, of course, depend on Google for historical facts,” says Anees.

Being a drop out from school, Anees considered writing advertisements. “The kind of work I do doesn’t call for any particular academic qualification. So landing a job was not really a hard task for me,” he says.

"Inside every big Indian city, there is a tiny Pakistan" Salim's award winning work 'Vanity Bagh'. Image courtesy:

“Inside every big Indian city, there is a tiny Pakistan”
Salim’s award winning work ‘Vanity Bagh’.
Image courtesy:

Vanity Bagh, which won The Hindu Prize for Best Fiction 2013 did not turn out the way usual novels do. He was aiming at a very different kind of a novel when he realized that the backdrop wasn’t up to it. Anees went on to change the plot with a completely different setting. The result, was surprisingly pleasant.

A recluse by nature, he likes to lead a quiet life, hidden away from the world, writing books at his own gentle pace. But he does point out how social media, especially Facebook has made a difference, helping him promote his work.  A large number of Facebook followers have been recommending his books to others.

Talking about the prize, he quips, “I’m greatly honoured and humbled by it. I think this recognition will inspire me to write better though the most difficult thing in a writer’s life is writing a book. And as a recipient of this prestigious award, I have certain expectations to live up to.” Readers will be counting on that.