Romesh Gunesekera, Writer from Sri Lanka: An Interview

‘We are only what we remember, nothing more… all we have is the memory of what we have done or not done’: Mister Salgado to Triton in Romesh Gunesekera’s The Reef.

Twenty years of the writing life and seven books to show. Add at least a dozen nominations or awards over the globe. This is Romesh Gunesekera, born in Colombo, raised in Manila and resident in London. His writing is often spoken of by critics as reflecting the imaginative vision of a writer who explores ‘home’ through the migrant frame of memory.

Romesh’s first book, ‘Monkfish Moon’ (1992) was an anthology of short stories about ordinary people caught up in the politics and ethnical strife of Sri Lanka, and made him a finalist at the Commonwealth Writers’ Regional Prize 1993. His ‘Reef’ (1994) was a Booker and Guardian Fiction Prize 1994 Finalist, and the winner of the Premio Mondello Five Continents Asia Prize 1997, and Yorkshire Post First Work Prize 1995. His ‘Sandglass’ (1998), was awarded the inaugural BBC Asia Award for Achievement in Writing and Literature.

His latest, ‘Noon Tide Toll’, is an extraordinary portrait of post-war Sri Lanka in a series of connected short stories. The book is currently on the nominations list to The DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2015.


Team ELJ (where I am a contributing editor) talked to Gunesekera on his writing, perceptions and his latest book in June 2014.
Continue reading “Romesh Gunesekera, Writer from Sri Lanka: An Interview”

Shammi Kapoor, The Yahoo Man

When the Yahoo man of Indian celluloid, Shammi Kapoor, moved on to dance in the heavens, he left behind an unusual legacy. Shammi’s fascination for the internet was not known widely till the media, frantic for new Shammi snippets, caught on to the late superstar’s intense involvement with the World Wide Web. Shammi helped found the Internet Users Club of India way back in 1995.

In case you missed it all, here is a recap of the ‘Shammi and the Web’ tidbits going round.

Continue reading “Shammi Kapoor, The Yahoo Man”

Reading New India : Interview with Emma Dawson Varughese

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Emma Dawson Varughese’s Reading in India is a one-of-its-kind book on Indian English Writing. She is an independent scholar, who works around language, culture and literature, and looks into ‘World Englishes’. Her first project was ‘Beyond the Post-Colonial’, an interdisciplinary study challenging the orthodoxy of post-colonial literary theory. Her interest in Indian writing in English is a long-standing one. In her new book Reading New India (2013) which is a cultural studies enquiry into post-millennial Indian Writing in English, she largely approaches the topic with an emphasis on the sort of writing that’s being sold and read, irrespective of the reputation among the literary elite. This work brings together Indian Englishes, the changing socio-culture dynamics and the role of literature in English post-2000.  Continue reading “Reading New India : Interview with Emma Dawson Varughese”

Interview with Tan Twan Eng, Man Asian Literary Prize 2012 winner.

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To him writing meanscreating something that will hopefully last a few generations.’  And Malaysian writer Tan Twan Eng’s novels, two of them in five years, look well like on the way to be classics. The Gift of Rain takes place in Penang, before and during the Second World War; The Garden of Evening Mists is set in Cameron , Highlands, during the Malayan Emergency, after the Second World War.

His debut novel The Gift of Rain  hoisted its then fledgling publisher the Myrmidon Books on to the Booker wagon  in 2007, and later his second title The Garden of Evening Mists went on to be shortlisted for the Booker in 2012, and won the Man Asian Literary Prize of the same year. 

Here’s the interview he gave me for the second issue of  the Earthen Lamp Journal, which I co-edit. 

SB: The Garden of Evening Mists is only the second book in the Man Asian Literary Prize history to be awarded to a book written in English, the rest have been translations. How much do you think writing and writers in English as a Second Language have come to be accepted in the English speaking countries in the recent times?

TTE: I can’t speak for those writers you’re referring to, as I write and think and dream in English, but there appears to be a growing interest in novels translated from other languages into English. The titles on the shortlists of the Man Asian Literary Prize over the years seem to indicate this.

Whether a translated novel is accepted and embraced by the English-speaking countries would depend on many factors, including the quality of the writing and its translation. It would also depend on how extensively it’s been promoted, and here the media plays a crucial role in giving more column inches to these translated novels, through reviews and interviews with the authors and translators. Continue reading “Interview with Tan Twan Eng, Man Asian Literary Prize 2012 winner.”

Lavanya Sankaran, an Interview

I have a special pleasure and pride in doing this interview.  

Years ago, I was being considered for ghost-writing a series of children’s books for a client from the U.S. I didn’t expect to be selected because I was a newbie and unpublished. But when the selections came, I was the client’s top choice and the reason for it was my sample story. ‘The style quite reminded me of Lavanya Sankaran.’ 

This was in early 2006, and I hadn’t heard of Lavanya back then. But my project co-ordinator Shiv Nair told me, ‘actually that’s quite a compliment, you know, her writing is fabulous’, and went on to tell me about Lavanya and The Red Carpet. Online book sellers were not so popular at that time in my world, and I started looking out for The Red Carpet at every book shop I visited. I finally got hold of it, and fell in love with the writing, and realized what a compliment it was to be compared to her. It was also about the time that I started taking my fiction seriously, but that’s another story. 

I later came across Lavanya again at the Sangam House Residency, she is one of the sponsors there, and then again on Facebook, and kept a look out for her next book. And now here is ‘The Hope Factory’ and Lavanya again. This is the complete unabridged interview she very kindly gave me and an edited version of this appears in the Hindu Literary Review of June. 

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Techie to Publisher of Children’s Books, Meet Anushka Ravishankar of Duckbill

Anushka Ravishankar says she was called a techie rather inconsistently, and in phases, from 1983 to 1996, but learning a new programming language each time she came back. She has now reinvented herself, after motherhood, as a writer, and finally, a publisher, at Duckbill.
Anushka photoHer story could inspire you, if you look to use your talent to build a second career. Here is our chitchat. Continue reading “Techie to Publisher of Children’s Books, Meet Anushka Ravishankar of Duckbill”

The Reading Hour Odyssey: Interview with Vaishali Khandekar

Nine years with Infosys, Vaishali Khandekar then said good bye to software programs in 2004, and co-founded an English language literary print magazine Reading Hour, which now receives submissions from all over the world, from seasoned as well as aspiring writers, including techies. Vaishali talks about her publishing odyssey and how spouse Arun and she share a love for the word. Continue reading “The Reading Hour Odyssey: Interview with Vaishali Khandekar”

Word Hungry: Interview with Anu Garg of wordsmith.org

He sends out a simple email every day, A.Word.A.Day, containing a word, its definition and etymology, and an example of its current contextual usage; this to more than a quarter million subscribers in about 170 countries. And he has been doing it since 1994.

The New York Times calls his mails “arguably the most welcomed, most enduring piece of daily mass e-mail in cyberspace.” The Wall Street Journal compares him to Tom Sawyer, who has managed to alter others’ views about fence painting, and points to the numbers who happily join painting his wall with words.

Add the fact that this is an immigrant whose first language is not English, a man who has had no “English connection” till high school. Anu Garg is a man with a mission. This Seattle-settled Master in Computer Science, hailing from Uttar Pradesh, went out west two decades ago like any other techie. But eventually the love of words took over and he left corporate life to work full-time on spreading the joy of words. Wordsmith.org was born of this love, with a mission to spread the magic of words and completes 19 years of service to the “wordaholics” this month. Continue reading “Word Hungry: Interview with Anu Garg of wordsmith.org”

Interview with Anita Pratap, writer, journalist, media person

Anita PratapAnita Pratap! I guess people who followed current affairs closely in the eighties, nineties and early years of the millennium will find a thrill of recognition at this name.

Veteran journalist and writer Anita Pratap won acclaim for her reports from areas of conflict such as Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Kashmir. She won several and won awards after award for excellence in reporting, including the prestigious George Polk award for TV reporting for excellence in coverage on the Taliban takeover of Kabul. She worked for over two decades with international media houses such as the TIME magazine and CNN. Anita’s historic interview of the LTTE chief Prabhakaran in 1983, the first ever one he gave to the world, made news. Her interview of Bal Thackeray during the Mumbai riots of 1993 for the TIME was a revelatory piece that initiated serious discussion worldwide.

Her dynamic, perceptive and acerbic writing, especially when talking about politics has given her a cult status, in both print and electronic media. She is the author of book the Island Of Blood, a sensitive and clear documentation of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka and co-authored Unsung, an ode to ordinary Indians doing extraordinary things. She is now into film making after she left India to live abroad.

In an e-mail interview, Anita speaks about issues close to her heart. She was in Trivandrum to receive the Shreeratna Award 2013 from the Kerala Kalakendram. on the International Women’s Day. Continue reading “Interview with Anita Pratap, writer, journalist, media person”

A Versatile Pen: Anjum Hasan

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She ‘lives in a house with a yellow door’. She also flexes her pen to  gentle verse as well as lyrical prose and handles the short and the long forms of fiction with equal deftness. 

Meet  Anjum Hasan, writer.

Anjum’s critically acclaimed poetry collection Street on the Hill in 2006 was closely followed by the publication of two novels. The first one titled Lunatic in my Head was published in 2007 and was referred to as a confident debut and short listed for the Crossword Fiction Award 2007. It went on to do an Australian edition in 2010. Her next fiction book ‘Neti, Neti’, was not only appreciated but also was nominated to awards like the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, the Hindu Best Fiction Award 2010 and the Man Asian Literary Prize. This book went on to be published in both Australia and Sweden. Anjum’s short story collection ‘Difficult Pleasures’ came out in 2012 April from Penguin and in the same month went on to be long-listed for the 2012 Frank O’ Connor International Short Story Award. Continue reading “A Versatile Pen: Anjum Hasan”