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 this is where I’ve stayed ever since.
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).
I’ve been writing short stories for years now, though it wasn’t till 2001 that I summoned up the courage to submit a story to a public forum. This one was a horror story about a haunted office, and it won—to my delight (and I must admit, my surprise)—the Femina Thriller Contest, organised by the women’s magazine Femina, and published in the magazine as Silent Fear. I’ve written a lot of short stories ever since, in varied genres: humour, crime and detective, social issues, even (ahem) romance. 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. My stories tend to have surprise endings, and more often than not, centre round crime or people being otherwise not too nice. I have a nasty feeling that reflects on me, in some ways… a sobering thought?
To balance the fiction with something else: I also do travel writing, the occasional work of humour, book reviews, essays on various topics I feel strongly about (plagiarism is one).
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.