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 Saugata Bhaduri.
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?
In a way, writing is indeed like travelling, where you let yourself depart from the safe ensconces of yourself and dive into the embrace of an unknown other. Writing one’s thoughts out is, by definition, a process of expressing oneself for the other’s consumption, even if it be – in cases where one writes apparently for oneself, or writes something that never gets published and never catches the eye of a ‘real’ other – for the consumption of a deferred and different self itself. Writing is thus not what intends to and is happy to be cocooned in the self and its own selfsame concerns. Much like travelling – which entails entering the domain of the other, being responsive to the other, marvel at the other, and partake of the alterity of the other – writing is about consciously eschewing insular confirmation of one’s own identitarian premises and prejudices, and leap towards the potentially frightening domain of the unknown.
Besides writing what would you most like to be known for?
Well, I am hardly a writer; at best I am an aggressive talker, and I doubt if I am much known for that either. However, what I really pride myself in are my driving skills. I am, and anyone who has been driven by me would surely concur, quite a motorist. Another gift that I have is of formatting documents impeccably. In fact, I am looking forward to the day when technology becomes responsive enough to my set of skills, and makes it possible for me to combine these two core competences of mine, and allow me to format road signs to perfection as I drive past them. Yes, I would most like to be known as the world’s foremost Format 1 Driver.
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?
As I explained earlier, travelling and writing are so similar to each other as activities, that one cannot conceive of one without the other. And even when a writer, as in the case of Xavier de Maistre in the illustration provided in the question, does not leave his/her room, s/he is able to write only when the mind starts wandering, and destabilised, deterritorialised thoughts get exteriorised on to the writing medium. Thus, there is a bit of travelling in every act of writing.
Your favorite or most striking lines by another author; or if you will, any composed by yourself?
My favourite line by another author is from the Bengali novel Shabnam (1961), a tale of unrequited love where the narrator travels to Kabul and meets but eventually parts from our eponymous heroine, by the inimitable itinerant belletrist Syed Mujtaba Ali: “aamaar birohe obhyosto hoye jeo na” – “don’t get used to being separated from me” – something that piquantly resonates the incessant desire in one for the indelibility of traces that travelling and writing do leave as residues, even after the inevitable departure does happen. Actually, a much more poignant description in Shabnam is, paradoxically, of traces not being left – of how Shabnam eats kebabs and bread with her hands, but her hands are never sullied by any mark of the food she devours – but that is a whole paragraph rather than a line, as this question demands.
Do respond to the following words:
“Where there is no imagination, there is no horror.” ― Arthur Conan Doyle.
Indeed, and vice versa. The world would be such a placid, static and boring place, if there were not the continuous challenge of encountering the ‘horror’ of the other, if one were to be always safely housed in one’s self-endorsing, secure environs. It is the power to imagine situations beyond the status quo that leads to the unsettling experience of the unknown, and conversely, it is this ‘horror’ of coming face to face with the other – nay, embracing and touching the other – that garners imagination. And this is what writing and travelling – or travelogy, or travel poetics – are all about.
What do you think of Coldnoon?
Coldnoon is special, and being privy, though in a distant way (but, then, is not travel all about distancing?), to its gestation and some of its birth pangs, I am overwhelmed as it celebrates its 6th anniversary. The fact that there can be a journal dedicated to travel poetics is itself fascinating, but that it can be consistently brought out over six years through sheer dedication and resilience, without corporate support, is astounding. I had known only hot noons before; Coldnoon showed me another time and space to aspire to travel to.