Author Mohan C. Padman’s humour won over the audience at iBrowse Book Club last week

“Humour is like common sense. Not very common and makes sense.” Mohan C. Padman charmed the audience with such witty observations at a discussion of his novel Incense And Serendipity at the Catholic Club last week, organised by iBrowse Book Club. Incense And Serendipity is a love story, based on the lives of Sri Lankan Tamils who fled to London. Padman was a lecturer in English Literature at Christ College before he taught English in Libya and Iran.

Padman’s experiences as a teacher helping “students from Europe, Somalia and Sri Lanka to adjust in London” are reflected in the novel. “Every writer does put something of himself in their books. By listening to people, we get a lot of ideas. I became a part of the students’ lives and their lives became a part of me.”

Not one to mince words, Padman spoke of the need for humour in Indian writing in English. “I haven’t read a single humorous line in any of Salman Rushdie’s novels, for instance. In India there’s a lot of room for writing humour rather than serious stuff.” He next spoke of his preference for simple writing. “I wrote this novel in conversational English. I don’t use bombastic language or self-important interjections. In this age of the internet, very few people have the time to plough through weighty tomes. They want to read books that they can finish fast.” Padman was impressed, in particular, with the Sri Lankan Tamil students in London. “It was amazing how well they had adapted. They are confident. The English don’t like you servile. You’ve got to give back and not sit back.” Padman said racism does exist in the UK, but that there are anti-racism legislations in place. Padman, said Pakistanis and Indians live cheek by jowl in London. “Pakistanis are absolutely friendly and so interested in India. That feeling of belonging to the sub-continent is still there.”

Besides teaching, Padman has been writing articles for newspapers and magazines for the last 25 years. His decision to write a novel came after he realised that he “didn’t want to be a parasite referring only to the writings of others.”

Incense And Serendipity is available at pothi.com and Amazon for Rs. 295.