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 Sumana Roy.


We believe making travel arrangements, we subconsciously tend to eliminate those possibilities which we deem unfit to perceived etiquettes, 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?

When I’m travelling I wouldn’t like to be conscious of the fact that I’m travelling. The awareness of the delights of being on holiday – or at home – takes away so much from the experience. I feel the same way about writing – it is part of living. One isn’t conscious of breathing, or loving. Writing is like that too, I think.


Besides writing what would you most like to be known for?

I don’t understand fame – I think it’s over-rated. So I’m not sure I’d like to be known for anything. I hope I’m able to love with kindness. We are often selfish in the way we love, and I am no exception to that.


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?

We are always travelling, in space and time. The culture of taking holidays, that now seems integral to the happiness quotient of our capitalist lives; the pilgrimages, religious and secular, the latter often related to quests of self-realisation and self-actualisation; the journeys made by explorers – these are narratives of privilege, I think. Even the poorest and most home-bound person travels every day, many times every day – in their memories, fantasies, imaginings, and so on. All of us travel – if we were trapped inside the same space every day I’m sure we’d go mad.


Your favorite or most striking lines by another author; or if you will, any composed by yourself?

It is impossible to quote the many lines that brought me to literature and have kept me enthralled ever since. Also, I’m not good at remembering quotes. Let me, just to answer your question, name one that I like a lot: “The grown-ups snapped the chillies (each made a sound terse as a satirical retort).” It’s from Amit Chaudhuri’s A Strange and Sublime Address. It takes me to a moment of eating, of saliva flooding my mouth, of the sound of the breaking of the chillies, and amidst this experience of the senses the phrase “satirical retort” arrives. It takes me to the neo-classical age of witty repartees, to begin with. All of these come together, the senses and the intellect and emotions, with memories of chillies in our food – I have travelled to so many places, in and outside of me, with that one line as an oar.


Do respond to the following words:

“It’s much better to do good in a way that no one knows anything about it.” — Leo Tolstoy.

I believe in loving without making a show of it. That would be my understanding of this line from Tolstoy.


What do you think of Coldnoon?

I like the space that Coldnoon has created for writing related to travel and the discovery of new places. I particularly like the essays which record moments of transition in places, a city or a town, or even a graveyard.


Sumana Roy

Sumana Roy

Sumana Roy’s first book, How I Became a Tree (Aleph, 2017), a work of non-fiction, was published in India in February, 2017. Her poems and essays have appeared in Granta, Guernica, LARB, Drunken Boat, the Prairie Schooner, Berfrois, and other journals. She lives in Siliguri in India.