The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Siddharth Dasgupta
What started off life as an enjoyable interest before stepping up to becoming an engaging addiction before slowly metamorphosing into an all-consuming passion has now reached that state of potent urgency where ‘why do I write?’ and ‘why do I breathe?’ appear to be conjoined twins of sorts.
Tell us about your most recent book. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
My novel Letters from an Indian Summer tells the story of an Indian photographer and a French artist caught in a tidal wave of romance, repentance, destiny… and serendipity. It spreads itself across a global canvas of cities and epiphanies, with the nearly extinct art of letters forming important focal points to the journey. What was I trying to achieve with it… well, would Nirvana suffice? I suppose in the littlest of ways I was trying to impart a sense of bohemian bliss and a light sprinkling of lyrical cadence onto a world increasingly bereft of such. I was also attracted to an India not mired in cliché but instead, unafraid of diving often and rebelliously into pools of pleasure.
Describe your writing aesthetic.
Due to the words and the people and the imagery and the memories I’ve grown up with, much of my writing, irrespective of medium, technique or genre, has a poetic and somewhat rhythmic cadence to it. While this aesthetic lends itself well to tales dripping with wanderlust and sensuality, I’ve found that it lends itself especially well to sorrow and to characters drowning under the weight of very human failings.
Who are your favorite authors?
The ones I keep going back to, as one does with a lifelong friend or a kindred spirit, are Orhan Pamuk, Vikram Seth, Jhumpa Lahiri, and García Márquez.
What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.
I’m currently in the process of finessing a collection of short stories, which I shall duly offer up to the first publisher who asks nicely. The final story in this collection, from rather humble beginnings, has turned out to be an epic treatise on identity, spirituality and Sufism. As you might imagine, not very simple to fetter and contain within the short story form. Predictably, this is the one I’m enjoying the most.
What’s your idea of bliss?
That first fragrant proof of a new love, the inerasable beauty of a perfectly crafted sentence, having your family and tiny but invaluable selection of close friends be in good health, the poetic nuances of great sex, waking up fresh and alive in a new city… I tend to go on with questions like these.
The current state of affairs, with all its bigotry, brutality, fascism, intolerance, ineptitude, and inequality, both nationally and internationally, is ripe ground for eruption. I realise that that’s a wide net I’ve cast, but such is the world we inhabit. But I do hold out hope, understanding fully well that constant negativity and whining deserve a firm hand and a quick tongue. I’ve found journeys, words, warmth, a beautiful bottle of vintage Shiraz, and some exquisite Himalayan hash to often be the best antidotes.
What books would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?
Pamuk’s Istanbul, for that unshakeable beast called nostalgia; Junot Diaz’s This is how you lose her, because love is not the easiest thing; Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary, because raucousness is heavily underrated; Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, because what’s life without a little Paris; and the entire collections of Asterix and Tintin, because… well, just because.
Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?
My family. Everything else, being material, is immaterial
Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.
To love deeply, to travel widely, to cherish immeasurably, to falter frequently… and to write perpetually.
Siddharth Dasgupta is an Indian novelist. For food and shelter, he also articulates travel horizons and cultural experiences for the likes of Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveller, the Dharamshala International Film Festival, and the Tibet Foundation. Aside from novels, Siddharth submits himself regularly to writing’s myriad moods – be it short stories, flash fiction, poetry, or freeform narratives. On days when he’s not busy trying to cajole his muse out of her hiding places, black and white photographs, old films, raggedy thrift stores, distant horizons, and rousing conversation keep him chained to a somewhat loose definition of sanity. Siddharth can be found on http://www.facebook.com/leavesfromabook and @siddha3th (twitter and instagram). You may browse some of his journalistic pieces at siddharthdasgupta.contently.com He currently calls the city of Poona home.