A lot of writers find it hard to write if they have day jobs.You wear so many hats!Please tell our readers how do you manage your time?
I’ve been wearing these hats for decades. Days are for my day job, evenings are for writing, and weekends are for theater.
It does become challenging now and then. I have learned to manage my time partly by giving up a few other things.
The Confession of Sultana Daku is also being adapted into a feature film starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
Will you be involved in the screenwriting process? And how did the makers approach you?
The screenplay will be written by the production company that has bought the rights. Nawaz is a fabulous actor. We spent hours in a small cafe in Mumbai, talking about the movie and other things.
Please tell us why you wanted to tell your Grandfather’s story through ‘Harilal & Sons’.
I grew up in a conservative home in a small town. It was our foundational belief that the world was becoming progressively worse. My generation represented a decline – moral and material – over my father’s, which represented a similar decline over my grandfather’s generation, and so on. Our ancestors lived in a near-perfect world of strict, and stringently enforced rules that have now been undone because of world forces: white people, modernity, perhaps American and English culture and values and much else that we could not control. The desire to capture this world as it was, (not as it was described to me, though,) was always strong in me. At the same time, it was obvious that my family history would be of no interest to the world unless I placed it in a wider context, which is what I did in the said novel.
What was the research that went into writing it ?
Obscure libraries in Kolkata, visits to Rajasthan and Bangladesh, old steel trunks hiding century old letters written in Modhia, and countless interviews with dying relatives. Researching this novel was a delight!
What is yourfavourite review that the book has got from the readers?
Someone noted that the novel is a “slice of Indian history”. That was exactly what I had intended: a novel wider than my grandfather’s life, wider even than his Marwari heritage. The ideas of Brahmacharya, Grihasthya and Vanaprastha do not belong to my grandfather or to Marwaris, or even to Hindus. In that sense, this is simply a slice of history from a certain period in India, with one man who happens to be a Marwari as its protagonist.
Do you feel that the quickly diminishing habit of reading in India could make a comeback and become a part of our culture in the future?
Reading has run into and against multifarious challenges in our country and elsewhere in the world. It is possible that we will stop reading books altogether, or that books will be “consumed” (to use an annoying Silicon Valley term) as other “content” is consumed: through visual and auditory inputs. I hope such a tragedy will be averted!
About the author:
Sujit Saraf is the author of 4 novels, including The Peacock Throne, shortlisted for the Encore Award in London, The Confession of Sultana Daku, being made into a motion picture, and Harilal & Sons, which won the 2018 Crossword Award. A graduate of IIT Delhi, he holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He has conducted research for NASA, taught at IIT Delhi and worked for Silicon Valley startups. When not at his computer, he runs Naatak, the largest Indian theater company in America, for which he often writes and directs plays. He lives in San Jose, California.