Chandrahas Choudhury is the author of three fiction books: Arzee the Dwarf, Clouds, and Days of my China Dragon. His other interests include writing literary criticism, football, cooking, looking at clouds, wandering around cities, and raising money for a school for tribal girls in his home state, Odisha.
Your writing schedule?
I like to write between breakfast and lunch, especially when I am working on a book. It is very important to work every day to keep the rhythm of the book’s particular style going. Even otherwise, I like to potter around my desk, reading and making notes write in my notebook. It is important to keep a record of what’s going on in your life, and sometimes the sense of ink flowing and the scratch of nib on paper brings a nice touch of sensuality to what can otherwise be a very mundane exercise. Fifteen years ago, I began work on my first novel, Arzee the Dwarf, and I promised myself I would be disciplined. I am happy to say I have kept that promise.
Does writing energise or exhaust you?
It does both. Sometimes you begin work tired, without inspiration or direction. And some words you set down on the page carry you into a different zone and you reconnect with that drive inside you that is playful and creative. And sometimes, the gap between thought and language, intent and execution, can be so daunting, it saps your strength. But a few good sentences is all it takes for things to pick up again. I can remember some years of my life, where there were highs that lasted for months on end only because of what was happening on the page.
Your favourite books?
Orhan Pamuk’s novels mean the most to me. In the last few years, I’ve been tremendously struck by books in the realm of science that are also very artistically written, such as David Quammen’s The Song of the Dodo or Timothy Ferris’s Coming of Age in the Milky Way. The voices I love the most are, in fiction, Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay and Pamuk, and in non-fiction, Adam Smith and Paul Theroux. I also love particular editions of hardbacks and old-style paperbacks.
Literary success vs number of copies sold?
There is pleasure and meaning in both. There’s a third criterion of satisfaction, much more within your own control: pleasing yourself. I only choose to publish my books when I find I can take pleasure in what I’ve done.
Favourite spot/s in Delhi you write at?
I wrote most of Clouds at Costa Coffee in Nehru Place, that shutdown. I loved sitting at the table by the door and watching the crowds go past as I wrote. I also like to write in the balcony of my barsati with pigeons for company, and in spring, clivia and barleria flowers. I wrote one of my favourite bits of work, the short story Shivbhakt Pintu Masurkar in Days of My China Dragon, over a very slow month one winter in my balcony. Since I get a lot of my ideas while running, I will mention Aastha Park next to Nehru Place metro station, where I’ve been running for the last six years, as one of my writing spots. I really miss it in this lockdown.