"To create is to make mistakes.."

A conversation with Chandrahas Choudhury

Reading a book and realising it could make you forget the world and even be an improvement on the world, even if it was just a set of black marks on paper.

To create is to make mistakes: the two things are the same process. There are big mistakes and small ones, mistakes that ruin the day or those that capsize the entire ship. Over time you learn to be sanguine about them and keep on working, knowing that you also have the time and the power to undo errors and let them show you a better way. I think I sometimes write too slowly, or over-write, or can’t find the right tone. But when I read the whole thing at the end I can see these flaws and I enjoy editing and revising even more than composition sometimes. After all that trouble and doubt, you can always tell when the writing is working. You read it and it just has a smooth, beautiful sound and a vitality and surprise to it.

To focus on writing a bit less and on living a bit more. Also to buy a printer.

You mean something that is also beautiful and valuable in itself? Marriage.

It’s not hard for me to separate fact from fiction. But of course so much fiction must be, if not about facts, then at least the realities that generate the facts of the world: poverty, inequality, history, geography, politics, society. As an Indian writer, I have as my field one of the oldest and greatest civilizations and landscapes and histories in the world. It’s my job to make stories that open doors into the present and the past. At the end of all that, fiction becomes even more truthful than the facts.

So many things. As it’s all written in two first-person points of view, there’s so much you could cut out or leave in. Some of Farhad’s circling, punning commentary on himself and the world had to be cut out to make the two stories around the same size and weight. I also cut out some material that seemed too laboured, even if made some good points. There can’t be an unevenness of texture in a book, even if there can be a unevenness of tone. On the Rabi side, I had with some regret to cut out many conversations between Ooi and Rabi about the ways of the past, the meaning of the Ramayana, and so on. At some point there should be an edition with all the extra material like with DVDs!

The one where Farhad realises he has fallen out of love with Zahra but he doesn’t really know why – and how to represent that in real time so that the reader also feels the shock of it and the way it shatters his own self-esteem.

Many. Many. But they are different kinds of secrets. Some are aspects of my life, others are the tricks of art.