By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?
To make enough royalties to always afford to buy myself a beer whenever I feel thirsty.
Tell us about your most recent book or writing/editing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
If I hadn’t stepped off the train in Bengaluru, a city in South India, in 1992 and checked into the cheapest lodge in the “Majestic” area, a neighbourhood where practically all the cheaper hotels are located, I don’t think I would have been a novelist today. It takes a bit of luck to help us find our true calling. I still recall in vivid Technicolor and wide-angle the morning when I got off the train and there, Majestic was sprawled out like a tattered red carpet welcoming me, its streets crammed with Art Deco cinema halls, the maddest bazaars for grey market goods – basically everything one might need but wouldn’t have thought of until one saw it there.
Back in the 1990s, it was possible to get a room for under 90 rupees a night, which suited my budget. Also, there were no special tourist attractions in Majestic, so no sightseeing agendas. I spent my days in bookshops and nameless second-hand bookstalls, dreaming that I might write a book that would be on display there some day. Only after getting married to an Indian girl, the novelist Anjum Hasan, and settling down in the city in the year 2000, did I learn that Majestic, which by then I was so backpacker-nostalgic about, was something of a terra incognita for the average upper middleclass city-dweller, which made it interesting to explore. Another reason why I chose to set my books about the fictional detective Mr Majestic there is because until fairly recently, detective fiction used to be dominated by Anglo-American locations and concerns, but nowadays you have globally bestselling detective novels set in places like Botswana, Thailand or Sweden. So why not Bengaluru? I strongly felt that every self respecting city should have a shelf full of detective novels dedicated to it.