The Helpline is my debut novel. It took me roughly 18 months to finish this book. The book underwent a lot of changes during the period. After writing 50% of the book in third person style, I realized it wasn’t convincing enough. So I switched the mode to first person and finished the book in roughly 8 months.

I sent the first draft to a few close friends. The reviews were mixed.

Somehow, I knew there was room for improvement. So I opened the manuscript and started rewriting the whole thing again. Somewhere between the second draft and final manuscript, there were long, scary patches of uninvited blocks and what-the-fuck-am-I-doing phases. Chapters and characters were deleted, scenes eliminated, sentences annihilated; it only reminded me of 3 words…Kill Your Darlings.

It was late April 2013 when I had, convincingly, finished the manuscript and started sending it out to publishers. The book was sent to 25 publishers across India. I never heard from 23 of those publishers.

One publisher based out of Delhi called me up and expressed his opinion on the book. The publisher recommended some changes in the climax before accepting the book for publication. I wasn’t convinced. So I moved on.

A couple of months later, I received the letter of intent from Leadstart Publishing and things soon began to fall in place. On 29th March, 2014, the book was launched by Padma Shri Paresh Rawal at Sivaswamy Auditorium in Chembur – thanks to Tushar Gangoly of Rotary Deonar Club.

Several people have asked me – Is it based on your life?

I have always answered with a NO on my lips and a YES in my head.

No, the scenes in the book are not based on my life. All the situations and scenarios from page 1 to page 252 are purely fictional.

Yes, a part of the book is inspired from the people I have met and observed in my life. For instance, the character of Aslam draws a heavy inspiration from a 12-year-old boy living on the streets of Shivaji Park. This kid was sharp, smart and extremely passionate about studying. He went to a local municipal school and mostly struggled with English. We spent an hour everyday studying English lessons from his school textbook. This kid also became a reason why I decided to donate a part of book’s sale (Rs. 5 per book) as a charity for child welfare through The Rotary Foundation.

Some people have told me that the concept of the book is unique and wonder how it came about. The answer for this too has a relevance to an incident in my life.

It was the summer of 2007. I had recently had a breakup and being an emotional fool,  I took shelter among books. I spent my entire day in crosswords engrossed in books. I lost count of how many books I had read that summer. While on my usual routine at crosswords, I met a girl. I was surprised how easily we hit it off. A few days later, I asked her about the scars on her wrist and she confessed to having attempted suicide and several reasons behind it.

That incident somehow etched in my head. I had not discovered writing until the end of year 2008. When I did, I knew what my first book would be about.

The Helpline is not only about suicide issues among teenagers though. At the heart of it, The Helpline is a romantic-drama set in modern times. It is about relationships that bond and strengthen as well as of those that weaken and wither. It is about selfishness and selflessness. It is about failures in life. Above all, The Helpline is about self-discovery.

The Helpline is Samir’s story – his struggle to come to terms with unfortunate events in his life and his willingness to fight back. The Helpline is Samir’s journey towards his self-discovery.

You can buy the book here:


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The Helpline