Rafeed Elahi Chowdhury
Bangladesh | Canada
Who is Rafeed Elahi Chowdhury?
Rafeed Elahi Chowdhury is a storyteller. He is a novelist and a marketer. He loves telling stories, knowing about different cultures, and connecting with people. His friends tell him that he doesn’t look like 25, but 19 – sometimes he thinks he is a vampire.
I’ve known you as a young and ambitious Marketeer, Rafeed. You have now explored novel writing. At what point did you decide to be an author?
I have been writing poetry and short stories since I was in the sixth grade. I was never the brightest student. During one of my classes, I was writing poetry instead of paying attention in class. Well, I had to read the poem in front of the whole class and got that torn up by the teacher as a punishment. My uncle, whom I call Shukaka, always pushed me to go the extra mile and write. I began my writing career with non-fiction and not a novel. After publishing three books, I had an epiphany – since I had stepped into the world of publishing, now would be the time to begin the journey. That’s when I finished writing my first novel and got it published in 2022.
You’ve written your novels in English – meaning, you are targeting a smaller percentage of Bangladeshis. Is that a conscious choice and why?
Yep, that’s absolutely a conscious choice, and I get that question a lot. I grew up reading the novels of Charles Dickens, one of the most notable classic writers. His novels were based on older timeline, which can’t be related to the culture and lifestyle we live in now. In Bangladesh, people read novels by some of the finest authors who are globally renowned. There aren’t a lot of homegrown English novelists in my country. Well, while it is a valid question about why I should start a trend that no one is doing, I wanted to be one of the rarest ones to choose this journey. Maybe someday, that smaller percentage will increase to a bigger number. One can at least hope, haha.
Your first novel, My Acid Romance has received accolades from the creatives of Bangladesh. Tell our readers the storyline of My Acid Romance.
My Acid Romance is about the story of a young adult who never knew he’d turn out to be a hopeless romantic in love. The problem arises when a third person comes into the story. My Acid Romance is targeted at teenagers and young adults who want to experience a casual love story in a Bangladeshi backdrop.
Rafeed, I had the chance to read your book and noticed how it is written in the simplest form of English. This does not take away the fact that you are a brilliant writer, however in a world where everyone is trying to appear “intelligent”, by using big words, yours’ is refreshing. Walk us through that.
You’re on point! One of the writers who inspire me is Kingkor Ahsan, a Bangladeshi author. He once told me the job of a writer is not to make the work of a reader difficult, but rather, to tell the story in a way that excites a reader.
Whether a reader is in favor of reading a book in the simplest form of language or with tough vocabulary, it is solely a matter of preference.
In the case of My Acid Romance, I want to attract readers who do not read English books. I want to tell them this story in the simplest form so that they feel welcome in my world of writing. As I go forward in this journey, I might try out different tones and styles.
I can’t wait to explore that!
Let’s talk about something very exciting – Rules of Eternity, your next book. Tell us all we need to know about it.
Absolutely! I feel like I’m a fanboy to myself because talking about it makes me too excited. Is that self-obsession?
Rules of Eternity is about a boy who leaves his family, friends and loved ones and goes to a remote place because of an incident that changes his life. When he gets back, he discovers how things have changed. This is a lighthearted story, that will hopefully make my readers laugh, cry, and relate to certain realizations in their own lives.
Oh and a fun fact, this is not a story that only Bangladeshis can relate to, hopefully, Indians and Pakistanis too. Fingers crossed!
Is this a depiction of your life’s journey?
Some characters from the novel are inspired by people in my life; I think writers have this in common. Should anyone ask if I was referring to them (after reading this interview) while writing the novel, my plan is, if it’s a negative character, then I’ll probably say no! lol
You have decided to self-publish another one of your upcoming novels – Moho. Why self-publish?
I want to explore the journey of a self-published author. Of course, having a credible publisher will add a lot of value to my work, but for the next one, I want to figure out and see if I can take on the set of responsibilities to do that.
For the sakes of aspiring writers who will be reading this, how does self-publishing work?
I haven’t explored this bit myself, but I’ll share some takeaways I got while learning from other writers. Self-publishing gives a writer a lot of independence and also teaches her/him about every segment of publishing as they get things done by themselves. Well, if some parts of it are not taken care of, there is always professional support that one can take, starting from designing the cover to editing.
Describe your writing process.
I bet a lot of people will have a good laugh wondering if I’m crazy because my writing process is different and as I said, CRAZY.
To love the story, I ponder a lot. I visualise the story like it is already a movie and of course, if the character is cool, I’d like to think of myself as the protagonist. If the story is more powerful than the characters, then I think of myself as a movie director.
I apologize to everyone on the road who noticed me smiling and laughing, for no absolute reason. If you did see me in that state, I promise I wasn’t laughing at you, I was just imagining myself in the story, with earphones plugged in.
Then after, I write. My favorite time of writing is at night when everything calms down. That makes me feel like I’m the only writer in the world, and I should get done with it before everyone wakes up. Once the writing is done, I spend a lot of time editing. I keep on editing till I can finally tell myself – this is it!
What are the common traps for aspiring writers?
Procrastination. This is something I face, a lot.
Sometimes, procrastinating is good because it helps us ask ourselves if telling the story is worth it. But when the process is hugely delayed, demotivation seeps in.
Any plans to go international, Rafeed?
Totally. I don’t only want to tell stories of Bangladesh to the world, but I also want to tell stories of the world to Bangladesh, by one of their own. Now that I’m in Vancouver, a city full of people from so many cultures, I am amazed to listen to so many stories. That inspires me more, to go international. Hopefully, very soon!
Best book you’ve read this year
My two upcoming books – Rules of Eternity, and Moho. Again, I’m just kidding, that’s too much self-obsession haha!
The best book I’ve read this year is 1984, by George Orwell.
The last music you downloaded
Karone Okarone by Minar Rahman. Oh no, now it started playing in my head again.
The music that changed everything for you
Neele Neele Ambar Par. Hands down.
When you need to feel inspired
I talk to my parents, or at least, think of them.
Things you’ll always have in your fridge
A cola drink and chocolate, no matter what
I check social media while having my breakfast. There’s usually chocolate spread in my breakfast.
A typical day for Rafeed Elahi
A lot of browsing the internet, and dreaming about food.
What have you come to appreciate the last 2 years
The people who love me – my family, and friends.
Definition of success to you
When I bring a smile on my parents face
Biggest inspiration comes from
I have a friend who will go through the toughest days, yet keep on smiling. That friend weirdly likes having salt.
One gadget you can’t do without
Country you can’t wait to go back to
Jus Lyk A Podcast
Something you’ve recently discovered.
When we don’t pile up emotions inside ourselves – instead, react, it actually feels good in the long run.
Philosophy in life
If you I have the blessings of my God, the prayer of my parents and I don’t hurt anyone, I’ll be happy in life.
Your style icon
Best things about Bangladesh
The food, the hospitality, and the winter
The Dark Knight
What’s in your glass and plate for afternoon snack
Chaa/tea (It’s a must have), along with fast food
Where Fab! Luxe readers can get to know more about your work
I’m active on my Instagram @versesbyrafeed