Open interview of Gkhamba

We all need to be rescued from boredom, frustration and the sheer banality of our day to day life. Some wait for a tight spandex clad superhero while others sharp minded just type in

Gursimran Khamba, writer and a comic, with the flair of giving people a piece of his mind. At the receiving end are the who’s who of Indian polity (open letter to Manmohan Singh), sportswomen (open letter to Sania Mirza) and many more. A writer who has proved, that you don’t need to make a man bite a dog to be popular. His list of followers and admirers are across the length and breadth of the nation. But little do we know about this man who makes a living by making fun of Uday Chopra, Chetan Bhagat, Sania Mirza and himself (open letter to Khamba).

If laughter is the best medicine his tweets are a onetime fix, his article a long term commitment to a healthy, hearty and productive day. So who is this writer, comic, humanity hater, chicken lover, 100% marriage material monk who sold his Ferrari but earned respect!

Me: You have a unique ability to make people interested in your articles, who/what influence your writing style?
Gkhamba: I don’t know how much I’ve been influenced by other people’s writing style – mostly because I don’t read much beyond a few people who I admire and they’re mostly stand up comics. I write the exact same way I talk – so it has to sound good to me – and in that sense I guess you can say my voice has been inspired by people like Paul Mooney, Steve Harvey and more recently Dave Chappelle.

Me: What is your thought process as in how to structure an article?
Gkhamba: There isn’t a definitive thought process to be honest. I usually (like every other Indian) have an opinion on most issues and I choose to rant about the ones that piss me off or I feel are extremely stupid. There are some techniques when it comes to satire which you can employ or use while writing comedy – stuff like comedy = truth + pain as John Vorhaus puts it or constructing a sentence in an ironic way where you’re mocking what you’re saying while you say it. Or sometimes I just go off on a random rant which has no traditional structure in terms of a start, body and finish – it depends on my mood and opinion about things.

Me: You have penned articles on nearly every genre, recently adding cricket to the list, among the myriad number of genres which is your least favourite genre and how difficult it is to pen your thoughts on something you have no interest in?
Gkhamba: I don’t really have a least favourite genre because I don’t write about things or issues that I have no interest in. So even if someone gets in touch with me to write about something I’m not keen on or competent enough to write about, I refuse.

Me: How do you handle reader’s criticism? Be honest.
Gkhamba: Depends on the kind of criticism. If it is constructive – for example in the first podcast I did a lot of users gave feedback which I agreed with and I made appropriate changes for the second one. If it is someone who doesn’t like what I write I usually don’t care because it’s not necessary that everyone has to like what you do and the last thing I can do is please people. That said, even the people who say they really dig what I write I take with a pinch of salt. One can’t let good or bad feedback get to your head much and I’m my worst critic.

Me: Have you ever been browbeaten by people/organisations who are at loggerheads with your views? If yes, how do you deal with such menace and what are the things one should keep in mind to prevent upsetting certain sections of society while writing.
Gkhamba: Thankfully not in an official capacity. I get my hate mail and people bitching about me all the time and that’s something you get used to and expect depending on which side you’ve taken on an issue. I’ve only once had a website refuse to publish my piece (after telling me to write one) saying that it was too vulgar and I found that quite stupid – but I didn’t really fuss about it.

Me: What was the most satisfying moment in your professional career?
Gkhamba: Everytime you make people laugh when you’re doing stand up is extremely satisfying. Beyond that I got a mail from someone related to Vivek Shauq after I wrote a tribute to him on my blog thanking me for writing it – and that was probably the most heart warming experience given that you see firsthand how it can affect people.

Me: What was your first article about and what topics seem to resonate more with readers today?
Gkhamba: My first piece that got published was when I was in 7th grade in the newspaper Ludhiana Newsline. It was some lame poem called Once in my dreams whose words I don’t remember. Anything related to cricket or media bashing (though creatively) seems to work really well. That and of course the perennial Indian favourite – sex.

Me: Is writing your calling, a bread earner for you? Can writing be pursued as a money minting full time career?
Gkhamba: I make a living off it yes. I don’t make enough to run an entire household yet but it is definitely a viable profession for those who are keen on it and good at it. The spectrum is too huge to just pigeon hole it to blogging or newspaper colums. Nowadays writers get paid for everything from writing scripts, making movies, in advertising, corporate communications, publishing and god knows what not. So yeah, it will definitely be a big part of what I do in the future but not the only thing.

Me: Do you believe “Pen is mightier than the sword”? What would you call a superhero with pen in his hand and underwear over his pants?
Gkhamba: I think so. I don’t want to now get into a historical answer about the revolutions and independence movements that were based on ink and paper and how they brought people together but you get the idea. I would call him/her a really bad dresser and hire a stylist for him/her.

Me: As of yesterday you had 10,637 followers on twitter, what is the most ridiculous thing you have ever done to increase your fan following?
Gkhamba: Never really done anything ridiculous or something I’ve regretted to be honest. I used to do some Twitter avatars in the middle where I would change my DP to that of a famous person on a particular occasion (like Barack Obama on when he was coming to India) and pretend to tweet like them. That was almost always a hit and got me a lot of traction.

Me: As of yesterday you had 22,900 + tweets, are number of tweets directly proportional to number of followers? Your views on how to increase the number of followers on twitter.
Gkhamba: I don’t think the number of tweets has anything to do with it. This also includes the conversations you have with people and you can always delete them etc. People with way more or less tweets have higher/fewer followers so there is no correlation.
How to increase your followers – check my blog I wrote a piece called how to be famous on twitter in India. I personally know people who have followed that advice and gotten a lot of traction. Beyond that, be yourself and you’ll create your own audience.

Me: You have had your hands on everything from writing, tweeting and now podcasting. What’s next in the line?
Gkhamba: I’m going to study film production and I do stand up comedy already. So I will continue all five in the future and hope to do some stuff on TV.

Me: Why do you call yourself a humanity hater?
Gkhamba: I generally don’t like how human beings behave towards each other, society and the Earth. Just for what we are doing to the Earth alone, we deserve to be wiped out as a race. I feel we as a species had been blessed with so much but our greed and ambition and sense of playing god has ruined it for everyone else and us.

Me: What is your advice to all the youth out there with pen in their hands, mind flooded with ideas and hearts filled with just one word – gkhamba!
Gkhamba: Be original, patient and willing to experiment with ideas. You’ll eventually find your own audience.

While writing this article a funny thing happened, my 8 and 9 year old Nephew and niece made a comic out of Gursimran Khamba : Gur khake, sim leke khambe pe chadh gaya.

Bhanuj Saharan

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