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 Ashwani Kumar.


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?

Writing, like travel, is a possible-impossible aporia. It is not about Hegelian negation of negation or sublation (aufheben). It is actually about deferment of self-presence. All writings defer meaning and function without a fixed addressee (destination). I don’t believe in a laundry list of good or bad writings because all writings are maddening ramblings of tattooed — body images, splintering and mirroring in our desires. You see while you are writing you keep telling yourself you are not writing. When you are done, your writing disappears. You are terribly disappointed. But in a strange paranoiac twist, you enjoy insatiable dollops of seizures and convulsions resulting from the appearance of a text without any organs. In other words, writing is not about binary or polarity of presence or absence. Like travelling, writing is neither present nor absent; it is both present and absent at the same time. So not writing is a pernicious habit of travelling to La La land in a stationary train. That is why non-writing is more desired and feared than writing. Ah, I don’t know how my frail literary existence has endured this auto-affection of presence of absence.


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

For now, bury me in my own sky with an epitaph signed by impoverished prophets of fame. In the long run, I don’t want to be known for anything because “writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself” (Kafka)


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?

Travel is a torment, an affliction, a black hole for me. Yet I travel frequently. But I travel exile to exile, unknown to unknown, obscurity to more obscurity. Geographies don’t excite me in the travel. I fear travel. I am extremely superstitious about travel. Thus, I travel to avoid travel; travel is my doppelganger — ‘lion in my living room’(Ginsberg). Strangely, after every travel, I feel I rarely, if ever, travel out of my room — a fictional home. So, travel is reversal of schizophrenia!

Not sure, we all travel. You know. Who travels? Lazy, infirm, sick, convict, insane, poor — ‘chained, pinioned and fettered’, don’t travel. These days, travel has become a delusional industrial pleasure — machine for nouveau riche, neo-middle classes and professionals. For many, travel is also decaffeinated innocence — a frighteningly narcissistic experience. But travel is not a pure bliss. Colonists, racists, xenophobes, misogynists, scoundrels, pirates, thugs, also travel. No wonder, travel masks imperial dreams, hides genocide and justifies ethnic cleansing. Travel like writing is excursion(Ar-Rihla) or Jatra; auto-annihilation of the self in the quest for truth at the Khyber Pass.


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

“Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure.”( “Aujourd’hui, maman est morte”) in Albert Camus’s “L’Étranger” (The Stranger) the most haunting and purgatory lines I often remember.


Do respond to the following words:

“When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.” ― Albert Einstein

Close your eyes with red paprika; relativity is a hoax to camouflage dystopian fantasies.


What do you think of Coldnoon?

Luminous, sensuous and, chocolicious; addictive post-molecular treat!


Ashwani Kumar

Ashwani Kumar

Ashwani Kumar is an Indian English poet, author and Professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Mumbai). Presently, he is also a Senior Fellow of the Indian Council of Social Science Research. He has lived and studied in Patna, Delhi, Oklahoma, Austin, Bonn and London.  His books include Banaras and the Other (Poetrywala; Mumbai), first of a trilogy on religious cities in India; My Grandfather’s Imaginary Typewriter with prolegomena by Ashis Nandy (Yeti Books; Calicut) and Community Warriors (Anthem Press; London) among others. He is also one of the chief editors of London School of Economics’ prestigious publication ‘Global Civil Society’. His poems, reviews and columns are widely published in various print and online journals and newspapers.  He has read his poems in literary festivals in India and abroad. He has also been a visiting scholar at London School of Economics, German Development Institute, Korea Development Institute, University of Sussex, North-West University in South Africa among others.  And he also served as member of Central Employment Guarantee Council (Govt. of India) and travelled widely through villages and smaller towns in India.