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ALL ALONE Anita Nair: ‘It is just you, the computer and the worlds you are creating’
ALL ALONE Anita Nair: ‘It is just you, the computer and the worlds you are creating’

Writing is a lonely business, says Anita Nair as she talks about her latest ‘Goodnight and God Bless’

The best-selling author has written her “quickest book” — Goodnight and God Bless — On life, literature and a few other things with footnotes, quotes and other such literary diversions” published by Penguin Viking. Dressed in a chirpy yellow top with her curly mop gushing down with brown streaks , Anita Nair says: “It was written in the three months when I was immobile with slip disc last year. It was a time when I was looking more inwards than outwards.” She feels that it is not just literature but everything from the wind to parties, woven together with a collection of published literary essays. “I had total freedom to poke fun at myself, rip and delve.” Then it comes to being part of a lonely writer’s club, “It is just you, the computer and the worlds you are creating. Writing becomes a lonely process — there is no going away. There are a countless hours by yourself which are compensated in the final book.” It becomes less difficult when she meets other artistes who go through the same struggles. Interestingly, she doesn’t see herself living in established literary domains like Mumbai or Delhi. “The distance allows you to maintain a certain literary detachment that makes for unruffled, concentrated writing.” Anita initially did feel that “as an artist, the world should come to you rather than the artist carrying his/her work to the world.” But she has moved on from there. “How does it matter? Once one has finished writing, one ceases to be the writer. You take on the role of the author who has to work towards making the work available.”

Anita calls book festivals “media circuses”. “It can do a lot for young writers but for an older fraternity of established writers, it becomes unhealthy and unnecessary as you don’t even know the audience. It becomes a closed writers’ wrestling ring where everyone gets sized up.” On the other hand, book fairs are spaces for writers to interact and know their reading public. She feels that the image that one has of the writer is stereotypical. “From the look, behaviour, to what you’ve studied at university — the writer emerges from the woodwork unlike any stereotype. You learn to dismiss that.”

Sense of purpose

Anita enjoys creating characters that have a certain purpose and sense of worth in life. And when it comes to other art forms influencing her writing, Anita feels, “It could trigger a thought and make a certain connection when I listen to music during the process of writing.”

Writing four books for children has been quite accidental for Anita. “I happened to have readymade material when the publisher asked me about ideas.” She however feels that writing for children is not vastly different though one has to be more careful with the choice of words. “In the books about myths, I was retelling lesser-known myths that have not been explored. Myths are confused with religion and I stayed away from those with religious tones.”

As a writer, Anita fears the absurdity of all things in her writings. “It is so important to do research and get your facts right to be able let in the element of imagination take over.” Which is also why she feels that even though the landscape of Kerala figures in her writings, she needs to draw a physical distance and write from outside her home state. You will be limited if you’re in the middle of things.”

The looming question of readership for novels written by Indian writers in English has always been in the air. “Now, I get a lot of mails from readers in smaller towns like Nagpur.” For a writer whose works have been translated into regional and international languages, she feels it is the question of a good inspired translator.

“I used to be a rabid traveller but now have become a reluctant traveller,” says the writer who keeps travelling on literary tours down the same beaten paths of airport lounges, hotel lobbies and breakfasts. But when she travels on research, it allows her to look deeper into the subject and shape her characters — and not be too caught up with home chores. Though she feels there is a sense of ennui when she travels officially, it’s been a long time since Anita Nair became Akhilandeshwari in Ladies Coupe with a one-way ticket…

AYESHA MATTHAN

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