Remember that quiz, usually featured in popular magazines – who would you like to take out for dinner? There’s usually a set of four options, and the one you choose shows something of your personality.
Well, this is no quiz. There are, of course, many writers I’d like to take out for dinner – and many I wouldn’t too. No, not William Shakespeare. His puns and double entendres would perhaps be beyond me. So too Arundhati Roy, possibly because I think, despite being a brilliant writer, she’s so depressing.
No, the writer I’d like to take out should be fun, have a sense of humour, and also be famous. An added bonus would be if he understood my culture, and was from the subcontinent. And Vikram Seth fits the bill.
Come to think of it, why are all the famous Indian writers of international repute so darned serious and gloomy? Think of Arundhati Roy, Rohinton Mistry, Jhumpa Lahiri, Amitav Ghosh, Salman Rushdie… they’re all soooo serious (although Rushdie can be very funny too). But that’s just what I love about Vikram Seth- he’s both serious and funny, and this was borne out in his well-attended talk at the Sharjah Book festival a month or two ago.
Vikram would be my perfect choice as a dinner partner. First, he speaks a beautiful public-school English (he was educated at the Doon school) and is of my generation – perhaps a few years older, but still, someone who I can relate to. He gave many wonderful tips on writing a novel. The best one was, in his own words: “You have to be very very very very lazy to write a novel.” This perhaps contradicts received wisdom, but he goes on to explain that there’s a lot of thinking involved during the writing, and for hours and hours, maybe days together, he’d be lying around staring into space and just thinking.
Then there is the point of research – painstaking research. Vikram goes to the nitty-gritty, and no matter what kind of character he’s writing about, whether they are eighty-year-old grandmoms or teen girls, he does his research. And the best part of this is that, it never appears as stuffy ‘research’ in his books, but blends in with the story, setting, and theme.
So Vikram Seth, if you’re reading this, next time you’re around here in this part of the world, (i.e. Dubai), let me know…
And yes, I’m still waiting for A Suitable Girl.