In September-October, 2017, Coldnoon celebrated six years of publishing, and travelling with you. To mark our anniversary, we got together with writers, intellectuals and stalwarts of the art of thinking (and travelling). Here is an interview with Keki Daruwalla.
We believe, in making travel arrangements, we subconsciously tend to eliminate possibilities which we deem unfit to perceived etiquette or norms, or occasions. Our understanding of travel is based on premises that define what travelling is not. Is writing for you a similar activity, where you are conscious of what writing is not? If so, what according to you is not writing?
Your first question starts with the caveat that according to your specific understanding of the travel business, you define what travelling is not. Really? What would you define Cassini’s journey as, while it has circled Saturn for thirteen years, its sensors alive, all its cameras clicking away to glory? Now it is at its journey’s end, could be aborted and end as a fiery meteor on Saturn. You wouldn’t call that travel? You would now see clearly that in our age no definitions come easy.
So before I come to what writing is not, I’d like to grapple (heaven help me!) with what writing is. I’ll limit myself to poetry and fiction. I write about politics also, a lot actually, where it is easy to define what writing is not. If you are writing with an agenda, let’s say “Bharat mahan despite Musalman” then pal, it is not writing, firstly because Bharat at the moment is not very mahan and secondly the Muslims have contributed a lot, from literature to cinema, not forgetting a paramvir chakra or two, just to jog the nationalised national memory. So we have got political writing out of the way.
The next halt, padhav in our Swacchh Writing trek (where the hell’s my jharu?) is fiction. Fiction is oceanic in its scale. So I’ll be limiting myself to what I have read recently. I have just finished The Man Who Loved Dogs by Leonardo Padura, the very highly regarded Cuban Novelist. It’s a novel on Trotsky the Russian revolutionary leader who was got murdered in Mexico by Stalin and his secret service. With an ice axe if you please. But it is more a biography! And the negative things about Trotsky are glossed over. What I wish to say here is that even in a seemingly historical novel, the fictional element should be greater than the historical one. A novel on the Indian Emergency should not be just devoted to arrests and vasectomy. A novel on what is happening today should not be restricted to political histrionics by the party in power, its theatre-baazi and demonetization and the lumpen-applauded cow vigilantism, also carried out by lumpens. And in a really fine novel, plot and metaphor will be balanced. And the characters should grow—they shouldn’t remain the bums that they are at the start.
Poetry? Feeling tired now. Je suis fatigue! Let there be some charge in the language, some bit of electricity, even if conveyed by the inverter. And somewhere one should come across a new insight, a unique angle, not poems moaning over a dead grandfather or mother, or a fake poem on a fake atrocity on a tribal. We should leave that to our women liberals, we have quite a few of them, and their sociological tomes. From dams to Chattisgarh and Jharkhand jungles, women liberal sociologists walk the thorn-strewn ramp.
Besides writing what would you most like to be known for?
Beside being a writer what I would like to be known as? Well, everyone has more facets than one. I could be known as a good husband and an ordinary parent—couldn’t get down to teach my daughters. But I worked in my jobs very hard, and fairly creatively. Would like to be known as a fair, straight officer of integrity who wasn’t shy of speaking his mind.
In 1794, the French author, Xavier de Maistre, wrote the renowned book, Voyage Around my Room, during a month and a half of solitary confinement, in consequence of a duel. Besides being a satire on the contemporary literary culture of voyages and adventures of colonial sailors to prospective new worlds, the book proved to be a demonstration of how an individual is almost always travelling, but perhaps does not recognize the value of their domestic travels, mobility or even touristic acquisitions. How do you see or understand travelling? Do you think it is a necessary activity for a writer?
Have no idea who Xavier de Maistre was or what he wrote. But yes, as far as thought is concerned you are always thinking , often ahead. But would that be travelling? You travel in your dreams.
Your favorite or most striking lines by another author; or if you will, any composed by yourself?
of each historic passion as a blink
that happened to the sad eye of time (Nissim Ezekiel)
Do respond to the following words:
“The reason I talk to myself is because I’m the only one whose answers I accept.” ― George Carlin
George Carlin (who on earth is he?) is speaking common sense, eventually you listen to your own voice. Big deal!
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Bright editorial team!