BENGALURU: She is an author and has written primarily on relationships of love, dysfunctional associations and the triumph over odds within structures of social consent, apathy or disapproval. Her works include: Tread Softly (2012), The Perfume of Promise (2013), If Walls could Weep (2014) and Shadow and Soul (October 2015).
Speaking to City Express about her favourite authors, books and fictional character, here’s an excerpt of the conversation we had with her:
Your favourite book of all time and why? Could you quote a passage?
“If all this you believe
Then two and two make three
Present is mythical past
And man like a spoon is cast.”
No one speaks of political realities with fearlessness and stark beauty as the revolutionary poet Pash. I reread his works in translation for solace.
Your favourite fictional character and why?
Quite as a joke and almost unnoticed, a humour writer subverts that class distinction by which the rich are always intelligent and in charge. We are given instead a working class Aristotle in the shape of Jeeves who remains my forever hero.
Few lines you got from a book, which you would never forget?
“Heaven opened and the water hammered down, reviving the reluctant old well, greenmossing the pigless pigsty, carpet bombing still, tea-coloured puddles the way memory bombs still, tea-coloured minds.” from The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.
What are the five top books released in 2017, according to you?
My reading in 2017 was slightly jetlagged, limited to only a few recommended books. And I mention those that charmed me by their freshness of word and vision: The Girl Who Couldn’t Love by Shinie Antony, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, The Adivasi Will Not Dance by Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy.
One book you would want a first edition of and why?
‘First edition’ is a game of investment and profit, quite unlike what a book sets out to achieve. The thousandth edition will not differ from the first for a book is an idea and if the idea is beautiful and socially relevant that idea is both timeless and priceless.
Which author would you like to have tea with and what would you talk about?
I am most intrigued about the works of authors who write powerfully in regional languages. Their knowledge of the subject matter is both intrinsic and scholarly and all chances at interaction would be immensely fruitful. I would talk about the wretched tyranny of ‘politics’ and commerce that underpins the book business.
One advice you would give to your favourite author, and one you would give to terrible writers?
Since I alternate at being both to myself this is the advice I would give me: write prolifically, write fearlessly, write of everything that matters most.
Which books would you take with you on a solo holiday?
Lots of notebooks for I am a chronic note-taker and also write bits of verse when overwrought. For the flight, a few well-written romances.
Your one guilty-pleasure read?
Comics: especially those by Berke Breathed, John Callahan, Garry Trudeau and Bill Watterson.
One fictional character you go to when you need a friend?
My WIP is about a rather troubled political activist, Samaresh, and we have been living under each other’s skins for a couple of years now. In a sense we are soulmates, wounded yet subsisting.
What is one quality of a book you wish people would have?
Plausibility. People tend to be random.
One book you wish was never written, and why?
Every book ought to have been written. The real question is should it also have been published? I have a special distaste for overhyped writers who sell bilge.
What is one thing you cannot tolerate when you are reading?
Ungrammatical writing which unfortunately is an epidemic.
Your favourite reading nook?
A terrace is a private patch of sky. Mine is pink with blooming adenia, my dogs at my feet while birds skim overhead.
Do you remember to keep bookmarks?
I am boring that way, memorise the page number I need to resume at. Though, the gift of a bookmark makes me very happy.