‘I was at the right place at the right time’  

British-Indian writer, playwright and screenwriter Farrukh Dhondy speaks to Smitha Verma about his latest memoir, journalistic career and OTT venture

Published: 08th May 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th May 2022 05:11 PM   |  A+A-

Farrukh Dhondy

Farrukh Dhondy

The title of your memoir ––Fragments Against My Ruin––is very interesting. What does it signify?
When my publisher V Karthika suggested I write an autobiography, my first reaction was, “Why? Am I going to die?” And when I finished writing it, I thought of a range of titles from Scribblers Tale to Parsi Custard, but they liked none. We went through some 20-odd titles. Then when I was re-reading, for the 10,000th time, TS Elliot, I came across the line... “These fragments I have shored against my ruin”. Immediately the title struck me. Another option was Elliot’s Deliberate Disguises but it may have implied that everything I am writing is a disguise. So my publisher and I decided on 'Fragments Against My Ruin.' 

Very few people know about your earlier journalistic career. Tell us more.
It was long, long back. I have almost forgotten about it. I started by writing for anyone who offered me work. But my criteria were not to write for the Daily Mail or The Daily Telegraph, because to my mind, I believed that they were conservative. But anybody else who paid me money, I would write. So I was an investigative journalist for Economic & Political Weekly (EPW), wrote for publications such as The Spectator, and Debonair too. At that time, when I was writing for EPW, I didn’t think of it as investigative writing, rather it was writings to influence India to be socialist.

How has your early childhood in Pune influenced your writings?
I lived with my maasis (aunts) in Pune. My parents were moving around the country as my father was in the Armed Forces. I realised early on what poverty was because I used to see people die on the streets because of hunger. It affected me a lot. So when EPW gave me the chance to write, I thought it was my time to give back and write about the society.

Do you think you have changed as a writer over the last six decades? 
When I was young, I used to get upset when someone edited my writings. But now I have changed. I like being edited and corrected. In my youth, I had the idea that I have to be profound. Today, I want to be as simple as possible. As a young man, I was extremely conceited about my intellect. I thought everyone else was a fool. Only I was right. But the realisation that I could be wrong dawned on me as I grew older.

You were the only reporter in the room when The Beatles met the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1967. 
How so?
I was at the right place at the right time. You often attribute your success to luck. Why? I believe talent can be cultivated. As a trained quantum physicist from Cambridge University, I was offered a job with the Atomic Energy department in India when Indira Gandhi was the prime minister. But I declined the offer as my socialist leanings were definitely not aligned with making an atomic bomb. So I became a writer instead. You want people to read you and say that they love your thoughts. I think I was lucky in that way.

Tell us about what you are writing next. 
A web-series on Bandit Queen is ready. I have written it from the point of view of inspector Rajendra Chaturvedi who got Phoolan Devi to surrender. It is set to be  released soon on an OTT platform.

India Matters


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