Our media correspondents visited Emirates Airline International Festival and following are a series of features written by our Print Specialisation Students - this one by Fatima Hussain
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It was a Saturday morning, at around 11 am, and dust had blanketed the skies of Dubai. Inside, at one of the rich and cosy ballrooms at the Intercontinental Hotel at Dubai Festival City, sat a lady regarded as one of India’s most exciting writers. Anita Nair, author of bestselling novels such as The Better Man, Ladies Coupe and Mistress, and a finalist for both the 2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Award in the USA and Germany’s LiBeraturpreis 2007, sat before an awaiting audience on a raised stage. Opposite was the interviewer – Anita Nair was in conversation about her life and much celebrated literary works. Born in Kerala, Anita Nair’s works of fiction combine an irresistible mix of romance, mystic and cultural values which are at once firmly rooted in the Indian context but have universal appeal. Below are excerpts from the interview with Anita Nair: Q. As a story-teller, who are you influenced by? A. My grandmother and mother always fed me with available stories, but my uncle and father took everyday instances and turned it into a story. They were my real influences. Q. You have worked (and are still working) in the advertisement field. What are the things that you have learned from the industry? A. I have learned three important things with advertisement: 1. No body wants to read extra stuff. I have learned (in advertising) that each time you write it becomes an extra dollar for an extra word to the client! 2. You become an editor as you write 3. You discipline yourself – if you have to write this morning, you have to write! Q. What has helped in developing your style of writing? A. I like lyrical prose but I do not like verbal gymnastics: this brought about my style and structure in the writing – simple language.
Q. What are your places of inspiration? A. My dining room (laughs). I can manage my house from there too – check who is coming and leaving the house. For the past six years, my own study has been the place from wherein I can shout instructions to my family members. Q. How did your latest book Mistress come about? A. My previous work Ladies Coupe was translated into 29 languages. But there are people who say that my previous works have been better. My latest book is based on artistic success. How does a person come to know that you lead successful life: either your lifestyle speaks out for itself or other people tell you? Another reason for writing this book was the place of art in society today. Once, when I entered an advertising agency (the one that I was working for at that time), a classical Kathakali* dancer was used a gimmick and after the act was over he was pushed into a vehicle! You need at least 7 to 8 years to learn the art completely. This really disturbed me. Q. Have you learned Kathakali? A. I got into a Kathakali school and realised how ensure you can be when you perform several roles. The central character of this novel too is very unsure. He is a Kathakali dancer, who doesn’t know what religion he has to follow – his father is a Hindu posing as a Christian and his mother a Muslim. His dancing then becomes his faith. In India, religion defines ones identity (usually) and this man is scrutinised since an early age for showing any signs of religion. He therefore finds life in colours. Q. How else is Kathakali related to this book? A. While I was telling the story of dance, I wanted to set the story of life instead; dance with human experience. I tried to juxtapose life and art against each other. There are a set of characters in this book who ask about life and the main character asking about art- a parallel relationship, you see. Q. What went behind the book? A. I implored a great deal of dancing techniques. For example, in Kathakali, the context is set first then the main action. Q. How long did it take for you to complete the book? A. 5 years; about 10 pages everyday with research and writing. I still write in longhand; only my journalistic pieces are typed on the computer. I prefer fountain pen and paper for my literary works; love the manuscripts and the stained fingers. I am hoping that someone will buy them, someday! (Laughs) Q. What do you do to refuel yourself after writing? A. I watch the most ghastly movies; mostly action thrillers! Q. What do you do on a day you don’t have to write? A. It feels terrible on such a day! Writing has become a second family to me and one day when you wake up and find them missing – its terrible! Therefore, I start another book. Q. You also gave a history of women, who despite their circumstances, stood strong. Was that something risky to do and write about? A. I never thought of them to be risky at all. We celebrate heroes but never talk about people of everyday life. Women continue to bear the pain day after day, yet continue to smile! I am no feminist, yet men will never be able to do a task similar to a woman’s. Thousands of women do it everyday, without going through any anti-anxiety things. I really think that they are extraordinary! Q. Do you always have control over the character of your book(s)? A. No, a character sometimes becomes so dynamic and powerful that the writer has no power but to move on. Q. Do you try to have a message or just for the state of writing art for art’s sake? A. I don’t really have an explicit message, but a residual one. Q. Can you write in Malayalam? A. I can never write in Malayalam; my mother tongue. It is a very lyrical language. -Kathakali is a highly stylised classical Indian dance-drama noted for its attractive make-up and costumes of characters and the use of body language to tell stories.