Before he retired, my father was a police officer. This meant being frequently transferred, so our family remained on the move, and I was brought up in places as far apart as Kumarsain and Haflong, Srinagar and Gwalior. In 1985, however, we came to Delhi, and that is where I lived till 2017, when I moved to Noida, just across the river.
My long stint in Delhi—and my affection for the city and its considerable historical heritage—were directly responsible for my debut novel: a historical detective story called The Englishman’s Cameo. Published by Hachette India, The Englishman’s Cameo was launched in October 2009, with a French edition released in 2010 by Editions Philippe Picquier. The Englishman’s Cameo was well received, and was followed by The Eighth Guest & Other Muzaffar Jang Mysteries (a collection of short stories), Engraved in Stone, and Crimson City (the latter two novels).
In October 2021, I began yet another series of historical novels: a four-book series called the Delhi Quartet, which will tell the stories of several interconnected families against a backdrop of 800 years of Delhi’s history. The first book in this series, The Garden of Heaven, begins in 1188 CE and goes up to 1398 CE, with a family of stone masons at the centre of the entire tale, though some familiar names like Razia Sultan and Amir Khusro also appear as characters in the book.
Besides writing novels, I also write short stories. I explore various genres: humour, crime and detective, social issues, romance, etc. Several of my short stories have won awards and competitions, such as the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association’s Short Story Competition in 2003 for the story A Morning Swim; and Oxfordbookstore’s e-Author version 4.0 Competition in 2006, for a collection of 5 shorts. In 2016, my story, Poppies in the Snow, was longlisted for the EFG Sunday Times Short Story Prize, the world’s richest short story prize, making me the first Indian to get that far in the competition.
To balance the fiction with something else: I also write on food and cooking; on travel; and occasional humorous articles.
And I write about old cinema.
This particular site started off being a film blog, a place where I could talk about one of my passions: old films. I’m mad about old films, old music, old just about anything. Dusted Off was, for nearly six years, exclusively devoted to old cinema: it featured reviews of old films, both English and Hindi, generally ranging from the 40’s (the 30’s for Hollywood and British cinema, for which prints are more easily available) through the 60’s; reviews of some international films (again, all pre-70s); and `top ten’ lists, for my ten favourites of any topic I’ve chosen – the most beautiful women in Hindi cinema, ten of my favourite Sahir Ludhianvi songs, whatever.
In 2014, though, I decided to merge Dusted Off with my other site (on which I used to write about other things – Muzaffar Jang, history, my other writings). After all, I reasoned: just about everything I am so fond of seems to be old. Old cinema. A 17th century detective. Historical monuments. So Dusted Off becomes everything dusted off, not just old movies.