It was January 2008. We were in the north Italian city of Turin for an event organised by an Italian literary foundation, Grinzane. I had asked Altaf Tyrewala for an interview and finally we got around doing it during a bus journey as we were going out for some lunch. Lavanya Shankaran, who was sitting behind us didn’t realise that it was an interview and I was recording it and she also joined in the conversation. I was so happy since the discussion was very stimulating and I was imagining that my recorder is recording her voice as well. Unfortunately that was not the case I can only hear some of her words. I vaguely remember what she said but that is not enough to re-construct her part of dialogue and I regret that immensely.
Here are some excerpts from the transcript of that discussion. The symbols are AT for Altaf Tyrewala, LS for Lavanya Shankaran and SD for me, Sunil Deepak.
AT: I like reading something that has been stripped to the bare essentials. I am almost incapable of enduring descriptions, etc. Anything that assumes that I don’t know ... I read the internet, I try to remain clued in to the world. What I like to read is something that I can not access as an information.
SD: Have you read anything by Agota Kristof like her trilogy of city of K? When I read your book (No God in Sight), after the first chapter I had thought of Agota Kristof. She is Hungerian and lives in Switzerland. She is old now. She writes short books and her chapters are like your’s. Few lines, just bare essential. And yet, she can evoke strong feelings with her few words.
AT: Considering that we are living in a wired world, half of my readings happen on internet so brevity is of extreme importance. Even in my day to day life, when I read books and magazines, I like things to be as concise and as essential as possible. Of course I understand that there is certain advantage in longivity as well, when some thing is dealt with in great depth, I am open to that also.
SD: When we were getting in the bus, you said something about your wife. Did she know you as a writer or as a person before you became ...?
AT: I was a poor graduate student in America when we met. We were studying together. She thinks that I completely misrepresented myself (laughs) because I turned out to be a writer. But because she has seen me before I was a writer, she is an immensely grounding presence in my life. It would have been so easy to float up in this writerly universe ..but she keeps on reminding me that don’t forget ...
LS: That is very wise thing you are saying... sensible, to keep your feet on the ground ..it is important that the spouse is not a writer otherwise ... writers are whackoos (laughs)... very difficult to have another writer in the house...
You can read the full interview on Kalpana by clicking on this link.