Meet Anup...and Saucy Lucy.
You may recognize them both from Twitter. Anup is another of the growing club of people who have read all my novels, though I can't swear the same for Lucy! He is also responsible for suggesting that his book club read Gooseberry, which was such an honour and yet so terrifying at the same time!
Thank you for joining us this month Anup, and for letting us get to know you better!
I thank Michael, one of my favourite authors ever, for giving me an opportunity to introduce myself to his readers and friends on his blog. My name is Anup, and I am writing this from Singapore where I have been living for more than 12 years. I was born in a semi-rural area in Southern India during the monsoon season of 1964. When I say semi-rural, I mean more like the edge of a jungle because less than 40 kilometres away was a tiger reserve teeming with wildlife, including of course wild tigers, elephants, bears, deer of all kinds and many other animals and birds. Much nearer, right on the outskirts of my small town called Mysore (Mysuru now), was a wild leopard reserve and it was not uncommon to see these magnificent large cats come into the town and pick up a stray dog sometimes. Wild elephant herds walked through town sometimes!
I was an outdoors kind of boy. While playing outside, I and my friends would watch various creatures go by, including snakes such as the Indian Cobra, Banded Kraits, Russel’s vipers, and so on. None of them scared me but it did scare my friends, more so because their parents had instilled a fear of these animals, and mine hadn’t done any of that. For me, all creatures big and small, whether they walked, swam, flew or slithered, were interesting, amazing - and a curious little Anup tried to learn all about these animals. As a boy of maybe 8 years or 9 years of age I rescued a green parakeet that had been injured by a stray dog and brought it home. That was the first of many rescues of domestic animals and wildlife that became a serious interest in my life until now.
As a little boy growing up, I went to a small school run by Anglo Indian teachers mainly, and the medium of instruction of all the subjects was the English language. So, by default, this became my first language. The school had a small but well stocked library of all English books, and I developed my habit of reading everything that was there on the shelf from a very young age.
Although I was a nature nut, flying always fascinated me and as a young boy, whenever a rare airplane flew over my town, I would look up and dream that one day I would be a pilot, flying those machines. I used to hang around the National Cadet Corps Air Wing division as a college youth in the same town, and learned how to fly winch launched gliders from an old WW2 era airfield. It was an open cockpit glider, and I fell even more in love with being in the air and actually flying an aircraft.
Flight training in India back then was very expensive and it took many years to get a commercial pilot’s licence. I had to venture abroad to study, fly and earn that certification and, with great difficulty and a lot of debt, I flew off to the United States and finally got my licence at a fraction of the cost - and time - in the year 1986. Today, I have flown many types of aircraft, from single engine trainers to multi-engine turboprops and jet aircraft over the last 35 years, flying them all around the World.
My background with animals and books, as I mentioned earlier, has been instrumental in how I shaped my life up until this day. I continue to help with wildlife conservation, wildlife rescue, domestic animal rescue and rehabilitation. Cats' welfare is one of the major things I do here in Singapore and that means taking care of stray/community cats. I participate in TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) programs and also in taking care of their medical needs, as well as commuting long distances every day to feed and play with them. I do help with other similar programmes for dogs and other abandoned pets sometimes when the need arises.
As for books, reading became a lifelong passion. I read a wide genre of books, but fiction is my favourite and, in that, historical fiction fascinates me more. When I first came to Singapore, I made a lot of friends but not one of them were avid book readers, or had an interest in reading. One day I joined an online (I think now defunct) social media site called Shelfari which allowed readers to display the books they have read, on a virtual bookshelf. Others could see what was on your shelf and comment about it, or ask questions, or post reviews. It had a chat section and a forum. I couldn’t find any book club to join in Singapore so I started a forum on Shelfari about it. I received one message from a random person (someone who had no profile photo) that she was similarly looking for a book club to join and had not found one. Our chats resulted in forming a new book club that we named the Literati Singapore Book Club.
Members joined randomly, through friends and family connections at first, and there was no registration process or fees for joining. We have celebrated 12 years as a club now, we meet online every month, and all the original group of 6 including the 2 founders are still active, myself included. Last year we featured Michael’s excellent novel “Gooseberry – The Case of the Thieving Maharajah” and everyone loved it. Normally our book club readers have divided opinions about every single book we read - except in rare cases, one of them being Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone and then Michael’s Gooseberry! We think that Michael is a reincarnated Wilkie Collins! We hope to continue this book club tradition of reading one book a month and discussing about it for many years to come, with members currently in 3 different countries across the world in different time zones!
A little about my future aviation plans that I can reveal at this stage: I am starting an amphibious aircraft (seaplanes) assembly for new buyers/countries and most of them will find service with Coast Guard and Search and Rescue operations. I have turned into an aviation business entrepreneur after having worked in airlines, cargo, charter jets, flight instruction, and so on. My foray into the aviation business has been on-going for more than 15 years, and includes buying, selling, refurbishing, brokering all types of aircraft, aircraft ownership, and private jet/air ambulance charters - and since 2013 - into seaplane operations. The new manufacturing project is spread across two continents and a global market. I will make announcements on the progress of this project periodically on my twitter site @airplanetalk.
I am truly grateful to Michael for his kind friendship and support here, thanks again!