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Gillian Wright

Gillian Wright

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Gillian Wright

What has been your most satisfying writing collaboration till now?

I don’t believe in rankings. My partnership with Mark Tully over more than four decades, including radio, television and a heap of books has been immensely rewarding. So too was working with Shrilal Shukla and Bhisham Sahni when I translated the former’s novel ‘Raag Darbari’, and the latter’s short stories. I have been most fortunate to have worked with them all, and with others too.

Not giving away too much, please tell us the most fun adventures you and Sir Mark had with Mishti.

One of the things about Mishti is that she could make the most mundane things marvellous. So we could have as much fun watching her take a monsoon mudbath in Delhi as roaming on the outskirts of Corbett Park. I still remember her jumping into a pond full of jet black mud in Lodi Gardens and not being able to get out because the sides were too steep, and so I had to jump in to help her. Result: we were both covered in stinking ooze – on reflection, that particular mud bath did leave a lot to be desired. Probably why it’s not in the book.

How did Mishti come into your life?

Through the front door at 3 am with a crowd of Mirzapuris and some massage oil.

Were you always a dog person?

No I was first a cat person, a gerbil person, a guinea pig person, a rabbit person and a wildlife and birding and tree person – I became a dog person in India.

What are the aspects of Mishti you could not incorporate in the book?

I tried to present a rounded portrait, but still its lots of years telescoped into a small space. I didn’t mention her filling us with hope and happiness whenever we were sick, and us trying to do the same for her. And then there’s the fur. Twice a year she shed her coat. We could have filled cushions with it.

Have you also tried to send a social message across with respect to the way people treat animals?

I have told stories that I hope are fun, and also take a dog’s eye view of our changing cities and landscapes,. It’s not a didactic book but if you read it carefully perhaps you will find some ideas to keep. Obviously, as the saying goes ‘a dog is for life’. You have to look after them when they are cute puppies or senior citizens, whether they are full of beans or sick or lame. It’s a long journey and a responsibility not to be undertaken lightly. If all you want is a new toy or to show off to your friends – then DON’T get a dog. Also it’s worth bearing in mind that some of Mishti’s best friends were street dogs.

About the Interviewee:

Gillian Wright is a writer and translator based in New Delhi. Her translations from Hindi literature include the modern Hindi classics novels 'Raag Darbari' and 'A Villiage Divided' as well as 'Middle India', short stories by Bhisham Sahni. She has written widely on travel and wildlife and is also the co-author, with Mark Tully, of 'India in Slow Motion'. Other books include 'The Presidential Retreats of India' and 'The Darjeeling Tea Book'. Her new book 'Mishti the Mirzapuri Labrador' tells the true story of the amazing adventures of a doggy life.