The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Deeba Salim Irfan
I write because I have voices in my head. Some are high-pitched and some low-pitched. Some are ecstatic whilst some others are tormented, some are jubilant, some despondent and they all belong to different nameless faces. I have to write when I hear my characters interact. I just love the feeling after I have written something that I am satisfied with—that makes me feel complete.
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
I have completed my poetry book that is under design at the moment. The book, Charcoal Blush is a collection of abstract free verse poems through which I am celebrating various emotions of an individual’s soul.
Describe your writing aesthetic.
I am a night writer. I cleanup/edit during the day. My mind flows at night, when everyone has gone to bed and I own my time. I like to stick to a routine of staying up at night, letting my mind wander. Even if I am not hitting the keyboard, I play with words in my mind. I come up with plots and poems at night. I often wake up from my sleep with words flowing and I have to get up and capture them before they are lost!
Who are your favorite authors?
I have been an avid reader as a child and am thankful to my family who inculcated the love of books. My favorite authors change with time—As a child, I developed my love of words with Enid Blyton, went on to Charles Dickens, Robin Cook, Danielle Steel and everything in between. Now I like Paulo Coelho. I like abstract, soul stirring writing with depth. A book that I truly enjoyed recently is Paul Harding’s debut and a Pulitzer prize awardee—Tinkers.
The most challenging piece, I think, is the novel I have just completed—Ladan. I am still polishing it, though.
The story is about two friends, one of whom has been diagnosed with cervical cancer. It was challenging as it took a toll on me personally while writing it. I had to do a lot of research about the disease and that left me drained completely. I put the story aside a couple of times; however, it beckoned me.
What’s your idea of bliss?
One—A chalet nestled in the mountains, not far from the madding crowd! Laptop, my solitude and me!
Two—One day with my family with nothing to think about!
What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?
I belong to the old school and still swoon over a gentleman’s etiquette. Gender bias and disrespect of women in any relationship gets me raving mad. (I am against violence so I would never break my china—ever!)
What book/s would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?
I will carry books that connect with my soul. I will take enough of Rumi and since I love to read my favorite books over and over I will definitely take a novel on Rumi by Elif Shafak, 40 Rules of Love that I have read a couple of times. I will also take a variety of other books from Arthur Hailey, Ayn Rand, Paulo Coelho and I will throw in a few classics too like Gone with the Wind and Pride and Prejudice! Something for every mood.
Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?
I see the emphasis on “thing” and not people, and in that case—my laptop! My world is in my laptop!
Describe the philosophy of your life—in a sentence.
It’s difficult to squeeze the philosophy of life in one sentence. Many serious things cross my mind, however, on a lighter note it would be—”I want to live like tomorrow doesn’t exist!”
Deeba Salim Irfan is a Dubai based Indian author who launched her first novel Urma to much appreciation in India & UAE. Hailed as one of the few writers reflecting contemporary Muslim society, Irfan has eschewed no words when it comes to reflecting the changing dynamics of modern Muslim society. Her debut novel Urma, which traces the life of a woman against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution, has been hailed as one of the few books chronicling life in pre-revolution Iran. Having spent her formative years in Iran, Irfan is very well-versed with the country, its people and culture.
Her boldness in handling various subjects in her writings comes from her modern upbringing that was steeped in a religious context. Her father, an ENT surgeon and mother, a beautician, encouraged her to work hard to pursue her dreams and to rise above the societal pressures of conformity. She lives in Dubai with her husband who is a businessman and a passionate filmmaker, three children and a hyperactive Maltese.