Category Archives: Interview

Interview with Chhimi Tenduf-La: Author of “Loyal Stalkers”.

So I had just finished reading “Loyal Stalkers” and had a few questions in my mind for the author. I was lucky enough to have been in touch with him on mail, so I could conduct this interview through the web. Chhimi Tenduf-La is a world citizen in the true sense. His stories are of ordinary people and yet seem so extraordinary that they cut across territories of geography, mind and emotions. A collection that I loved reading and truly cherished.

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Here is a short interview:

What made you write a collection of short-stories, after two novels?

I started a couple of stories in Loyal Stalkers as novels, but I felt they were better left with some things unsaid, whereas if I fleshed them out they would have lost their subtlety. When I found I could connect them I knew I could advance an over-riding story through a number of different characters and plots. This was enormously enjoyable and allowed for much more freedom. When writing a novel I may think of a character I want to write about but cannot fit him into the plot. With a collection I could just write a new story for him.

Your characters aren’t redeemed easily. Why so? Why is there a constancy in not letting them see the light of day?

I guess I had not thought about this much, until you asked this excellent question, but one of my pet hates is people acting with impunity because they know they will not be punished whatever they do. Here in Sri Lanka money and connections can get you off most things and that annoys me. As you point out, all my characters, although they have redeeming features, pay for the crimes they commit.

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I am intrigued by the title. How did you choose that for the story (a little obvious, yes) but then why stick to this for the entire collection?

I feel this whole book could have been written by a nosey aunty obsessed with what her neighbours are doing. I think it is indicative of society here that people are more concerned with other people’s lives than their own. Most of the stories have some stalking theme; the maid obsessed with her boss, the abusive relationship, the loyal dog following his special needs friend. I wanted the title to be creepy, but also reflect Colombo society in some ways; everyone is invested in each other’s lives, they can be a little annoying, but yet there is that closeness and that feeling that there is always someone nearby to help you when in need.

You’ve been a citizen of the world and yet this collection restricts itself to Sri Lanka. Why so? Why not give the characters space to see the world?

As I found my feet as an author I felt safest writing about what I know best. I have been here so long I have forgotten what it is like to live elsewhere. Yet now you have said it I do want to explore what some of my characters would be like living in another country. How much would it change them? Thanks for the idea!

Your top 5 favourite books and why?

I have limited this to books I have read recently.

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared 
by Jonas Jonasson 

Comedy in literature is hard to balance. Endearingly silly, or annoyingly farcical. Jonasson gets it just right in this inspiring tale about Allan Karlson who goes on the run to avoid celebrating his 100th birthday. As he does so, we travel back through a hilarious twentieth century history lesson, in which Karlson mingles with great leaders and tyrants; at one point he convinces Stalin to shave off his moustache, and he regularly has a young Kim Jong Il sitting on his lap. Genius.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Great movie, greater book. The prose, slick and punchy, suck you in, slap you back and forth and churn you out. With great twists, cool dialog, and an abundance of quotable lines, Palahniuk tells an extraordinarily original story with awesome ease.

Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilika

It is more than a novel about cricket; it is Sri Lankan modern history through the eyes of an alcoholic. It is recognition of the tragedies, often self-inflicted, that tore at Sri Lanka’s core. It is a detective story, a mystery, a thriller, the search for a genius Tamil cricketer whose name and records have all but been wiped out of Sri Lankan history.

The Seasons of Trouble: Life Amid the Ruins of Sri Lanka’s Civil War 
by Rohini Mohan

A 368 page lesson about Sri Lanka’s civil war. In fact, this is the definitive lesson about any war; about child soldiers, mistrust, disappearances and lies. This book reads like a novel, whereas it is fact. Rohini Mohan messes with your emotions; she humanises people we thought were monsters. She makes you root for them, understand them, believe them.

What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera

I had to pluck up the courage to read this a second time because it is an incredibly disturbing book for a parent to read – but it was all worth it. Munaweera’s writing is brilliantly fluid, emotive and captivating and personally I felt this was an even better book that her prize-winning Island of a Thousand Mirrors.

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Was writing “Loyal Stalkers” a cathartic experience? Did you live some of these stories yourself or through someone else?

I find all writing to be cathartic and relaxing. But yes, Loyal Stalkers touched on a number of issues that all of us in Sri Lanka should be more aware of. Since writing it I have become more sensitive to others affected by these issues, be it a friend battling homophobia or a maid not getting enough credit for the work she does.

Chhimi as a writer…

I write purely for enjoyment at the moment. I have never felt pressured into it or had writer’s block; maybe I require both to improve as a writer. I have a fairly wild imagination so this is an outlet for it. I write two hours a day, but nothing on weekends and I read back my work hundreds of times to try to see if it flows. Once it is printed I hate looking at my writing because it is too late to change anything I don’t like. I try to be snappy, hip, humorous and sensitive as a writer but probably fail in all regards. My story-telling is more inspired by movies than by books, for some reason, maybe because I don’t want to write like anyone else (not that I could).

How important do you think it is for the short-story form to be recognized in India and why do people prefer the novel over the story?

I was told by a UK based publisher that the issue they have with short story collections is that it is very hard to get the leading lit critics to review them, unless the writer is very well known. If a book does not get reviewed, book shops are reluctant to sell it. Maybe the problem with short stories is that readers may love one, but lose momentum if they don’t quite dig the next one. It is a lot of stopping and starting I guess, whereas with a novel you have invested in the characters already and so each time you pick up the book you’re not taking a blind leap of faith. This is why I have tried to link the stories in Loyal Stalkers, and have the characters popping in and out of each other’s lives. I love reading short stories myself because they are standalones; I can read one each night and if I don’t like one I have not wasted too much time on it. In some ways short stories are more accessible to people who aren’t necessarily bookworms and thus they are important to India if they can get more people to read. They can also get more people to write; almost anyone can sit down and write a short story, whereas a novel requires a different level of commitment and craft. With such rich culture and tradition, as well as the complexities of class I am sure there are hundreds of thousands of people in India who could write an important short story.

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Your 5 favourite short-story writers

I’m inspired by R K Nayaran,  Alejandro Zambra and Raymond Carver. To understand how to appeal to a large audience, Jeffrey Archer. Of current South Asian writers Prajwal Parajuly, Sandip Roy and Ashok Ferrey. (I know this is 8 and not 5, sorry).

What are you working on next?

I have taken a break because I am not entirely sure in what direction I want to go. A novel, a collection, a movie? Maybe I will focus on writing more articles for a while. I have had many false starts with writing because I jump into new projects too fast, so now I am trying to be patient and I hope a killer idea for a novel will start growing on me.

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Interview with Karan Mahajan

Few books enter your soul and manage to shake and stir it. Those books remain with you, no matter what. “The Association of Small Bombs” by Karan Mahajan has been one such book for me this year. I am dazzled by it and will remain so for a long time to come.

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I was excited to get a chance to be able to interview Karan and here is the interview. The review to the book is here. Please do read the book. It is beyond super.

Keeping in mind the title of your book, why are small attacks not remembered? Why do you think they erase themselves so quickly from memory? What are in fact, small attacks through small bombs?

They’re not remembered because we have a limited bandwidth for tragedies that involve others. Modern India is a feast of tragedies. It’s not surprising that the smaller bombings are covered for a couple of days and than overridden by larger fires, train collisions, scandals, terrorist attacks.

The book is all about people who are affected by a small attack or lead to a small attack’s occurrence. How did the story come about? I know it is a rather cliché question, but we sure would like to know.

All good novels come from a mysterious emotional source. I must have felt, at the time when I started writing the book, all the way back in 2009, that my personal experience resonated with the pain felt by the parents, the Khuranas, in the opening of the book. I remembered the Lajpat Nagar bomb vaguely from my childhood but it came rushing back to me with a great violence soon after the 26/11 attacks. In a way, it was a sort of gift—a negative gift. Suddenly I had this thing—this world at my disposal. I spent the next five years figuring out what it was trying to say to me.

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You bring out the real and human and very insipid daily acts of terrorists in the book. Why did you do that? Did you want to show them as more human than they really are? Do we in our need to objectify confuse humaneness with just being a human being?

I like the word “insipid” in this context! Basically, I wished to erode the negative glamor around terrorism. I wanted to say: these are the banal steps that lead to a bombing. Don’t be in the thrall of these figures: they are often bumbling, sad, confused. That said, I don’t downplay the evil of terrorists. Their actions are inexcusable. But it’s possible to be evil and petty at once, or to be evil and stupid. It’s our collective imagination that transforms terrorists into these god-like masterminds.

I was most taken in by the family that disintegrates because of the terror attack. Were they always dysfunctional? Were the cracks always there but never seen?

Yes, the family was always dysfunctional, in my mind. Vikas Khurana has never resigned himself to the bourgeois trappings of his life—his extended family, his kids, his wife—though that is his life. He sees himself as an artist primarily, but the lie of that premise is already showing through when the novel starts. The bomb widens that gap. Deepa and the kids live in a stalemate alongside Vikas’s brooding. We tend to believe that the best parts of people can emerge during a tragedy but I wanted to show how the worst parts can come out too.


What were your favourite books growing up? Did they have any impact on “The Association of Small Bombs”?

I’m sure they did have an impact. “Growing up” isn’t quite the right place to look—I’m sure reading PG Wodehouse and Agatha Christie affected my prose style, but I don’t think they’ve had a bearing on other aspects of my sensibility. I think Naipaul, Narayan, Hemingway, Bellow, Conrad, Ozick, some of (Arundhati) Roy, Philip Roth, Yashpal, Rushdie—these have loomed larger as influences. I tend to find Naipaul a bit chilly for my tastes, but I love the speed of “Half A Life.” It’s a book with an actual narrative—which a book like “A Bend In The River” lacks (with every year it seems more like an academic text than a novel to me). I connect with RK Narayan’s humanistic humor—particularly in books like “The Vendor of Sweets” and “The Painter of Signs.” Conrad’s “The Secret Agent” is brilliant, but again, quite sluggish to read. I took some of his world-weariness but threw away the odd sensation that the narrative isn’t moving forward. I aspire to the loose, conversational style of Bellow. I don’t like it when writers lyrically sermonize from a mount. The key is to be intelligent, direct, musical, conversational—and to appear to do so without effort.

There are a lot of observations throughout the novel – either first person or third person based. Sometimes from a vantage point and others in close quarters. How do you bring that in your writing?

Instinctively. There are some moments that require a zoom lens and others that require an aerial view. Let’s take grief. We can obviously empathize with a couple that has lost two kids in an attack. So there’s no need to remain yoked to their perspective the entire time. It might be more interesting to view the social context around their grief or even the strange ways in which their moods shift. I guess POV is a way of deciding what’s interesting in a moment and going boldly toward it.

Male friendships are a major part of the book. Why do you think they needed to be there? Any specific reason?

Terrorist groups, religious groups—these tend to be crowded with men and divided by sex. Religious individuals are often uncomfortable with people of the opposite sex—it’s the job of religion to divide the sexes. So showing male friendships in all their complexities was necessary.

How is your writing schedule like?

I write best in the mornings and I tend to research or write non-fiction in the afternoons.


How is Karan the reader and the writer? Do you get critical when reading?

Being a writer has ruined reading fiction for me. I can only focus on fiction when it seems it might feed my work, which is unfortunate: a lot of great books have fallen by the wayside. But I find it easy to get lost in non-fiction and films: these are the two mediums I enjoy the most. And yes: I hate the critical part of my brain when I read. To open my own novels is to experience tremendous pain. I know exactly how I would have rewritten or improved every sentence. I have no choice but to close my eyes and live with a million imperfections.

So this was the very erudite Karan Mahajan on his book “The Association of Small Bombs”. It is definitely the read of the year.

Interview with Matthew Griffin, author of Hide

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I read “Hide” last month or so. I loved the book. Every bit of it. So I decided to contact Matthew through his publishers and managed to get an interview. The book is beautifully written – of same-sex love in times when it was unimaginable to even think of it. I cannot wax eloquent enough about the book. Here’s my interview with the author:

1. Why did you choose to set this story in the time it was set – the 50s? Why not a more modern time?

Setting the bulk of their love story during that time period was partly a necessary extension of the initial impulse behind the novel, which was that I wanted to write about this gay couple who’ve been together for a very long time facing the end of the life they’ve built with each other, struggling to cope with the sacrifices they’ve made to stay together, the failures of their bodies, the slipping of their minds, the approach of mortality. In order to have that portion of the narrative set in the present day, which seemed most natural, it meant that I really had to set the early years of their romance during some of the most oppressive decades for LGTB people in America. And although this started out as a sort of secondary choice, it became really central to the novel, the fear and oppression of that time period being a great crucible to intensify the conflict and sacrifice that’s inherent in any long-term relationship—and, consequently, the ultimate devastation when that relationship is lost.


2. How did the voices of Frank and Wendell distinguish themselves as you were writing?

Frank and Wendell’s voices were probably one of the first aspects of the novel that came to me, and they really guided me through writing the book. Large parts of Frank and Wendell’s lives and personalities were based on my own grandparents (this is also partly responsible for the novel’s time period, which reflects the span of their lives). In a lot of ways, Wendell’s voice is sort of a combination of my grandmothers’ voices, while Frank’s is a combination of my grandfathers’, and so the process of writing the book was mostly about me trying to listen to them and write down what they were saying—both in dialogue, and in Wendell’s narrative voice. I always used to hate it when writers talked about just listening to their characters and letting them do the work, but that’s really how it felt—although, of course, those voices were voices that I had been absorbing my entire life.

3. The book is all about “tough love” and yet so many moments of tenderness. Do you think men of those times didn’t have to say it out loud that they loved each other? You think actions were enough?

I don’t know that I think actions were enough; so much as that men of that time period in America simply didn’t feel very comfortable expressing their emotions, regardless of their sexual orientation. Nor were they expected to—particularly during the 50s, men were often expected to be these idealized, strong, impenetrable fortresses, who never showed any weakness, expressions of emotion being considered weakness. Frank and Wendell are very much men of that generation, and their ability to explicitly share their feelings is further blunted by the very real danger in which they’re living, which makes the public expression of those emotions a real risk. The sense of fear arising from that really bleeds into their private lives, too, which is why so much of their love for each other ends up being expressed not in words but in the intensity and strength of their devotion, and the sacrifices they make for each other.

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4. In an age of social media and technology and so many dating apps, do you think same-sex love survives a lifetime?

In a way, it’s probably easier now for same-sex love to last than it has ever been, at least in the modern configurations that we think of as love. But when I look at relationships I know that have lasted a lifetime, there’s a real sense of obligation and duty to them, and also a sense that you can’t have everything, an acknowledgment that you are closing off other possibilities for excitement and romance and newness in exchange for a different set of possibilities—companionship, steadiness, mutual growth—with a single person. And I think in certain ways, dating apps run counter to that, by presenting this endless smorgasbord of people to meet, with new ones always popping up, looking their best in carefully-curated photos. But in the end, of course, it’s all about how you use it and what you want. I think any kind of love is hard-pressed to survive a lifetime. It’s this sort of impossible aspiration, to find this single person that you promise to love and stay with no matter how you change, no matter what happens. I think the beauty of that promise is precisely in its impossibility.


5. Your top 5 favourite LGBT love stories

I’m going to play a little loose here and start with Xena and Gabrielle from the TV show Xena: Warrior Princess, which I was so obsessed with in middle school that I had a different Xena t-shirt to wear every day of the week. Their romantic relationship was mostly kept under the surface of the narrative (it was the 90s!), but it was pretty clear if you were looking for it, and also one of the longest and most complex, fully-developed LGBT relationships I’ve ever seen in entertainment. I love Jamie O’Neill’s novel At Swim Two Boys. I thought Carol, the film adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt, was brilliant, and the relationship between Celie and Shug Avery in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple—both the book and the movie—will always stick with me. I’m also going to stretch the rules and wrap up with Melville’s Billy Budd, which isn’t technically an LGTB love story but is probably one of the most homoerotic and gorgeously-written pieces of writing I’ve ever read, and there is a real romantic ache to it.

6. What is your next book going to be about?

I have no idea! I’m slowly writing my way into something new, but I tend to write haphazardly at first, without knowing what’s going to stick or how different pieces might cohere, and I’m so early into this next project that I really don’t know what it will become, or if it will become anything. I’m also a little superstitious about talking about what I think I’m going to write next, because I’ve spent years working on projects that went nowhere. Hopefully that won’t happen this time. I do know that I want it to be different from Hide, that I want to challenge myself to do something new, though I don’t know yet exactly what form that will take.

7. Was writing “Hide” cathartic? If yes, in what ways?

I don’t know that I’d characterize it as cathartic. But it was distinctly different from every other piece of writing I’ve ever done, in that, especially in the first draft, it really did seem to come from someplace outside me. That first draft was the most fun, blissful experience of writing I’ve ever had, and it’s one I’m desperate to recapture as I start working on something new. After that, of course, every subsequent draft was more and more difficult. But that first one was pure joy. Even when it was hard, it felt right.

8. Did you have to research a lot for “Hide”?

I did do a lot of research, particularly into the details of taxidermy, which was challenging because I needed to know how Wendell would have learned the craft in the 1930s and 40s, which is quite different from the way it’s done today. But the internet is a great resource, both because of all the information and videos it makes available, and the way it leads you to other resources—I ended up, on recommendation from an internet message board, ordering a taxidermy correspondence course from the early 20th century, which was invaluable. I also did a lot of research about LGBT history and discrimination in America during the 20th century, as well as the broader political climate, particularly during the 50s and 60s when fear of gay people was tied to the threat of communism. I wrote the first draft with as little research as I possibly could, because it’s really easy for me to get caught up in being historically accurate instead of imagining deeply, and I wanted to avoid that in the initial material. Then with each subsequent draft I did more and more research and incorporated it to refine the particular details, though even then I tried to include only what was crucial to the story or had some particular metaphorical or emotional resonance.

Interview with Anand Neelkantan

Here’s an in-depth interview with the author of Asura, Ajaya and the soon to release the sequel to Ajaya, called Rise of Kali.

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1. What does AJAY signify in the title of the book?

Ajaya means unconquearable. The Kauravas were never conquered, they were decimated to the last man. Ajaya is also a play of words to show what is not Jaya, the original name of Mahabharata. Though Ajaya does not mean what is not Jaya, it is to imply that this is Mahabharata from the other side

2. After all your writing and research, what is your final opinion on Duryodhana as a man and a leader?

Suyodhana was a man far ahead of times. He had his flaws, he trusted his friends too much and took unneccessary risks, was more sincere to Karna than Karna was to him and was passionate to the core. He believed in certain ideals, was sometimes naive and sometimes arrogant, but he never tried to justify his deed behind the cloak of dharma. He was a rebel, far ahead of his times and he paid the price.

3. Did the Kurukshetra war have any winners? What did it achieve? Can it be justified?

I think sage Vyasa gave the named his epic, “Jaya” to bring out the irony. There were no winners for the war. If the war was the victory of good for evil, after the war the evil age should not have started. This reasoning that it was fought for restoration of dharma fails, when we see that it is the age of Adharma that had risen after the war. So what was the purpose of war, as Balarama asks?

4. Was Draupadi perhaps the greatest victim in the Mahabharata?

Draupadi, like many other women and children, was also a victim of the war. All the women of Mahabharata are victims, trampled by a masculine world. Gandhari who lost all her sons, Kunti who lost all her grandsons and a son, Draupadi who lost all her sons, the Nishada woman who lost her life and all her sons, Hidumbi who lost her son, Uthara who lost her husband, Bhanumathi who lost both her husband and son- the list is endless. There is no justification in singling out Draupadi.

5. How do you explain Gandhari’s 100 sons and 1 daughter?

The ratio is perplexing. The entire Kuru race has 106 sons (including the Yuyutsu, the Vysya son of Dhritarashtra) and 1 daughter and may be Lakshmana is the only another woman in the household. Or may be all the 100s are not sons of Gandhari, but perhaps sons of Dhritarashtra (there are many other sons mentioned in some texts) and the daughters are not mentiones with the same importance as Dushala (Sushala) since they are not from the Royal womb of Gandhari. We do not know and we can only speculate. As I said, it was a man’s world, not much different from now, where only lip service is given to the divinity of women.

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6. Did any Kaurava survive the war?

Dhritarashtra, the real Kaurava was the ultimate victor

7. Do you feel a sense of catharsis having finished the book?

Writing any book is hard work, it is doubly so when the subject is the most complicated and biggest epic in the world

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8. What are you working on now?

I am working as an episodic story writer for Star TV’s upcoming serial Siya ke Ram. I am working on a fantasy thriller based on Mythology, tentatively titled Devayani. I have also signed up for a Hindi/Telugu bilingual and discussions are on for Asura to be made as Hindi/Tamil/Telugu trilingual film

9.What do you think made Leadstart take your book when other Publishers had not?

Leadstart took the book when not many were willing to publish mythology books. They saw the potential in Asura when others did not. Asura was an unusual book in the sense that it went against the conventional way of writing mythology. It is a disturbing book, not offensive, but something that would challenge the long held belief and give voice to the sceptic inside the reader. Not many publishers would take that risk.

10. How did you think of this concept? What got you inspired?

This was something that I have grown up with and I write about things that disturbs me most. The other side, hidden in the shadows, is always exciting to explore.

11. What do you think about writing as a profession in India?

Writing as a profession is yet to come of age in India. Except a few authors who have made it really big, it is difficult to earn a living out of writing. Despite spectacular success of Asura and Ajaya, I am yet to resign my job. There are many like me with a string of best sellers who still work for a living or are businessmen. Except Chetan Bhagat, Amish or one or two others, if we take the top 10 writers of the country, most of us are either businessmen or employees. There is a long way to go for us to see Indian writers owning private jets and mansions like what they do in the west. But apart from money, writing gives a lot of satisfaction which no other profession can. Writing in India, can be a rewarding hobby, at best and not a profession.

12. Any message you would want to give to your readers?

Read the book with an open mind. Read good books not to get answers but to simulate more questions in your mind

Looking forward to Rise of Kali! I am sure it will be a great read.

Interview Courtesy: Booksense

You can follow Booksense on Twitter @Booksensed

An Interview with Mayank Austen Soofi

The minute I finished reading, “Nobody Can Love You More – Life in Delhi’s Red Light District” by Mayank Austen Soofi, I knew I had to interview him and ask him the questions that were lingering in my head. So here you go, a crisp and short interview with the man:

1. What prompted you to write this book? Who or what sparked the idea?

The reason why I wrote this book was because I wanted to understand the world of GB Road, to make a sense of it, and that I could have done only by writing about it. That’s how the book entered this world. I initially found GB Road very mysterious. It’s such an extraordinary place, but each time I’m in kotha no. 300, everything seems so ordinary: the fact that you make money by pretending to make love to men… as a person growing up in a middle-class household, it is such a strange thing to me, but here to most women I met, it is just work.

I have a feeling that GB Road will not last long in its present form because of many factors including that the concept of an exclusive red light area to serve the carnal needs of the city is becoming extinct. Since I did not come across any book on the area, (indeed, I have not come across any narrative non-fiction on any red light area in India), I felt I must try to capture the sense of the place before it is too late. But perhaps the biggest urge to write this book was because I wanted to make a sketch of the people who became my friends over the years.

2. At some points in the book, while reading it, I got the feeling that you were sort of stuck between two worlds. Was that the case? Who then was the real Soofi? Did it matter after a point in time?

I did not feel stuck. It’s just that over the time, I started feeling more at home in GB Road than in other places in Delhi. I’m not saying people in say, Hauz Khas Village, where I have an apartment, are less kind, but in GB Road, I felt I was among my own folks. The several worlds in a red light, in any red light, are of very unstable foundation. A woman is in this kotha today, in another tomorrow. Her lovers quickly change, not because she is not loyal, but because that’s the nature of things there. It’s very sad in the kothas, but there are also happy moments. And funny moments. Its life lived in grand film-like style. And yet the people somehow manage to retain the finer aesthetics of their feelings. I feel at home in the kotha. I read there, I write there. I watch TV.

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3. After finishing the book, did you at point try disassociating yourself with the memories of visiting GB road? Do you often meet the people mentioned in your book?

The book is just an extension of the relationships I have made in GB Road, especially in Kotha no. 300. I go there almost every other evening. I recently presented a copy to the women there. I must add that I regularly meet the people I have written about in the book not because out of a sense of obligation or some such guilt-ridden emotion, but because I like their company, and they like mine. I will never intentionally disassociate myself from the memories of GB Road. May be after 20 years, I might be a different person living in some other city and may not think of GB Road as intensely as I do now. But that’s how life flows. Isn’t it?

4. As a reader, there were times I laughed. I cried and most of the times I just let whatever I felt wash over me. Did that happen to you as well as a writer and an observer?

Yes, I laughed many times. You too did? That’s nice. Sometimes I would be sad. Sometimes, I felt scared for the people there. But I never cried. See, this is how the world is. And let me tell you: GB Road, or red light areas in other cities, do not have an exclusive right over tragedy and pathos. I think I have met less happy people in other Delhi neighbourhoods.

5. Emotions are at the core of this book (subtly so). How easy or difficult it was for you to segregate your emotions and sometimes look at the situation objectively? Did that ever happen at all?

I am incapable, I guess, of looking at situations objectively, if that means segregating my emotions. I cannot function without my feelings. I see, I feel, and then I am motivated to write. Everyday I write small pieces about loves and lives in my Delhi website (thedelhiwalla) but I only write when I feel for what I’m going to write. For instance, I love writing about monuments, not because I fancy history or I have academic inclinations concerning Lodhi-era architecture, but just because, you, know, I have a taste for old buildings. I am very emotional about people whom I have written in Nobody Can Love You More.

6. What are your literary interests? What are you reading at the moment?

You know I live surrounded by about 30,000 books, though I always carry The Book of Job (translated by Stephen Mitchell) with me, no matter where I go. I find solace in it the way Sikhs find in Guru Granth Sahib and Tuesday Hindus find in Hanuman Chalisa. But at the moment I’m focusing on just one author: Marcel Proust. I have to read all the volumes of In Search of Lost Time. I’m in the third volume. Marcel is changing my life.

7. Tell me something about yourself as a writer. What do you feel like writing about? What is it about Delhi that makes you want to capture in words?

I write about anything that moves me… that makes me feel. In the past, it has been the honey and fig ice-cream in India International Center, a tree in Deer Park, a woman beggar in Matia Mahal Bazaar, a library in Vasant Vihar, a tombstone in Nizamuddin East, a poem by Cavafy… I can go on and on.

Actually, it’s not Delhi that makes me write. I think if I were to live in Rampur, I would still have written the same way. You know, it is the people. They make the place. I love monuments, you see, but I get involved in them because they tell me stories of people, past and present. Tomorrow I may move to Paris or Pathankot but I won’t stop writing.

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