Meet Bhavesh Bhargava, a.k.a CalmKazi, The Allahabadi Pardesi Writer From Philadelphia
Our veteran writer Shrey Saxena caught up with one of the earliest and funniest writers on YourQuote, Bhavesh Bhargava a.k.a CalmKazi. Read on to find what keeps this Kazi so calm.
Hey Bhavesh. Thank you for allowing me to take your interview. To begin with, describe yourself in 1200 characters (250 words) — Imagine writing a tiny autobiography.
I stared at my laptop screen for a good 40 minutes before writing this. I like to think of my life as the most average one for any student or aspirant. I was born in a humble family of scholars in Allahabad, did my schooling there for 12 years. I have always lived in a “joint family” (very old term) so my house was full of PhD holders while I was young, including my dad. Being a small towner, I have always enjoyed those small alleys and walkable distances, never been a fan of big cities.
It took me a while to make it a habit but I successfully pushed back all kinds of friends to become the top nerd in school which was a 150+ year old famous one, Boys’ High School, Allahabad. I got into comics and English movies from a young age and that ignited my romance with languages. Though I know only two of them, Hindi and English, but communication was what I always worked upon. There was a huge inclination on studying Economics, but me and my brother decided to be Engineers (We used to watch “Khatron KeKhiladi”, “Roadies” and “DragonBall Z” a lot). Thus, NIT Jaipur was the breeding ground of this writer as you know him.
Obviously, reading was the only hobby I had apart from movies. I read comics, novellas, plays, biographies and poetries. I practically did not studymuch for the four years but still people did entrust me with positions of responsibility and hence I managed to handle a lot of those in college. Apart from being a total mix of geek and nerd I also managed to watch a lot of Cricket, Tennis, Basketball and Soccer in my free time. A big influence on my writing has been these life experiences and people I met during these years. My sad / happy explorations are the gist of life I inculcate into my words. I got my campus placements to work in Pune after college and ended up travelling to USA to work two years after that. It’s been another two years since. I’m still pushing through and breathing enough to survive.
As a person I like to think of myself as a borrower. I have borrowed pragmatism, humility and sincerity from my mother, a bit of resilience and patience from my father and a lot of spunk and intelligence from my brother. A quote from my school sigil is very apt to reflect on my followings and beliefs “MentemHominisSpectato Non Frontem” which means “Do not judge a man by his face, but by his deeds”. To sum up,
कतरों में जीना सीखा है हमने,
खुदी भी टुकड़ों से बनी है ||
1.I got reminded of a Bollywood song, Katra Katra. Anyway, What was going inside your head during those 40 minutes when you were staring at the laptop screen?
I think in movie quotes a lot of these times. It’s like a gag reaction of my brain to repudiate confusion in comprehension. For example, just now I remembered the opening lines of High Fidelity “What came first music or misery?” and thought that it should be the opening line of my actual biography. So yeah, it’s a muddle of basic thoughts combined with bursts of wisdom that I set aside and wrote those in my bio. I was also looking for the autocorrect bar above my keyboard as it’s been days I have typed sitting in front of a laptop.
My urge to be different is the main cause of hesitation. Not everyone is same in opinions and I am not same with the words I choose all the time. This makes me think a lot before saying anything, helps me stick to my opinion as well, unless proved wrong. You see my urge to explain everything? I like to make people view the picture as I see it, I win in that moment. I can almost hear my brain cheering for that microsecond. “I remember those cheers”
2. Haha, that’s amazing. Much similar to my approach. Any experience in your childhood that drew you towards studies, so much that you decided to push away everything for it?
(Laughs) That was just for a lighter tone. This will be a very anti-climactic to know but I did pretty good with my childhood. The friendship aspect of it was a bit lacking, I agree. Friends are hard to come by when you start competing at a young age. Add to it a little bit of home pride I carried. I had my brother by my side all the time and we have been extremely mischievous at times. I still have some other friends who consider me as a part of the social circle but I never connected with “laundayi” as people call it. I sound very pretentious, but my mind never thought of it as a way of entertainment. My books and my comics were my best friends, and I knew I could excel at studies so I did that. My mum was extremely strict with us until she had us under control, that turned out well. Maybe having a lot of people at home never really made me look for friends outside.
Hostel life was where I learned to open up. I even remember my friend sharing a very candid observation which I never noticed as I did not visit my friends much back then. He said “Normal people read newspaper, listen to radio or have tea when there is a power cut, at your house people take out a Readers’ Digest and read it. Classy!” It’s embarrassing and yet eye opening because I learned to observe and describe through such anecdotes. It seeped into my writing later on.
3. Haha, thinking of “Laundayi”, which you didn’t connect to, still what has been the most immature deed done by you till now, which taught you a lot?
This is from my Prep days; I was about 6 or 7 years old then. We were in cahoots with one of the “older” kids from Std. VI and he talked me and one of my other friends into taking a walk in the Company Bagh across the street to chill out after school because FREEDOM! My mom used to pick me up from school because dad’s scooter was a privilege we got only on special days. I went into the park hoping I will be out in 10 minutes. But we kind of wandered and lost our way, the kid who accompanied us forgot the way out of that park and you can imagine how huge a small park can seem for the kids we were. We wandered and cried for a good 20–30 minutes before we got out on the other side and finally his father caught us and got me back home. My mum and all my sisters were livid when I reached home. I realized two things that day:
- Never leave the house or go anywhere without telling mom or my brother
- All kids older than a standard ahead are assholes
It was a conversation piece for a long time till I moved to college “Remember when Bhavesh got lost in the Company Bagh” (smiles)
4.Alright, has the U.S. been a better help than India if we talk about your writing?
Yeah a bit. The writer in me was already looking for inspiration when I moved to US two years back. India was a bit of a toll, considering the long hours in office and it was hard to find inspiration to write. After my move, I tried Dubsmash and all sorts of cool and new tools, being the geek I am. I got on to YourQuote to make something out of my alone time. I did not think of it to become such a platform. The dopamine kicks in when people praise my heartfelt pieces. The depth comes naturally now since I live alone and am away from home. So it’s a boon in disguise.
5. Admirable. You say you’re a Borrower. Somewhere we all are. But we all have something unique in us that we invent or develop in ourselves. What’s yours?
A small and very niche quality of mine which I like to give myself credit for is my adaptability. I pick up very quickly, be it conversations or discussions. I gather knowledge, observe and summarize quickly to keep the conversation going. I honed this skill in school, helped me get through my point to teachers, students, assemblies, clubs and debates. In college as well I became likeable because I had an average brain and a whole lot of heart. I have never found anyone who disagrees. It helped me create a friend circle at work because I did not have anyone joining me in Pune from my college. I now have few of my best friends owing to that quality.
6. That’s wonderful. Coming to the big question, How did you start writing?
The million-dollar question. (laughs) I was very young when I started writing essays to show my mother how I progressed, I even took advice from my English teachers to cultivate the desired style. It was an organic start, must have been about 8 or 9 years old. A lot of this credit again goes to my mother, who was my best critic. All my creative inclinations are her influence. I wrote for some purpose till my college days (essays, sites, magazines) and then I fell in “love”. Then it was all “Main shayar to nahin, magar ae haseen” you get the gist. But to my credit, I did not take it up half-heartedly, I deep dived into the nuances to learn Gulzar and Prasoon Joshi’s work and formed my own style by writing a lot in my diary. A heartbreak later “CalmKazi” was born.
7. So, according to CalmKazi, what is the most fulfilling thing about writing? How seriously do you take your writing?
I love to be the thinking man. A part of me always wants to know more and give people valid reasons to attach to spiritual and philosophical observations. I do not like sports banter (any banter in fact) and numbers or records. For me the essence of living and the expression of thought is important. If I can connect with even 1% of my readers up to their deepest possible point of comprehension. I win.
I take writing as an art very seriously. Dishonesty and cover-ups are not my style. It should be sacred because it has power to form opinions. The misuse is present all around us in the way journalism, trolls and Trump works these days. We need people to read the truth and purity because they see rubbish on television anyway.
8. Oh, wonderful. What’s the story behind your pen/blog name?
It’s an amusing one. I took to Twitter in 2010, my very first handle was @KalMuah based on an SMS joke “If Muah is a kiss KalMuah is promise for a kiss tomorrow” (grins) I know it’s cheesy, but that was me on social media back then. (also because my then girlfriend took @BoleToh which was my first choice). It was very active back then, I had a blog and everything. I finally got bored of it in 2013, and went on a weird handle search spree. I came up with around 200 handles there to finally fall on @CalmKazi. It is a wordplay on my workaholic nature and profound thoughts I used to impart in my blog. I broke my back and my brains on this one. It followed me into YourQuote. The catchiness of it never struck me till Harsh praised it in my second or third post.
9. Haha, that was fun. What hooks you to YourQuote?
Incessant inspiration and purity of written word. I am lucky enough to be one of the first 100 users of the app and I do not regret it for a second. In fact, Harsh and I share an acquaintance and I kind of stalked him online in his Bharat Bhraman phase through my friend which also led me to the app. Being a part of that elite group introduced me to many prolific writers.
This community has given me a sense of belonging as the vagabond writer. I am not a blogger but I like to write small verses and this platform works for me there. This mad bunch has helped me fight a lot of inner demons through the power of expression. Also, the dopamine keeps me hooked.
10. Tell us the most amazing story of this Dopamine guy’s life.
I always had an urge to travel but working since 2012 and the financial state of affairs did not allow me to do so. I met a (now) very close friend of mine through Twitter who by luck or by chance happened to live in Mumbai as I was in Pune. She visited me once in November 2013 for a Music Fest and then directly called me up in Feb 2014 that we should go to Leh. I was a bit taken aback but decided to give it a go. I did not know how to backpack and travel and this small summer trip gave me the courage to do so. I started breaking out of my shell from that day onwards. It was an amazing feeling to go into the mountains, find a stone by the river, sit and just peace out with nothing to do. I had other things planned but then had to travel to the States the very next January. Life changed a lot after that impromptu trip. Thanks Maal! (friend’s nickname)
11. Yeah, thank you Ms. Maal. So, If there is a novel based on your life, what would it be called?
“Atrangi” (अतरंगी) would be an ideal title. I have so many different interests that this would be best suited for the cause.
12. Wow. Now, turning a bit technical. How has your career/study impacted your writing style?
Career hampered it at the start. I used to be a workaholic and could not give time to it. I ended up writing rants and particularly less in Hindi. When I was studying it was restricted to essay writing and site contents. During college I used to write for someone and not very regularly. She did give me encouragement to write more. It’s much more smooth now. I have a mind palace to store my thoughts and I like to think on the fly to create my works. Unless I am not happy with what I read, I do not post it anywhere.
13. That sounds like a perfectionist. What is the most important thing for you in a story?
The points at which the protagonist is vulnerable enough to choose. I have this weird distaste towards a “hero” being Mr. Goody Two-Shoes. Idealism is a myth, my lead would be more of a flawed, disgusted and conflicted character, who is ready to take on the world but in his own terms. I always look for such points in a story, this establishment is most importance to me. Of course, the other elements of well thought out theme being intact.
14. I guess writers can look up to you for reviews. Bhavesh, which book do you wish you had written?
It’s hard to compete with the originality of the greatest but if I had to choose I would really like to get into the research that went behind a book like “Jurassic Park” It’s Crichton’s most famous work to date and one of the best science fiction books I have ever read.
15. I hope, someday you reboot Terminator or something better than that. Now, if there’s one thing that you’d want to change about your writing, what would it be?
I am changing every day, I am not bound to any single form of writing and I think I would like to keep it that way. The only thing I would change is the anxiousness attached to lack of response. I become erratic with my words in some small spurts of “trying to fit in” I should be happy being different and an open thinker.
16. That’s wonderful. Now, the question everyone waits for, who are your favorite writers on YourQuote?
Everyone reading should know this took an extra hour of effort to do justice. There are a lot of people from YourQuote I know personally now who are magnanimously talented and have a big heart. They are social enough to connect and discuss, especially when I am the one of the few in US on the platform. Here is the list of my personal favorites:
Tanisha Rajput (BIG FAN!), Saket Garg, Mayanka Dadu, Prasoon Vyas, Satish Chandra, Shubhi Khare, Saurabh Pratap S Singh (Agyani Baba), Abhinav Nair, Sourabh Acharya, Aishwarya (Shourya), Ayena Makkar Girdhar, Shreya Kanodia, Mohini Dhankhar, PrachiJodha, Akshata Mishra, Bharath Nandibhatla, Shambhavi Sharma, Piyoosh Mishra, Rya Ray, Jhelum Anikhindi, Meghana Bose, Debashish Sarmah, Navita Jain, AnubhavBajpayee, Praveen Singh, Ayushi Dauneriya, Kajal Puri and of course Harsh Snehanshu.
I keep discovering more people every day. It’s not that easy to read everything because my hours are separate from the regular activity hours of the whole community. But I go to these profiles for inspiration.
17. Amazing! What has been the greatest personal discovery for you?
Last year in February, I lost my father to a heart disease. I was in the States then and could only reach after 36 hours of journey. Seeing everyone broken and yet supportive made me realize the value of resilience he taught me. I am not a tear shedder; I cry only with my mother around to support me. I discovered my own sense of self and learnt being an adult. Responsibility became a tool than a burden. It’s a very recent incident, maybe it crept into my writing when I joined YourQuote later in the year. Maybe that’s why you find some depth in my works. (smiles)
18. I’m sorry about your father. But hardships make us who we are. Bhavesh, one last question, what is your favorite possession? Share a picture and add 3–4 lines.
It is my father’s old passport size photo. He gave this to me playfully while sorting through some old documents in 2011, I have kept it ever since with me in my wallet. It has always been a prized possession for me.
In the end, a big thanks to you Shrey for this wonderful opportunity to converse and reveal my psyche. I feel humbled by your questions and hopefully gave you some good insights. Cheers!
Thank You Bhavesh, for your time, patience and bearing with me and my questions. I’m glad I got the opportunity of interviewing you and knowing you so much. I admire your intellect and heart and I guess people deserve to know about it. Best wishes to you, brother. Wish to meet you soon.