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Kalpish Ratna

Kalpish Ratna

Kalpish Ratna

Please tell us a bit about the inception of this collaboration between you and Ishrat Syed and the pseudonym Kalpish Ratna.

We were friends from the instant we met as residents in Pediatric Surgery. It was as if we had fallen back into a conversation begun a long time ago. That conversation has continued into our writing. Kalpish Ratna is a true meld of our names: the pleasure of imagination.

Your book ‘The Secret Life of Zika Virus” has been nominated for the Valley of Words Book Awards 2018. Are literary awards important for authors to establish credibility around the literary circuit?

Our credibility derives from what we write. We can only write the truth and about our journeys in its pursuit. Awards, literary or otherwise, provide a moment in the sun. Writing is a quiet, silent, contemplative art, and we eschew distractions as much as possible.

We are delighted at the nomination, and hope it will widen the book’s visibility. A book’s credibility is established by its content alone. Once a reader picks up the book, no puff is necessary. It is sink or swim depending entirely on the book. Most books published in India become invisible after a few weeks. Is that fair? Every book is a labor of love—sometimes of a lifetime. Yes, literary awards do address this injustice. Only one book wins the award, but the spotlight is on all the books nominated, an invitation to readers to explore them.The literary circuit can’t be very literary if it relies on an award to form an opinion. Shouldn’’t they just read the book?

Do you think the Government has done enough in spreading awareness around Zika and other viruses?

Not at all. Their formula involves flight on defective wings and unanswerable prayers. It is blinkers and missteps, it is organized confusion, locking up the coop after the chickens have flown.
It isn’’t enough to issue advisories whenever there is an outbreak, as in the case of Nipah Virus just now. It is mandatory to pre-empt diseases with better environmental decisions, so that people are not exposed to health hazards. Urbanization and deforestation are responsible for almost all the dangerous infections that threaten our planet today.

What is your favourite feedback that you have received for the book?

When it was suggested by a Professor of Medicine that our book should become one of the essential reads for medical students.

You juggle between writing and the medical profession. How do you manage the balance?

We don’t have to do any juggling, one life leads into the other. …Besides, it’s great fun!

About the Interviewee:

Ishrat Syed and Kalpana Swaminathan write together as Kalpish Ratna. Writing science is their passion, and they believe it has its true place in the arts. Their Compendium of Family Health offers a quick logic to understanding symptoms, crises, and confusing medicalese. Their novel 'The Quarantine Papers' was shortlisted for the 2010 Vodafone-Crossword Award. IshratSyed is a Pediatric and General Surgeon. IshratSyed, the photographer, is concerned with the ravages on nature. His October 2011 exhibition The Persistence of Memory previewed his larger project Palimpsest:The Erasures That Made Bombay. Kalpana Swaminathan is a Pediatric Surgeon. She won the 2009 Vodafone-Crossword Fiction Award for 'Venus Crossing'.Their latest book is ‘The Secret life of Zika Virus’.