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An Interview with Esther David

So after reading The Man with the Enormous Wings, I had this need to connect with the writer. To ask her questions. To know a little more about the book and her thoughts. Here it is…in the form of this interview!

What gave way to the idea of writing, “The Man with the Enormous Wings”?

During the riots of 2002, my publishers were suggesting that I write a novel and weave it around the earthquake and riots. But, I was so traumatized by the communal riots of 2002,  that I could not. All, I wrote was a poem and a short story, which is used as the last chapter of my novel The Man With Enormous Wings. Then, I did sign a contract to write The Man with Enormous Wings, but it took me ten years to give form to the novel, by concentrating on specific incidents, and people. During this period, I saw how Mahatma Gandhi was forgotten in Gujarat. I thought, he would be the perfect character like Alice in Wonderland, as he grows wings, changes size and keeps on falling between warring groups of people. So, I made him the central character of my novel.

Esther as a person….

Author – Novelist – Storyteller. Always an insider, who is an outsider. Armchair naturalist, armchair anthropologist, armchair artist, armchair art critic.

Esther as a writer…

An artistic dreamer. She has to work very hard to give form to her novels. Has to rewrite many times, till she gets the poetic imagery she wants to create in her work. 

Did you ever feel that you cannot write this book because of the surge of emotions? I for one could not read it at length because it stirred so many feelings in me.

2002 happened around my house. I was witness to many events. It was too close. I could not write. I was also frightened. I am still frightened that it can happen again, so I so long to write.

Esther’s favourite books

The Strange Case of Billy Biswas by Arun Joshi. A thousand years of Solitude – by Gabriel Garcias Marquez. Shame – by Salman Rushdie. Aphrodite – by Isabelle Allende

Esther’s favourite writers…

Gabriel Garcias Marquez, Salman Rushdie, Isabelle Allende, Toni Morrison, Amos Oz.

If you had to describe, “The Man with the Enormous Wings” in one word, what would it be and why?

Unwanted. In the present scenario of Gujarat with its Vibrant Gujarat and ghettoization between communities, there is no place for Mahatma Gandhi and his ideology, meaning The Man With Enormous Wings.

 I loved that the book ended with a lot of hope and optimism. What do you think about it? Will it be like this?

I am just consoling myself, because, most people have forgotten 2002, and, as we say in the Bible – if we forget, it will happen again.

 Your views on today’s literary world…

It gives a writer a wide scope to be read and become known and publishers help in the growth of writers, as long as authors are willing to work hard. Yet, the media needs to focus more on writers who live in India, than expatriate Indian born writers.  

That was this. You can read the review of “The Man with the Enormous Wings” here.

The Man with Enormous Wings; David, Esther; Penguin India; Rs. 199.

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The Man With Enormous Wings by Esther David

“The Man with Enormous Wings” looks like an easy read. It isn’t. I read it in one sitting and to a very large extent it disturbed me. Esther David’s new book revisits Gujarat violence, however in a new form. It speaks of the wounds inflicted, the ones that may have healed and the ones whose scars remain – as fresh and raw as ever. And amidst all this is the man with the enormous wings – overlooking, flying over his city, the one that he thought would be non-violent, from the state where he created Salt, and now salt is only there as a means of rubbing it on wounds.

Where does Violence stem from? No one can answer this one – from time immemorial violence has shaped the world – not for the better for sure. From World Wars to communal violence, shattering the peace of a neighborhood, things that were once intact are now broken, children grow up too quickly and the common man wonders about his fate and destiny. The only terms that then come to mind are those and one cannot do much but wonder.

This book does not preach – Esther just tries to put things in order for us to see. To see and may be realize what violence does to a part of the nation. I have often realized that when something in one part of the nation, the rest of the nation somehow doesn’t seem to care, as long as it doesn’t affect them directly. This kind of apathy needs to change.

Back to the book, Esther in the first part of the book takes us through a tour of the city – Ahemdabad that is – right from The Walking Dargah to the Shaking Minarets to the Divine Laughing Club (which existed centuries ago) and many more that make you want to visit the city, and at the end of every vignette there is a loneliness and void – the kind of emptiness that comes from losing something precious.

The second part of the book is vivid in its imagery – starting from and not mincing words about the Train that arrived and the storm it brought in its wake. The vignettes then are stark and disturbing with the Man with the Enormous Wings providing shelter in his wings to those who are lost and injured. He is the conscience of the city who no one wants to listen to. The voice that is buried with the rubble and torn down structures.

In summation, read the book for what it wants to communicate – for what Esther wants to. It will make you think and most of all may be make you want to add to changing things.

The Man with Enormous Wings; David, Esther; Penguin India; Rs. 199