The urge to meet people we admire does cross our minds occasionally. By a small probability and quirk of fate when such a meeting does happen then happiness knows no bounds.
I finally got a chance to meet one of my favourite writers Amitav Ghosh. Coincidentally, I was in the midst of enjoying ‘The Hungry Tide’, lost in the jungles of Sunderbans. Being a voracious reader, Ghosh’s writings have satiated me with the fictional world that he spins out with such eloquence.
On learning about the book launch of Ghosh’s critically acclaimed ‘River of Smoke’ from the Ibis Trilogy, I wasted no time in getting to Reliance TimeOut store on Cunningham Road, on June 28th. Soon the book store filled up with Ghosh fans, eager to meet the well-known author who was also short-listed for the Man Booker prize for his ‘Sea of Poppies’. The ‘River of Smoke’ promises its readers a very engrossing journey on land and sea leading to Opium wars on distant shores. Each book in the trilogy can be read independent of the other.
Amitav Ghosh looked dapper and was charming as he fielded questions from the readers in the audience regarding his book writing journey, his inspirations, aspirations and the future of publishing in India. A sore throat did not deter him from addressing the questions.
A few excerpts from the Q & A session:
You are often using time-travel as a concept. Is it a literary device in your stories?
Writing a novel gives you the freedom of time travel. Time and space fascinate me and that is evident in my writings. Each story has its moment in time with the characters in the story drawing out a story around them. It is important to do a lot of research on the characters and subject to make it more authentic. The human aspect is important.
Your books have a great degree of details, even with traveling as a subject. Do you do a lot of research?
The story comes first for me. I pick a moment in time and make it concrete and grounding. I do a lot of research on the topics before I embark on a subject. I studied about ships and their workings during that period. I also did ample research on trade, life in China and sea navigation before I started writing it.
Which among your books is your favorite or most challenging to write?
Sea of Poppies was a very challenging book to write emotionally and drained me out. When I started ‘River of Smoke I was wondering about my huge undertaking. But it worked out to my satisfaction.
What are your thoughts on the current publishing industry in India?
The publishing industry in India is very alive and doing brisk business. When I wrote my first book I couldn’t get so much attention or publicity. Now with these new book stores, book launches and social networking it is easier for writers to get the word out. Writers currently are in a good position with all this.
To our delight the Bengali sweet ‘saundesh’ was served along with sweet Tea in small earthen pots. The evening got even better after Ghosh autographed my book.
For more details you can go to http://www.amitavghosh.com/