By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

Anjum Hasan_photo by Bulbul HasanLet’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

I write because, as Auden said, “All I have is a voice/ To undo the folded lie.”

Tell us about your most recent book or writing/editing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

The Cosmopolitans, my latest novel, is an inquiry into how it might feel, in today’s India, to be a liberal, introspective person with little material ambition but a great deal of passion for the arts. Qayenaat, my heroine, is something of a Rip Van Winkle. She withdrew from the world late in the previous millennium and went to sleep in the house her father, a Nehruvian civil engineer, had built. When she wakes up she is in an unrecognisable, new, money-obsessed country, and this is what drives the action of the novel, her attempt to make sense of this feeling of estrangement.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

I’m constantly amazed by how much can be mined for poetic meaning from what we tend to consider ‘ordinary’. Most of my fiction and poetry, and even some of the personal essays, keep going back to this – everyday Indian reality or really, to be more specific, middle-class lives.