Jigs Ashar – The Author who leads an ‘extraordinary ordinary life’

Simplicity with Talent is one such quality that sometimes makes a person stand out differently in a crowd.

Jigs Ashar is a brilliant author, and I observed this quality while interacting with him in my recent interview session. What he said about his journey and a new book… to know, read this interview.

1. Hello  Sir, Welcome to this interview session. Before we go ahead, we will insist you to say something about you, your family, and your life in school.

Hello and thank you for having me here. Well, I am an engineer from Mumbai university and then I worked with a Tata Group Software Company for four years prior to an MBA degree from the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies. 

After completing my masters in 1999, I worked with MNC banks for nineteen years, before joining the World Bank Group in 2018. With the WBG, my assignments took me to various parts of Asia such as Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Philippines and Pakistan. I am also the Managing Partner of Execuzen, a leadership hiring and consulting firm.

I live in Mumbai with my wife Vidya, and daughter Esha. Vidya is a senior consultant with Tata Consultancy Services and Esha has graduated last year from Ashoka University and now works with the Xander Group. 

Both Vidya and I are avid marathoners having run races across the world. 

As with all of us, when in school we cannot wait to get out and enjoy the freedom of college and work life; but very soon, life happens and we all cherish school days as the best of our lives.

A stray remark by my English teacher, Mrs Mehta, was buried in my subconscious and came to the fore only when I signed my contract for my first book. When I was in the ninth grade, after reading an essay I had written, she told me that someday I will write a book! 

2. How Writing come into your life?

My writing journey started in 2017, when my wife, Vidya, encouraged me to enroll for a professional creative writing course. The course instructor saw some promise in my submissions and told me to keep writing. Around the same time, I participated in the national TOI WriteIndia competition. My story, ‘The Wait is Killing’, was adjudged a winner by none other than Jeffrey Archer. In the same season, my second story, ‘Make(up) in India’, also was a winner, adjudged by Shobha De.

Once my stories were published, I got an offer from Westland Publications and Ravi Subramanian to write my first novels, as a part of their collaboration to launch new authors in the thriller genre. This is how my debut books – ‘Insomnia’ and ‘A Brutal Hand’ – were published and released in 2020. Both books have been re-released in 2023 by Harper Collins.

My latest book, ‘The Cabinet Conspiracy’, is a political thriller that weaves in true events and characters in a fictional story about the assassination of the Indian prime minister. The idea for this book was born in 2018, when I read about China’s plans for global domination via its Belt & Road Initiative. And India’s refusal to participate in it gave me an interesting idea that how far could China go to get India to sign up for the BRI. It is a book inspired by one of my favourite authors, Frederick Forsyth.

So, as it is rightly said, I did not choose writing, but writing chose me

3. You started with short story writing and then ventured into Novel writing- Please share with us this journey from Short story to Novel.

My writing journey began in 2017 and has been, in a way, smooth. Getting my first break for my debut novels, ‘Insomnia’ and ‘A Brutal Hand’, was also an opportunity that fell in place after the publication of my short stories. In a way, I have written across three formats – short stories (around 3000 words), my first two books (around 130-140 page quick reads) and now The Cabinet Conspiracy, which is a full-blown novel of 232 pages. 

Writing a short story is a challenge as all the elements of a good narrative have to be captured strictly within the prescribed word limit. One may read it in half an hour but it takes days to write a good one. 

The challenge in writing the first two books was the format – the books had to be around 130-140 pages, as compared to a full-blown novel which is upwards of 250 pages. So, the books had to be quick read thrillers, and yet capture the essence of the stories I had in mind. Also, they were my first books so it was a new experience for me.

‘The Cabinet Conspiracy’ blends in a lot of real events into the story, finding the right balance between my fictional story and the facts was a big challenge. Firstly, disparate events and characters had to be woven seamlessly into one story. That was the first thing I had to work out.

Secondly, while I have done in-depth research into every element of what I have presented, the details should not slow down the pace of the book. They have to be just enough to take the story forward and keep the reader interested.

It, therefore, took me a long time to complete the book and because the topic is internationally volatile, I had to verify and re-verify my findings to ensure I present an accurate picture to the readers.

Getting ‘The Cabinet Conspiracy’ commissioned happened after my first meeting with Arup Bose of Srishti Publishers, who instantly loved the story. Of course, Suhail Mathur of the literary agency, The Book Bakers, played a huge role as he was the one who introduced me to Arup. 

4.   Insomnia and A Brutal Hand  – Both these books we heard are getting evaluated for a screen adaptation.  Please share some light on this development and when we will get the chance to watch it on screen.

Both are at a very advanced stage of finalisation, and I should be able to announce something soon. There has also been interest from a few production houses and an OTT platform for ‘The Cabinet Conspiracy’, and discussions have commenced.

5. The Cabinet Conspiracy – Your latest release.  It’s an international political thriller inspired by your favourite authors – Jeffrey Archer and Frederick Forsyth. How do these authors inspire you in penning this novel?

I must have read all their books multiple times; and somewhere along the way, they have inspired me to ‘go out and tell a story’. Both have their distinct styles of story-telling, but they pack a punch without fail. The pace of their novels, the characters, the political elements built in – especially international politics in Forsyth’s novels (in ‘The Devil’s Alternative’ for example) are simply fantastic, and fuel the imagination of both readers and new writers alike.

So, some of the elements I admire in their novels, and have tried to learn from, are – a good story, a well-paced narrative, interesting and real characters, and the way every scene is described – it transports the reader right at the centre of the story.  


And I actually haven’t read a story about an assassination plot set in the Indian context. Of course, one of the most famous novels on this theme is ‘The Day of the Jackal’ by Forsyth, where the target is French president Charles de Gaulle. Archer’s ‘Shall we tell the President’ was also on a similar subject where the target is Edward Kennedy.

While ‘The Cabinet Conspiracy’ is about the plot to assassinate the Indian prime minister, but that’s where the similarities end. 

6. Will you love to share a brief about the plot of this Novel?

‘The Cabinet Conspiracy’ is a political thriller about an assassination plot to kill the prime minister of India. Real events and characters are woven seamlessly into the story that blur the lines between facts and fiction.

The story begins when India’s prime minister, Mahendra Doshi, makes a shocking announcement to his cabinet – that he will not contest the upcoming elections after completion of two successful terms. Instead, he nominates a surprise PM candidate, which upsets his cabinet, especially the Serpent.

Doshi has thwarted China’s ambition to use Indian territory for its Belt & Road Initiative – the only way for China to be a global superpower. In the Serpent, China finds a willing insider and a co-conspirator at the very heart of Indian politics.

For the Serpent’s and China’s plans to succeed, the prime minister must die!

As international assassin M inches closer to her target, Inspector Anant Kulkarni has to stop her before it is too late. What Anant does not know is that the ruthless killer has planned a spine-chilling double strike!

The book is a suspenseful account of the race against time to foil an assassination plot, and uncovering the identity of the real enemy lurking close by.

The book is very topical, in terms of its setting as well as its theme. The story takes place in India a few months before general elections, where the ruling party of the last decade is again expected to win, led by a hugely popular prime minister. The global power dynamics have also been captured correctly, with China taking centre-stage as an antagonist.

7. You are a poet too… So what type of poetry do you love inking?

It would be incorrect of me to say that I am a poet. I wrote a Hindi Poetry in my college days for which I won a gold medal. But that is in a past life now. I do mentally create some lines, both in Hindi and in English, but since that time, I haven’t penned down anything. 

8. What type of book as a reader do you love to read and who are your favorite authors and why?

I have grown up reading and enjoying crime thrillers. So, when I took up writing, unsurprisingly, I started in this genre. 

We often say that fact is stranger than fiction. So, a book with references to real events that have transpired and real-life characters who have been responsible for those events have truly fascinated me. Also, I enjoy a story that is topical and one that I can relate to.

I have written this book inspired by these thoughts. I wanted to write a story that weaves real life characters and events seamlessly into a fictional narrative. Given the luxury of writing a longer novel (the first two were short and crisp), The Cabinet Conspiracy is more detailed and researched.

At the same time, I have ensured the story is paced well. Because every good story needs to have its own ‘sur’ or rhythm, and one cannot break that for the reader. That is important to me, both as a reader and a writer.

Amongst my favourite authors, I would say Frederick Forsyth, Jeffrey Archer, Agatha Christie, Keigo Higashino and Robert Ludlum. 

9. Who is your creative work’s best critique?

My wife, Vidya and my daughter, Esha. Vidya has been the first reader of my manuscripts and evaluates it as an unbiased reader, and not the author’s wife. Esha is my go-to person when I face writer’s block. She will invariably have a solution to get me out of the deadlock. 

On feedback for The Cabinet Conspiracy, I would pick two moments actually which made me heave a sigh of relief and brought me much joy. The first one is when an ex-military and intelligence officer reached out to me and said that he found the book at par with international thrillers written by greats like Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy, thus making it accessible to a wide international audience. I am quoting him verbatim as it will be impossible for me, at this stage, to compare myself with these greats!

And the second one was when a leading, reputed media house put up a review of my book and headlined it saying – “Is this thriller India’s answer to The Day of the Jackal”? For my book to be compared to or even spoken about in the same breath as The Day of the Jackal – is a real wow moment! 

10. What are your passions in life?

Firstly, I started writing when I was 46 years old. It’s probably the only passion one can pursue at any age. After being in the corporate race for 22+ years, I decided in 2018 that I need to do something more in life. Hence, I chose a career path that gives me professional fulfilment, but at the same time, gives me time and flexibility to pursue my passion, which is writing. 

I also love running and I am learning to play the guitar. In terms of balancing work-life-passion, it is up to us, to be honest. One can always find the time if one is passionate enough. We all can do so much more with our lives if we give it a shot.

Ultimately, when I sign out and meet my creator and I am asked, “What did you do with all the talent I gave you?”, I want to hold my head high and say, “I used it all.” 

11. Express yourself as Jigs Ashar in One line.

A man who leads an ‘extraordinary ordinary life’