KLF Program's Glimpse of 2018
Blogging your way to Bollywood
Q. What do you enjoy about being a fashion and lifestyle blogger?
The most what I enjoy is being able to actually do what I love to do for a living. Being a girl, I love dressing up and portray myself just the right way.
Q. Tracing from your initial days, how do you feel blogging has impacted and transformed you?
From the initial days the thing that I have noticed how a part of my style has inculcated within me. I really enjoy going about that.
Q. What did you think when your Bollywood journey was celebrated as a bestseller?
It felt great when I got such an extreme response. I never did expect a response where it would be celebrated as a bestseller. It was overwhelmingly overruling.
Q. What is your one quirky habit while writing?
Even though I took around six to eight months to complete the book, I actually wrote for probably 16-20 days.
Cross Cultural Influences of Contemporary Literature
Q: How do you feel at the Kolkata Literature Festival?
Answer: It’s very exciting because it’s my own city and I think it can compete very well with other important festivals like Jaipur. I’ve been elsewhere. I’ve been to Europe, to Mauritius. I always thought we have immense possibilities which were never materialized properly. I think it’s beginning to. It’s a matter of optimism for us. It’s still a bit chaotic but I hope things will sort of gel in future. We already have very important presentations which I think is extremely interesting for all of us. I think things will be even better in future.
Q: You’ve been awarded knighthoods twice by the Government of France. What are your thoughts on it?
Answer: Well, I can tell you this much that I did my own work. One doesn’t sort of work for awards. One does one’s work and if it’s rewarded, it’s really very reassuring and takes you home to do better things in the future. So, I was very very happy that I was honored by a country which sort of represents culture in a very big way. They are the trendsetters, the pioneers of culture and therefore it’s really satisfying.
Q: How do you think that translation studies as a discipline are flourishing in India in recent times?
Answer: I have my own doubts on translation studies because I think at the end of the day theories about translation doesn’t really help. When you are at your writing table, you have to sort of think and find out your own space. But yes, translation studies, we have them more and more now and in many universities. I hope probably in future it will come to a stage when it will help people in translating. But I’m not very very optimistic about it.
Q: Do you feel that a part of the French literature is lost during translation?
Answer: Every language is lost in translation. Can you ever think of translating Rabindranath’s “আমি চঞ্চল হে আমি সুদূরের পিয়াসী”
Not even Gods can translate this.
“এই উদাসী হাওয়ার পথে পথে মুকিলগুলি ঝরে” — who can translate it? I don’t think even Tagore could. So, much of great literature is untranslatable. But yes, the work must go on. Whatever you’ve learned should be derived, even if it’s lost in translation.
Right to be Heard
Would you say “The Bengalis: A Portrait of Community” is one of your most insightful yet controversial pieces of work?
“In a way, yes because Bengalis are one of the most opinionated and finicky castes.” He further adds that that working on the book was an extremely high-risk project.
Right to be Heard
Q.”You are a Bengali who writes in French.” How do you think is the acceptance of your work?
Answer. “The reception has been fantastic,” she exclaims. She further says that her writings have been given the required respect and recognition in France and she has been awarded by the French Academy quite a number of times.
Right to be Heard
Q.”How do you think that irrespective of the communal differences people can express themselves while maintaining peace and harmony??
Answer.”It is very important to be sensitive to other people’s concerns and put ourselves in the shoes of others to maintain peace and harmony irrespective of the communal differences.”
Q. How does it make you feel when you realize that something written by you has had a great impact on readers?
Answer.”A positive or negative impact?”, he counters us with a smile. When we asked him to answer both the sides, he says that any author likes to get public recognition but it not easy for a writer of non-fiction.
Right to be Heard
Q.”We are looking forward to “The Death of Paharia”. Could you give us some ideas about what we could be expecting in your upcoming book??
Answer.Hansda described his new book as a compilation of short stories consisting of some new as well as old pieces. The book is scheduled to be released by May, this year.
The Story of Young India
Q. What was the reason behind naming your books “Silverfish” and ” Firebird”. Was there any connection?
No, I did not think about the connection until I published. It got to my notice, the similarity, after the same. In textual context, both of the books are not connected in any way. Silverfish is about old mythological interactions while Firebird is a loose translation of Aguner Pakhi.
Q. What are you focusing on regarding your next book?
Currently, I am focusing on a novel involving a young boy on his own path.
Q. Are you willing to compromise as a writer for the sake of the audience?
Not predominantly not prominently but at the end of the day writing is a service.
Q. Any quirky working habit?
Recently I have developed a need to walk while writing. My hands don’t work if my feet don’t.
The Story of Young India
Q: How do you feel at the Kolkata Literature Festival?
Answer: I feel very happy. I love coming here. I’ve been here before also and as for the book fair, there is so much energy in it. That’s always great. I’m very happy to be here.
Q: Your last book, Baaz was written on the backdrop of the 1971 war. What doesn’t settle on the title for the book?
Answer: I think because it was an air force book, you know. So the whole thing about ‘falcon’, that was important to me.
Q: In some of your stories you’ve involved the family in the plot and there are many diverse female characters. What was the inspiration behind these characters? How much were you inspired from your own life?
Answer: See, I love writing female characters. I love writing male characters. But I grew up in a family with 3 elder sisters. My mother had a family of 5 sisters, so that helped.
Q: As a woman, what difficulties did you face in your profession?
Answer: None. I think this never happened to me. JWT was an amazing agency. In fact they used to go around saying,” Brief Anuja now. She’s pregnant. When she’s pregnant, she writes better.” (laughs)
In fact when I stopped having children, they were like, “Oh, too bad!” They were very good. They paid for my children, for my maid to travel to shoots, so I mean I never had that issue. And, I never missed a promotion. Also,it helped that my client, PepsiCo, had a woman as their marketing director, they had a very progressive policy and they were supportive. In advertising, they have a strong sense of respect for the female mind of work because you sell to women, naa. Women will buy and if you don’t respect women, I don’t think you have an option.
Q. Do you think your journey from “A Rising Man” to “A Necessary Evil” has given you a newer outlook to live your own life?
I would say that the books I am writing are all in a series, set in Calcutta and is about a British who has come to India. The whole process of writing has brought a lot to me. My parents are from Kolkata, and I am a British but a Calcuttan as well. My culture, my parents’ culture is very important to me and writing is in search of my own identity and understanding who I am and how my people, my culture has made me so. The writing process, the research, the coming to Kolkata has enhanced who I am and enhanced my sense of self-identity.
Q. How much do you relate and connect to the soul and soil of Kolkata?
I have a very romantic view of Kolkata and Bengal for about ten seconds after I land in Kolkata as in my head I know that this is the land of artists and poets, and it is true. So, every time I come I fall in love with the place and then fall out of love very quickly. But when I am here I develop an impression of how it really is and works and when I leave it is very bittersweet. Even though I go back to my family, a part of me will always be here. My father passed away two years ago in Kolkata and we scattered his ashes on the Ganga. He spent half of his lives in two different places, but when he went he went away in his own place. Emotionally, I will always have a part of me. Every time I come back and face the daily struggles and hardships that you face, I am in awe of the culture of the place. In the whole world there are very few cities like these. To me Kolkata will always be one of the great cities of the world. And it is not about the economy, it hurts me on one level to see so many of our flourishing brains to go out of the city. And I say “our” , I wear many hats , I am a comfortable schizophrenic. I am British, Scottish, Bengali- an Indian. Why do we have to live to make the most of our lives and then come back? I have still not found an answer to that question.
Q. As a writer how important is emotion for you while composing?
It is very important and difficult for me as well. Because when we are writing about the emotions of a character in a way you are tracing back your own emotional stature thereby baring your own. But, it is vital for your work to be honest and interesting. I write because I have this itch to know more about my own historical findings. History is complicated and we make a mistake by not acknowledging that. I am always weary of people who are certain but bent on people who are uncertain because uncertainty brings doubts and thus brings a scope of changing your mind while certainty leaves no scope of you to be proved wrong even if you are.
Q. Authors who encouraged and motivated you to write?
Jhumpa Lahiri and Val McDermid.
Q. All of your writings have very aptly described a title that passes on to the mental view of readers. What are your logic and reasoning while titling your books?
Well, there is certain kind of titles that have really abstract names like “Freedom” which instigates the readers to think about something rust while reading about something totally different. Thus, I like the reader to have their own mind and I think that is why I like titles that are more elaborate. They are all in the description of an event- the story.
Q. What was the incident that pursued you to pick up the genre that you write on? Anything in specific?
No, I don’t think about genre. I have ideas about different books. After that, I continue and trace the story, the characters. They have their own mind. But, yes I have been inspired by a Belgian writer George Simenon he wrote a novel in France. I was in the small town of France in a restaurant and was captivated by the concrete reality. I was inspired by a real-life case in France in the 1870’s of a peasant who killed the members of his families. I also inculcated a bit of my family background, my mother who was from the highlands of Scotland and I put them all together. I do not plan to write Crime novels forever though. Let’s see.
Q. All your books have a detailed multilayered description much like the levels of the human mind. Is there a connection?
I think when I am working the most important to me is the character and the psychological working. I like to explore and examine the character’s mind. Because the character is real then only the reader will be able to connect. You can hate, love or be inducted to a character. But, in order to be anything you have known the reality of the character.
Q. I am assuming this is your first time in Kolkata, how was the experience?
This is my first time in India and it is amazing. It’s very different from Scotland. There is so much activity on the streets; people sitting and sleeping on the streets, moving in so many different vehicles in different directions. The most important is the people of the image. Everyone I have met here till now is exceptionally friendly, welcoming, a smile on their face and interested. For an example, I was walking here on the grounds of the bookfair and people stopped to talk to me. It was brilliant.
Q: How are you feeling at the Kolkata Literature Festival?
A: I’m enjoying it very much. The audience is very welcoming. The people are very generous to us, so I’m having a good time.
Q: You’ve contributed significantly to the crime fiction genre. What made you attracted to this?
A: I started reading crime fiction at a very early age. I used to stay at my grandparents’ a lot and the only book they had in the house apart from the Bible was an Agatha Christie novel, Murder at the Vicarage. So, whenever I had finished reading the library books I had brought with me, I had to fall back on Agatha Christie and I developed a taste for it. So I read a lot of crime fiction over the years and when I came to write for myself, I made a couple of false starts and I realized what I really needed to do was to write in a form I understood. And I thought that I knew how detective novel works and I thought that’s what I should write. So, I wrote my first detective novel and it was successful. So, that kind of shaped how I’ve grown ever since.
Q: In your session, you kind of opposed the idea of absolute binaries, like there are no good people or bad people. So, do you agree that good and evil are two sides of the same coin?
A: Well, I think it’s more that we’re a mix of good and bad points. We all have our good points and our bad points and sometimes one side outweighs the other. But nobody is all good or all bad.
Q: So, we all have a duality inside of us?
A: Yes, we all have moments when we make a choice and it’s not a good choice. Sometimes, people whose lives are deprived can do an extraordinary act of kindness. So, nobody should be written off on the basis of one set of eyes because inside of us, we have a different capacity for the other side.
Q: How would you describe your writing in 3 words?
A: Eclectic. Challenging. Interesting.
Q: Do you have a message for the city of Kolkata?
A: Will you invite me back? (Laughs)
Epics, myths and the modern Indian novel
Q: Sir, is this your first time in the city?
A: No, I’ve been here many times. But it’s my first time in the book fair and in this festival also.
Q: You’ve written about Indian mythology in your books. What made you attracted to this particular genre?
A: I wanted to write what I know about. I was born and brought up in a place in Cochin which had more temples than necessary! There were hundreds and hundreds of temples as it was an ancient town. So, I got mythological knowledge and also got to know about traditional art forms, etc.
Q: In your stories, I’ve noticed that you have interchanged the traditional roles of the protagonist and the antagonist. What made you do this switch?
A: One thing is that I was fascinated by Ravana or Duryodhana kind of characters. It was more relatable to me because they are like anybody around, they are like you and me. He has his good qualities, he has his flaws; he’s not a perfect person. So, I thought if I tell that story it would be more interesting.
Q: Did the original portrayal of Ram or the Pandavas in the epics bother you? Do you think that the narratives are somewhat biased?
A: Definitely. See, if you read the original Valmiki Ramayan or the Vyas’ Mahabharata before the Bhakti literature had changed it, you can find them to be a proper human interest story. Valmiki Ramayan is totally different from many of the other versions like Ambar Ramyan or Tulsidas Ramayan where Rama is a God. Otherwise it’s a story of a prince who had godly qualities. Sita is more bold in Valmiki Ramayan unlike the typical submissive Sita you see in TV serials. So I thought to bring out these and the best medium would be to tell the story from Ravana’s eye.
Hindi Hai Hum
Q: Is this your first time in Kolkata?
A: Kolkata तो मै पहले भी आ चुका हूं। यह फेस्टिवल में पहली बार आया हूं।
Q: What inspired you the most to choose poetry to express your feelings?
A: मुझे लगता है कि शायेरी या कविता जो है, वह आपको वह अनुभव, वह तजुर्बात देती है जो आप कहीं और से हासिल नहीं कर सकते। मुझे लगता है कि physics, chemistry, philosophy, psychology, और दूसरी चीज़े आपको वह चीज़ नहीं बता सकती जो शायरी बता सकती है, या कविता बता सकती है या literature बता सकती है।
Hindi Hai Hum
Q: Have you been to Kolkata before?
A: Yeah.. several times. I love Kolkata and had I not being served at Patna for my bread and butter, I’d have settled in Kolkata.
Q: Do you think that the reach of Hindi poetry or of any other regional language has reduced in the past few decades?
A: First, I have a very small objection to “regional language”. All the languages of the world are virtually regional languages, including English. In every language, the readership of poetry has gone down in the past few decades, thanks to what we call rampant commercialization, commodification, and the advent and spread of what we call electronic media. Besides, there is a very little scope of good things in our times. Not just poetry, but other things also.