By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?
I started writing because someone was willing to pay me to do so. Otherwise I doubt I would’ve had the courage. Most of my first published works were commissioned and some of it ended up in performance. I still get paid, or invited, to write, and I use every such opportunity to say what I really need to say; to share a little of what’s banging and knocking around inside of me – all these questions that won’t go away. It’s still very, very scary, every single time.
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
I usually have a few things going on at a time, because letting it sit at the back of my head is part of my writing process. Right now there are three active projects: I am working on ‘The Never Mind Girl 2’ because there are still many questions that I need to ask there. Then, there is a children’s picture book that is somewhat dark but important, because it is very real. I’m hoping that the right illustrator will turn up. I am also very excited to be working with several people, including a very talented young musician, on a performance piece of poetry. It astonishes and delights me when I retell other people’s stories on their behalf and they seem happy with it and feel it represents them accurately. Especially as I reshape and tell it from my perspective.
“I am not really interested in publicising myself. I realise that the industry is so competitive, so the writer has to promote the book. You can’t be as reserved as someone like Samuel Beckett; he’s a figure I would really like to be. He thought his work would speak for itself and it did,” says Cyrus Mistry, who has often been referred to as reticent as he chooses to stay away from the limelight. Every work of his has either won awards or has been critically acclaimed, from Doongaji House , his first play to Chronicle Of A Corpse Bearer , winner of this year’s DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.
He has worked as a freelance journalist and written screenplays that have won several awards. He wrote his first novel The Radiance Of Ashes in 2005. His next novel Chronicle Of A Corpse Bearer brings to light the community of Parsi corpse bearers, the khandhias, who are relegated to the margins of society in Mumbai.
Cyrus Mistry, winner of the 2014 DSC prize for South Asian Literature, and younger brother of the famous novelist Rohinton Mistry, is one of the most interesting but least celebrated Indians writing in English: The Indian Express
That’s Cyrus Mistry?” asked a prosperous-looking gentleman, pointing an incredulous finger at the frail, rather ascetic figure holding court in the Durbar Hall at the Jaipur Literature Festival. “That’s not the Tata Group guy! Sorry, not interested.” He turned and left grandly, as if spurning a charlatan.
But he was probably kicking himself just hours later last Saturday when Cyrus Mistry won the DSC prize for South Asian Literature, worth about Rs 30 lakh, for his novel Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer.