Amit likes to wander and wonder, and – as one of his friends puts it – ‘ponder in a funk’. The ocean, the commotion of the city, the silence of graveyards – have all beckoned him with their hauntedness.
He began to see patterns and symmetries in the words written on tombstones.
He saw names writ on waters of the eastern shores of Australia, America and Hindustan. This hunt is the writer’s haunt, which has led to his upcoming book on John Lang (Niyogi Books), a 19th-century maverick.
Lang was a belligerent anti-establishment journalist; an anti-Victorian novelist; and a lawyer who mostly took up cases of Indians against the British government in India – he was also the counsel for the Rani of Jhansi.
Amit undertook his undergraduate studies at St Stephen’s College and has an MA, MPhil and PhD, all from JNU, Delhi. He was a Visiting Fellow at UNSW, Sydney; and FIU, Miami. Currently, he is a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence at Miami.
His poetry collection, Find Me Leonard Cohen, I’m Almost Thirty, came out two years ago, and his biography of Dara Shikoh is forthcoming. Amit is a lecturer of English at NCERT, Delhi.
What is your writing schedule?
I wish there was a schedule, but I think I internalised the Wordsworthian idea of spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions a little too seriously, which he himself did not. However, I often find myself writing poetry at around 3.33am – there’s something about deep night and serendipity. Leonard Cohen says that a writer is like a daily wage labourer – you go to work every day, but don’t know if you’d find work. I do feel, or want to feel like that sometimes.
Does writing energise or exhaust you?
Both I guess. Writing is an almost compulsive matter for me, so definitely a drive, a source of energy. On the other hand, one also understands one’s own inability to articulate various matters – like you see a beautiful sunset but your camera cannot capture what you see. Also, the increasing intolerance in the world is something that exhausts all writers, I guess. Writing advice you’d like to give your younger self ? Don’t throw away those little poems written in pubs on tissue paper, the thoughts or despair that come to you when you are 23, may not re-knock so easy. Also, if you are sincere to your thought and craft, be a little more confident of yourself – don’t get bogged down by the unsolicited advice of the literary pundits around you.
What are your favourite books?
Essays from the unseen, delivered through the mouth of WL, a sensitive, and recorded by A.T.T.P. (1885), Edge of Empire by Maya Jasonoff (2007), Beautiful Losers and Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen (1966, 2006), A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes (1977), Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1994), Safinat-ul- Auliya by Dara Shikoh (1645).
Literary success vs number of copies sold?
Werner Herzog says one should pursue doggedly what one is good at – like being a good bulky bouncer or a rooster rearer. So I guess literary success, if it ever comes, will take care of the rest.
Favourite spot/s in Delhi you write at?
Dhabas of JNU, Delhi Metro, ruins scattered across the city, and the living room. Must add that I lived in Bhubaneswar and Miami for a year and a half recently, and there’s nothing like writing poetry when the sea breeze whispers in your ear.