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 Sarabjeet Garcha.
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 traveling 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 neti, neti take on travelling sounds interesting, but I believe it is not a good premise to base the act of writing on—because it’s a premise of negation. Basing your writing on it would be like sharpening the blade of your shredder even before you’ve scribbled something on paper. The sight of the shears at the very beginning of a flight can intimidate the strongest of wings. Instead, why not be comfortably on the wing before making an inventory of what the flight will offer, or of what it is supposed to offer?
However, the ‘not this’ approach can be useful during editing, because good editing is meant to bring out the best from what’s already written. So, that’s a really good time to think about what writing is not. The editor within us can then go ahead and make a list of what does not constitute writing, but then even this list won’t be constant, because our expectations from a written work change with time, simply because we as humans also keep changing, whether for better or worse.
As a publisher, though, I have a small list of what doesn’t work for me in writing. It goes something like this: ranting is not writing, pretending to be smarter than one really is by resorting to the vacuous gimmickry of language is not writing, camouflaging a propaganda as a work of art is not writing, spewing venom at those we hate is not writing, slopping dollop over dollop of saccharine on gibberish and presenting it as an eternal, spiritual truth is not writing, misleading others by sweet-talking them into believing in a nonexistent paradise is not writing, engaging in devious plagiarism is not writing, Google sculpting is not writing, rehashing and repackaging is not writing, and penning down something just because it sounds or looks good but which has not come forth after touching one’s core is not writing. Despite this, I would never say never, because, as I said earlier, our beliefs are subject to transitions. What works for me today might not interest me tomorrow, and what I’ve never given as much as a passing thought to until today might become my all-consuming passion tomorrow.
Besides writing what would you most like to be known for?
I would like to be known for being a publisher who believes in preserving, circulating, and celebrating the outstanding works of fellow writers.
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?
To travel is not just to travel physically. Some of the world’s greatest writers were armchair travellers. The celebrated Marathi short story writer G. A. Kulkarni immediately comes to my mind. He rarely, if ever, travelled, but none of his stories betrays that fact. He surely knew of a better way to travel that imparted great depth to his writing. However, actual, physical travel is a prerequisite to mental travel. Therefore, I believe it is very important for a writer to continuously change his surroundings, to pluck himself away from any place he calls home and enter a new space, because such a space ultimately has the power to soak your senses. The senses are to the new space what cotton wool is to ink. Only a new place can give you this space, something the writer can fall back upon over and over. Manoj S. Pathak, a poet friend, likes to say, “Jis aadmi ne khaasa safar kiya ho, woh tuchcha nahin rehta” (Anyone who is well travelled does not remain petty).
Your favorite or most striking lines by another author; or if you will, any composed by yourself?
“We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves.
“I wish for all this to be marked on my body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography ― to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience.” ― Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
Do respond to the following words:
“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.” — A.A. Milne
The imp within me urges me to not pay heed to what people say, for a posse of dimwits is enough to render the easiest things under the sun impossible. If I let people impose their risible will upon me, I might be immobilized. If they say nothing is impossible, then I do the impossible, while ensuring that they believe I do nothing indeed. Doing so keeps people happy and allows me to do my humble work, at the same time saving it from unwarranted interventions.
What do you think of Coldnoon?
It is an interesting, well curated, diligently edited, and tasteful journal which tempts you to visit and read it regularly, sometimes even compulsively.