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Sheela Reddy_Mr and Mrs Jinnah

Sheela Reddy_Mr and Mrs Jinnah

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Sheela Reddy_Mr and Mrs Jinnah

Your book has received rave reviews from the best of critics. Please share a review which you loved the most.

I think the review that thrilled me the most was also the first to come out and this was by Mani Shankar Aiyer in Outlook.

The first edition of Valley of Words was a huge success? What were your favourite moments from the festival?

It’s always the spontaneous encounters and conversations that linger from any Litfest, and at VoW it was the discovery of a whole other world in the lobby among the bloggers and poets who were not official delegates perhaps, but opened your eyes to the wider reading and writing public out there. Also memorable was the walk around Ruskin Bond’s childhood haunts.

Our readers would love to know about the publishing process and the inception of ‘Mr. and Mrs. Jinnah’.

Mr and Mrs Jinnah was a project I conceived in order to escape from my job, and it slowly grew into an obsession, as I tracked the elusive Jinnahs through letters–their own and by others, memoirs, newspapers, political documents and as a last resort, even their personal collection of books, going through their margin notes.

Did your impression of Jinnah change after completing the book?

Yes of course. I did not know much about him beforehand which was an advantage so I could approach him with a blank mind. But yes, it was still surprising to discover aspects about him that went contrary to his public persona- his unflinching courage and loyalty to his friends, for example, or his personal integrity, refusing to profit from public office, and his refusal to please or succumb to flattery, or his remarkable stoicism.

There is a perception that Ruttie’s adoration for a man 24 years older to her was just infatuation. How true is that?

Despite the 24 years age gap, they were both deeply in love with each other. But love is not enough to make a marriage work, and in their case, everything was against them- political exile for him, social ostracism for her, difference in temperament and the way they were raised, besides their mutual handicap of a lack of intimacy.

Were you scared before writing the book that you might have to face censor due to the general perception of Jinnah in India?

My fears were not about the public perception of him as much as the historians’ perspective of him. I was afraid academics would pounce on me if I made any inadvertent errors out of my lack of scholarly knowledge of the period.

Are writers and artists resorting to self censorship due to a certain degree of fear that is prevailing in the country?

Speaking for myself, I refuse to be intimidated by bullies.

Pakistan has never been stable as a state do you see things changing?

Stable or not, Pakistan has survived for seventy years, and over three generations of Pakistanis have shaped and formed their nation into what it is now and there is no putting the clock back. It’s time we let go of the Big Brother attitude and started accepting the reality.

About the Interviewee:

Sheela Reddy has written extensively for leading Indian newspapers and journals during her over thirty-five years stint in journalism. Her publications during her last job as book editor of the leading newsmagazine, Outlook, are on diverse subjects, including politics, history, culture, literature, biographical sketches and interviews with leading men and women of the subcontinent and beyond and change makers everywhere. Her writing has also appeared in literary magazines and in several anthologies. Her first book was a compilation of essays and profiles by Khushwant Singh called 'Why I Supported the Emergency'. She lives in Delhi.