An Interview with Azad Essa


So after reading, “The Moslems are Coming”, I was so intrigued by what must have gone on in the author’s head while writing this book, that I had to interview Azad Essa, the writer. Here is a short interview with him. Hope you enjoy it.

1. How did, “The Moslems are Coming” happen?

After being published in South Africa as ‘Zuma’s Bastard’ – I was keen to get the book into the South Asian market, especially the Indian market. So much of the book had India written all over it and crucially, it wasn’t a fluffy look at India so I thought it would be of interest to at least a couple of folks on the subcontinent – so to speak. Fortunately, the editors at HarperCollins India loved the idea and decided to bring it over.

2.Why such a title? It definitely results in some stares and discussions. Was it intended?

We were definitely looking for a punchy title. After all, it is not as though the book is about cookies and cream. We wanted the cover, the title to represent, and to be as much a part of the discussion as the material inside it. We wanted people to look, and look again, because it is also the nature of the content.

3.South Africa and India. The similarities? Differences?

It is difficult to compare countries but let’s give it a shot.

Both South Africa and India have iconic histories that have inspired far beyond their backyard. Both share diverse populations, a number of languages and divisive histories.

Today India and South Africa are important powerhouses in their respective regions. Both are bullies in their regions as they lobby to become big bullies on the global scene – You bully Bangladeshis, we bully Zimbabweans. It is easy because the world likes your call centers and our gold mines.

There are also the security issues. You have jihadists planting bombs every now and then, and smug Delhi boys have begun molesting unsuspecting girls with disturbing regularity. On our side of the globe, we carjackings, murders and one of the highest incidences of rape in the world.

Also, both governments seem to have low expectations of their electorate – and so corruption and mismanagement is par for the course – and this is unlikely to rescind.

Hah, now we seem like long-lost cousins!

But to be fair, South Africa is home to 50 million people and we can’t seem to get it right. Meeting the expectations of 1.2 billion must pose some serious logistical issues for your management…

4. Your literary influences…

Hesse, Fanon, Foucault, Sontag, (Tom) Eaton, Herge’s Tintin and my father’s letters to newspaper editors.

5. Azad as a writer…

Anarchic, moody, disorganised and violent.

6. Azad the person…

Rather pleasant, most of the time.

7. What do you think of the so-called modern India?

Fascinating, really. There is an Indian type of modernity that is pacy, prosperous, bafflingly in its intensity but extremely exclusive and isolating. Surely modernity is more than another excuse to amass personal wealth, shop in decadent malls and fuel an insatiable thirst to consume the same products dressed up with an Indian flavour?

Modernity is also about designing the future with an emphasis on raising the standards of living, including health, housing and education for as many people as possible in improving human dignity. It just feels that India, like South Africa, would do well to take a step back and decide what type of modernity it desired before it plunged right in and pretended that the Maharaja Mac burger was anything different to a Big Mac…

You can read my review of the book here

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