: A new book and to my surprise fiction. How was the transition from non-fiction?
Pinki Virani: I intend writing non-fiction in the future so I don’t want to get schizoid about transitions. Though it was mildly perplexing initially that I did not have mountains of research in front of me. Then, the ‘not being bound by facts’ became its own freedom as I could think of my characters while cooking, watching television; while just being.
AT: To just be, it’s become harder. All I seek as a writer is the trouble-free monotony of a well-planned urban environment. Instead, our BEST buses have begun broadcasting inane television programmes at top volume. I used to get a lot of reading and note-taking done. Now I can’t stand getting into one.
PV: Severe intrusion into one’s mind space is a vex, especially during the actual act of writing. I’m thankful for my journalism background which somewhat assists when being subjected to ‘noise’. One can switch off, to concentrate on the task that has a deadline. I'm sure your themes find their structure differently.
AT: An unplanned narrative can throw up some wonderful — and nasty — surprises.
PV: You’re an Indian writer living here and published internationally. Works well for you?
AT: Sure it does. My book’s excursions have made me more restless. And the highs of the foreign trips almost always
end in the low of returning home, finding it more limiting than before.
PV: Limiting, because of the literary scenario?
AT: What literary scenario? I went house-hunting in Mumbai’s suburbs recently. Must have seen 40-50 flats. I never walked in on anyone reading...
In Deaf Heaven you’ve used a single narrative to capture stories from around India, while recent novels indicate a reverse trend — writers telling very local, very concentrated stories.
PV: Once I knew Deaf Heaven needed to tell the story of my country’s contemporary history, I knew I had to go beyond the literary works that I particularly liked — Khaled Hosseini on Afghanistan, Chimamanda Adichie on Nigeria. Because this is India: a million voices now. So in this book I decided to free up the canvas.