By Farah Ghuznavi

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Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

Writing is my favourite form of self-torture.  Playing with words is pleasurable, fantasizing plotlines from foreplay to climax is enjoyable, but then… getting the words to convey the plot, now there’s the hair-yanking, teeth-grinding, eye-gouging challenge.  Still, the creative process is exhilarating, and in the end it allows me to share thoughts and ideas with others.

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

I have published two books this summer with Bloomsbury India. Dark Diamond is a historical fantasy set in 1685 about the Mughal Viceroy of Bengal, Subedar Shayista Khan, who built the Lal Bagh Fort.  I was looking for a time in history that Bengalis could be proud of and a hero who could inspire our youth.  I wanted to look beyond 1971, to remind our youth of our rich, secular, pluralistic past. On another note, I wanted to portray the outer, inner and secret meanings of Islam that come under threat when radical power structures are in place.

Intentional Smile: A Girl’s Guide to Positive Living is a mind, body, spirit book about staying happy and healthy.  It is based on my experience as a yoga instructor and a social psychologist, and a working mother who has struggled with chronic depression.  My co-author, Merrill Khan, is a school counsellor and a life coach.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

In my first novel, Like a Diamond in the Sky, my protagonist was a young junkie who loved rock ‘n roll. Inspired by the Beatniks and folk musicians of America, I tried to simplify and pare down my sentences and paragraphs as much as possible.

The protagonist of Dark Diamond, on the other hand, is a Sufi warrior and swashbuckling hero.  I allowed my writing to be inspired by Sufi poets, but also kept characters like Indiana Jones in mind.

arundhati_royThe respected author has issued a statement about her decision to return the national film award she won in 1989 for writing the screenplay of ‘In which Annie Gives it Those Ones’: Scroll.in

Although I do not believe that awards are a measure of the work we do, I would like to add the National Award for the Best Screenplay that I won in 1989 to the growing pile of returned awards. Also, I want to make it clear that I am not returning this award because I am “shocked” by what is being called the “growing intolerance” being fostered by the present government.

Amitava Kumar’s latest collection of essays throws a bright light on cinema and politics, life and death: The Hindu BusinessLine 

With five non-fiction books and a novel behind him, the professor of English at Vassar College in New York spends a night answering questions sent by email. Here he reveals the times he gasps, ‘yeh sahi cheez hai (this is the right thing), the role of writers and reporters and the Booker wins that he finds laughable. Excerpts from the interview.

The relationship of Indians with the English language is of special interest to you. In which ways do Indians use it best and in which ways do we mangle it?

I have often seen signs in Bihar, but also elsewhere in India, saying ‘Child Beer Sold Here’. I was delighted when Siddhartha Chowdhury used that in a novel. There is no pleasure in being prescriptive about language. I enjoy the inventive ways in which language is manipulated to make meaning. But even as I say this, I have to acknowledge that I often get mails from people in India who want advice about writing. And while reading their letters, my first impulse, quite often, is to ask them to read George Orwell.

Sudha_MenonLet’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

I write to keep my sanity in a world that is so chaotic. I have always had this retreat from life. I remember, as a child I was a misfit in every sense of the word. I was that painfully shy, awkward, mousy girl with no friends. I tried to fight that by being aggressive and picking up fights but that resulted in even lesser acceptance. In the end I simply turned inwards, started writing on bits and scraps of paper and retreated from the world. I found great joy in the little world I had created for myself. I told no one about my writing. Not even my family because I did not want to be laughed at. I did not want to be judged anymore.

To this day I write to keep my sanity. I love the act  of sitting down with a pen and paper or at my laptop and being by myself. The act of writing calms me, quietens me and takes away the stresses and strains of having to deal with the mundanities of everyday life. I write when I am angry, when I am sad, when I am restless…And when I am done writing, there is a feeling of lightness, a high that carries me for the rest of the day.  

New non-fiction books by the novelists Arundhati Roy and Rana Dasgupta examine India’s troubled relationship with capitalism and the blurred links between political and business elites: The New Statesman

arundhati_roy_20140310.jpgMidway through India’s recent election, I watched Meera Sanyal talk at a campaign event about a crisis in her country’s system of capitalism. It seemed an odd topic, given that Sanyal spent almost her entire professional career in finance. But late last year she quit her job as a senior banker, joined the newly formed anti-corruption Aam Aadmi (or “common man”) Party (AAP), and announced plans to run for parliament in the south of Mumbai, the financial capital.