On the pains and pleasures of writing

On the pains and pleasures of writing

Budding writers and bookworms were treated to a stimulating discussion on the ‘Pains and joys of writing’ by none less than celebrated authors Rahul Bhattacharya and Anjum Hasan at the Spring Fever Literature Festival recently. Moderated by well-known journalist and TV anchor Sunil Sethi, the event not only saw the two writers discussing and reading excerpts from their books, but also the launch of Desperate Pleasures, Anjum’s latest novel.

The programme began with Sunil Sethi initiating a chat on Rahul Bhattacharya’s well-acclaimed cricket novel Pundits from Pakistan (2005). Pundits was a result of the experiences Rahul had as a sports journalist while covering the Indian cricket team’s historic tour of Pakistan in 2004. Describing his experience of reading the book as someone with little interest in cricket Sunil lauded it as “absolutely unputdownable.” The reason being that Pundits is not just a cricket novel, but a fond recollection of the bitter-sweet, love-hate India-Pak cricketing relations, he reasoned.

Rahul explained that the book had originated from a strange fascination that he has had with the Pakistan cricket team, its raw energy, strength and passion. He reminisced, “While covering the Indo-Pak match, I also travelled to many smaller cities of Pakistan like Multan and Peshawar. The lifetime experiences I had there went into making this book as much of a travelogue as a cricket novel. I guess that added to its charm.”

The discussion then moved to his other book The Sly Company of People Who Care, based on his travels to Guyana with the Indian cricket team and thereafter, and shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2011. Explaining this book, he said, “I found Guyana, its people- mostly Indian migrants, topography and language especially, very interesting. I felt I needed to put it together into one and that is how the novel happened.”

He finished with some hilarious lines in Guyanese language and a very interesting excerpt from Pundits describing the famous Multan declaration (2004) after India’s cricket tour of Pakistan.

The discussion then moved to Anjum Hasan’s books Lunatic in my head (2007) and Neti, Neti (2009). Anjum observed that her writings have mostly involved confused and broken relationships. “I like to explore the uncertain areas in relationships. The emotions and tensions there give me space as a writer to delve into the way we think. And I feel that makes novels interesting.”

She went on to read an engrossing story from her latest book Desperate Pleasures. The love story, wrought with lots of uncertainty and tension had the audience hooked till the last line.

The discussion was then opened to the audience and it invited many interesting questions, one of them being: “Does the tyranny of the blank page or computer screen scare you?” Anjum answered, “Yes. It frightens me for days”, while Rahul replied, “No. I am very quick at filling it up with rubbish.” We know better, don’t we?