#DesiBooks10QA: Aravind Jayan on respecting the reader’s time and getting on with the story

About the author

Aravind Jayan grew up in Trivandrum, Kerala. He is the 2017 winner of the Toto Award for Fiction and was shortlisted for The Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2021. He lives in Bangalore. His writing has been published in Out of PrintThe Bombay Literary MagazineHelter Skelters Anthology IV, and The Hindu, among others. His debut novel, Teen Couple Have Fun Outdoors, is out now.

About the book

It is a day of triumph for Appa and Amma, who have driven home a shiny new Honda Civic to show off to their neighbors in Blue Hills housing colony. But their eldest son Sreenath is behaving strangely, and it soon becomes clear why: a secretly filmed video of Sreenath and his girlfriend Anita has been posted to a porn site, and nearly everyone they know has seen it. The ensuing war—with Sreenath and Anita on one side and their families on the other—becomes a news sensation, emblematic of a wider generational struggle.

The novel is narrated by Sreenath’s younger brother, who is twenty years old and eager to escape his hometown and embrace his brother’s rebellious spirit. But to keep his family together he will have to compromise his integrity and, in doing so, bring buried tensions between him and his brother to the surface.

Full of dark comedy and insight about Indian society, shame, and the online generation, Teen Couple Have Fun Outdoors, is a poignant story about now told by a narrator who will beguile and surprise you.

Teen Couple Have Fun Outdoors by Aravind Jayan is darkly comedic and insightful novel about Indian society, shame, and the online generation. #DesiBooks10QA @DesiBooks


1. The desi book that made you want to be a writer (or changed your life.)

There’s a Malayalam language novel, Verukal by Malayattoor Ramakrishnan, that was part of our school syllabus. I still think it’s one of the funniest, saddest, most moving books I’ve read though I’m sure I must have moaned about it like everyone else back when we had to study it. I also think Verukal was the first time I read a novel that featured the kind of people and places I knew. I must have been fourteen or fifteen then. It’s stayed with me since.

“[Verukal, a Malayalam language novel by Malayattoor Ramakrishnan] is one of the funniest, saddest, most moving books I’ve read.” ~Aravind Jayan #DesiBooks10QA @DesiBooks

2. The desi book that your own latest book is most in conversation with and why.

I think the narrator of my novel is similar to the narrator in the Kannada novel, Ghachar Ghochar, by Vivek Shanbhag. Both protagonists are caught between family and self—so much so that neither of them knows how to separate the two. They also each have, in a sense, the tiring role of being the go-between.

3. The desi book that doesn’t exist (to your knowledge) but you’d love to read.

I’d love to read more slacker novels and campus novels from around the country. Well-written stuff, but focused entirely on the microcosmic day-to-day nothing. I think people often get bogged down by the idea of making a larger point.

4. The desi book that you’re currently reading or planning to read soon.

Someone gifted me a bundle of Girish Karnad plays. So I’m reading those, partly because they are easily consumable. I’m also currently reading Ants Among Elephants by Sujatha Gidla. It’s heartbreaking and infuriating.

5. The desi book that you believe should be read and known more and why.

More of the larger world ought to read Anees Salim’s books. He’s one of the wittiest and smartest writers working now. I particularly love his book The Blind Lady’s Descendants.

The same goes for Tanuj Solanki’s work. I don’t think I have come across anyone else in the Indian scene who has a similar voice or is talking about similar things. I’m sure a certain part of that is a fault in my reading. Even so. He’s great. Again, it’s not that either of these writers isn’t read. Just that I feel the more of the wider world needs to read them.

“More of the larger world ought to read Anees Salim’s books. He’s one of the wittiest and smartest writers working now. I particularly love his book The Blind Lady’s Descendants.” ~Aravind Jayan #DB10QA @DesiBooks

6. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Keep in mind that even the kindest reader is an impatient one. They have a million things going on—dinner prep, office job, relationship troubles—so if they give you time, you ought to be humble and grateful, and get on with the story. Maybe it’s a bit too pragmatic, but that’s good—especially when writing a literary novel.

#writingtip from Aravind Jayan: “[Readers] have a million things going on—dinner prep, office job, relationship troubles—so if they give you time, you ought to be humble and grateful, and get on with the story.” #DesiBooks10QA @DesiBooks

7. While writing your latest book, how did you keep yourself motivated to keep going despite setbacks (if any)?

I was doing a lot of freelance writing around then and, most of the time I thought of the novel as another freelance assignment commissioned by a random someone. When you’re doing freelance work, it’s not like you grapple with self-doubt or neurosis or anything like that. You’re just a mercenary getting the job done as best as you can and then moving on. I tried to do the same with the book. It didn’t always work, of course.

8. With this latest book, what does “literary success” mean to you?

The validation is nice and, at the end of the day, that’s what’ll help you write another book. Practically speaking, things like the advance from the book deal are also obviously tremendously helpful. It’s also a thrill to create something that didn’t exist and then find out people actually enjoyed it.

9. How have larger literary citizenship efforts or the writing community helped you with this latest book?

I used to send my short stories to literary magazines (and still do sometimes): Out of Print and The Bombay Literary Magazine, to name two. Every time they published something or rejected it, I got advice and pointers. That helped a lot. It also helped to stay in that circle and read what everyone else was actually working on. Stuff that gets published in literary magazines is often far more raw and true than stuff that makes it out as a book.

10. What would you most like readers to take away from this latest book?

Rather than anything big or overarching, I’d be happy if they went away with a few small insights about how humans behave and communicate under pressure.


Aravind Jayan’s debut novel, Teen Couple Have Fun Outdoors, is out now.

Teen Couple Have Fun Outdoors by Aravind Jayan is darkly comedic and insightful novel about Indian society, shame, and the online generation. #DesiBooks10QA @DesiBooks


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