This year, 2013, saw the launch of the Delhi Literature Festival (February 9-10). Not a huge affair, and not drawing the sort of crowds, publicity, and general ‘must-be-thereness’ of the Jaipur Literary Festival, but this was, after all, only the first tentative step. I do hope it continues, and grows.
The festival featured panel discussions and conversations with some interesting people (I was lucky enough to be able to attend part of a conversation with the mesmerizing Ashok Vajpeyi – brilliantly eloquent, and with a great sense of humour).
And, the festival began with the launch of my first non-Muzaffar Jang book, My Lawfully Wedded Husband and Other Stories.
In conversation with me was writer and translator Arunava Sinha, whom I’ve interacted with before, but had never previously had the pleasure of meeting. Arunava has a fine sense of humour, which was just what we needed to cope with some unforeseen occurrences (for example, the carefully-wrapped copies of ‘my’ book actually turned out to be copies of Milan Vohra’s Tick-Tock, We’re 30).
Arunava also had some good questions for me. Why, for instance, does someone who appears so mild-mannered, seem obsessed with murder? I tried to argue that out of the 12 stories in this book, only about 3 deal with actual murder, but I suspect neither Arunava nor the audience were really convinced…
I read out two stories from the collection – Number 63, and On The Night Train – and, after some more discussion on my favourite authors, the pros and cons of writing novels versus short stories, my daily writing schedule, etc, we went on to a Q&A session with the audience. And some more interesting questions and observations.
Rama Pandey commented that my stories might make for good translations into Hindi (I couldn’t agree more!), and this prompted someone to ask what my mother tongue was.
Saying that I’m bilingual and equally at ease in Hindi or English led to a further question: why, then, do I not write in Hindi? (For the simple reason that I have read very good Hindi literature, and am well aware that my Hindi, good though it may be, is not of a standard high enough for me to be writing in that language) – a philosophy which makes me always offer one important piece of advice whenever anybody asks me how they should go about writing. I always say “write in a language you’re really fluent in.” Don’t write in a particular language just because it’s considered ‘fashionable’ to do so.
All in all, a very enjoyable and interesting session, and (as far as I’m concerned), a privilege. Not every book gets launched at the opening session of a book festival’s first ever edition. I guess I’m allowed to preen, a bit.