By Aminah Sheikh

rabi-thapa

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

It’s tempting to blame it on inner impulses that would devour me if I didn’t, but that wouldn’t be the whole story, especially with non-fiction. Simply put, I’m better at writing than I am at most other things I’ve tried my hand at (though not necessarily better at writing than most other people), and the act gives me pleasure of a laboured kind. That’s more than what you can say for most kinds of work, and believe me, the complete act of writing – from conception to execution to almost-perfection – is work.

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

Speaking Tiger has just published my second book, Thamel:Dark Star of Kathmandu, a biography of the tourist quarter that grew out of a medieval Buddhist settlement in Kathmandu. Writing about a place like Thamel is not, on the face of it, an urgently necessary task. At least not as obviously so as a book on our relationships with Nature (my next writing project). Nonetheless, I feel it’s useful to obtain an understanding of the totality of the environments we have spent significant time in – past, present and future. This is what Thamel means to achieve, as much as the book on Nature: to deepen our understanding of our built and natural environments, and thereby of ourselves, so we can reconsider and improve on our interactions with them.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

I’m no fan of bald writing that means to drive home a social message, nor lazy writing dragged along by a pacy, racy narrative. With both fiction and non-fiction, I hope to provide serious reading pleasure, without being carried away by either the message or the medium.

Who are your favorite authors?

Those I haven’t read – names I know, names I don’t know, names that haven’t seen the light of day. They represent the titillating totality of my ignorance.

An ancient law that criminalises opinion has been used to suppress a scholarly work on Hinduism. G Vishnu deconstructs the Wendy Doniger controversy in Tehelka

The HindusSome are calling it the silencing of liberal India. After a four-year court battle, Penguin India that had published the The Hindus: An Alternative Historyin 2009, succumbed to pressure and agreed to settle out-of-court with Dinanath Batra, the Delhi-based petitioner who had sought to get the book withdrawn. The 683-page tome of scholarly and allegedly revisionist observations on evolution of by , a US-based scholar on religions, now stands withdrawn (though it’s available on the Internet).

A letter to Penguin India (Roy’s publishers)

arundhati_roy“Everybody is shocked at what you have gone and done—at your out-of-court settlement with an unknown Hindu fanatic outfit—in which you seem to have agreed to take Wendy Donniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History off the bookshelves of ‘Bharat’ and pulp it. There will soon no doubt be protestors gathered outside your office, expressing their dismay.