Tag Archives: interviews

Interview with Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi

Last year I read a book called The Rabbit and the Squirrel by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi and was deeply touched and moved by it, as most readers who read it were. It is a short book about love, friendship, and loss, told with great brevity, given it is only about sixty pages long.  I wish it were longer. I wish we had more illustrations by Stina Wirsén, as the book moved along and became larger than what it is. But, I am glad it is out there in the world for all to read, love, and appreciate. Siddharth is a friend and I am only extremely happy to have this short interview published on my blog. I wish him more such books, for readers such as I. Thank you, Siddharth.

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Why the long hiatus between The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay and The Rabbit and the Squirrel? 

I don’t think of myself as a professional writer. I make things – photographs, drawings, books. So I don’t measure a gap between books but try and look at what I had done with my time. Between the book, there were photographs, shows I curated, houses I designed – it was all a way of being. But I am also very interested by nonsense things, such as swimming at sea, and I can spend hours, even days looking at cat videos and drinking Goa’s Greater Than gin.

Rabbit

The theme of The Rabbit and the Squirrel to my mind is more than friendship. There are so many emotions that take over this small book, almost everything packed into one. What was the writing experience like? How was it collaborating with the illustrator, Stina?

You know, I have almost no recollection of writing this little fable. I’d made it for someone I cared for deeply; I see now that tenderness for my friend eclipses all recollection of the writing process. Perhaps the story had always been there, a memento of shared, private time. The process of bringing the fable to book form was urged on by my astonishing publisher, Hemali Sodhi; and it was edited with such grace by Niyati Dhuldhoya that it became something else – a rarer, leaner thing – under her attentions.

Stina, the book’s illustrator, is also its co-parent – her sublime, frisky, careful illustrations give this book soul and energy. She is a close personal friend, and instinctively suggested to me to publish this fable – the book exists not only because of her sterling drawings but quite simply because she had been the one to suggest that I publish it.

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How important is the writer’s role in the scheme of things today? When the world is literally falling to pieces, what part do writers play in providing some semblance of hope? I say this because The Rabbit and the Squirrel is full of hope, even though fleetingly. 

Writing, and language, holds steady all that is intangible in our lives. In the articulation of our existence – the articulation of prejudice or heartbreak, of dissent, of rage – we are also able to repair. Language is both a measure as well as the meaning of our time. The writer’s job is to hover a lamp over what is, with language, she must illuminate, show and reveal. Reading is a form of civilising the most private self. It is a way of recognising that a part of this world is falling apart – and then of marshalling language to undo this damage.

Do you ever think one can write without reading? 

No, firmly, absolutely no: you cannot write without reading widely, promiscuously. Your writing will only be as good as your reading.

Your favourite books?

Beloved – Toni Morrison.
Light Years – James Salter.
The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje

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Is there another book that we could look forward to? A novel, perhaps? 

I would be so lucky to serve another book. (And thank you for your support over the years, Vivek).

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The Rabbit and the Squirrel moved me to tears. I know several people who have had the same emotions evoked while or after reading the book. What was your intent when you started writing this universal tale? 

I had no intention except to make a gift for a friend. That is what I think of it, still and always, a private little thing made for, and with, love. But yes, I know what you mean – other friends have said that, which has always reminded me that all of us going about our lives with so many broken pieces in our pockets. All of us are suffering. All of us are enduring.

You can buy the book here

Please do buy the book. Please do read it. Please weep and laugh as you read it. Please repeat the process all over again. Gift the books to loved ones. You will be gifting them joy.

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Oliver Sacks: The Last Interview and Other Conversations

Oliver Sacks - The Last Interview and Other Conversations Title: Oliver Sacks: The Last Interview and Other Conversations
Author: Oliver Sacks
Interviewers: Charlie Rose, Studs Terkel, Lisa Burrell, Tom Ashbrook and Robert Krulwich
Publisher: Melville House Publishing
ISBN: 978-1612196510
Genre: Non-Fiction, Interviews
Pages: 208
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 Stars

I’ve always admired Oliver Sacks. His works make you want more and illuminate you on so many levels about science, humanity, relationships and empathy. Oliver Sacks was not just another neuroscientist. I think he knew how to give cases a voice – to add the human touch to them, to not make them seem so scientific but connect with them on an emotional level because that is what science is at the core. His creativity, compassion and insight made him a worldwide renowned persona and this volume of interviews only make that belief stronger at every possible level.

“The Last Interview and Other Conversations” is a series of interviews (including the last one) with eminent personalities and the volume read by me was of course the one on Oliver Sacks. This volume includes transcripts of six interviews given by Sacks from 1987 until 2015. He died in August 2015 at 82.

These interviews were conducted around the time of his books’ releases – four books and the last two (my favorite ones in the volume) are on aging and finding love. This book just makes you look at Sacks’ various personality attributes – shyness, inquisitiveness, and how he could empathize with people who had neurological disorders and not just treat them as only cases.

This book is a great place to start if you haven’t read any of Oliver Sacks’ works only because these interviews give you the essence to the man and the writer, which would compel you to read at least one of his books if not all. Which would further lead the reader to some incredible case studies (The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat) or the one about the face colorblind person (it is a real thing by the way) to the surgeon with Tourette’s syndrome who also flew a plane.

Sacks speaks of them so fondly in these interviews, also about his friendship with Robin Williams to my most favourite interview (the last one) where he speaks of death and finding love at seventy-seven. These six interviews are like the appetizers that will for sure want you to take a bite of the main course. Read these interviews. Also, read all his works.

 

An Interview with Emma Donoghue

So I loved reading “Room” by Emma Donoghue. You can read the review here I was so taken in by the book, that I decided to interview Emma Donoghue via email. Here is a quick interview:

How did the story of “Room” come about? Why the unusual theme?

Oh, I’ve written about more unusual things in my historical fiction: one of my short stories is about a woman in eighteenth-century England who pretended to give birth to rabbits! So you can see I have no fear of freakish subjects.  ROOM came about because I had two kids (of 4 and 1) when I heard about the Fritzl case in Austria, and I instantly thought of writing a novel from the point of view of such a child-set-free.

How was it to envision a novel from the perspective of a five-year old? Did it have its own set of challenges?

It’s a limitation, yes, but limitations are writers’ friends: it meant there was no danger of the book rambling or losing its way.  I worked hard on coming up with a form of grammar and idiom which would be child-like but not actually as confusing as a real five-year-old’s.

The theme of “Room” is a very strong one. How did it impact you as a writer?

It was a joy to write.  I knew what I was doing, technically, and I knew that my themes were ones that matter to everyone.

 There was underline, “Fear” that I felt while reading the book. I wanted Ma and Jack to be safe. Was the element of fear and apprehension difficult to deal with while writing the book?  

No, I must admit that thinking ‘aha, my readers will feel terrified here’ is a great comfort and reassurance to a writer.  What frightens us is the idea of you readers getting bored and putting down the book.

How does it feel to be short-listed for “Room”?

Absolutely wonderful.  I think the Booker endorsement will persuade many people to tackle this book who might otherwise have been turned off by the premise.

If you were the one parent in a room, how would you manage things?

Badly.  I suspect I would let the child watch TV 24 hours a day.

Was the approach to Room deliberately fairy-taleish?

Absolutely.  I wanted the novel to work as realism but also to have this whole other archetypal pattern, which alludes to fairytales as well as Greek myths and above all the Mary and Jesus story.

How is beauty found in the unbearable, just like Jack and Ma do in the book?

I have frequently found that my best writing emerges from the almost unbearable.