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The debutante prize novelist

books Updated: Jan 30, 2011 13:23 IST

Hindustan Times
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He spent his formative years walking on the beach and reading books and at the age of 26, Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi shocked the literary world by winning one of the UK’s most prestigious prizes for debut novels for The Last Song of Dusk. Shanghvi’s best-selling second novel, The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay, is now out in paperback and his photography show, The House Next Door, is currently on in Mumbai.

One word that describes you best?

Which superhero would you like to be and why?
Bruschetta the Demon Slaying Dachshund (Small. But Invincible)

If you could be born either rich or intelligent, which one would you choose? You can’t say ‘both’.
Neither. I want to be dumb and happy, and I succeeded.

Your first kiss was..
Unmemorable, and I wasn’t even paid for it.

The one law you would break if you could get away with it?
Cannabis For Toddlers: Making Wretches Calm.

If you could have chosen your own name, what would you have chosen?
Pico. Caravaggio.

What is the weirdest thing that ever went into your mouth?

Oil paint; I dreamed of my face turning into Rothko.

A place where you would like to be lost for a month?
In a ghazal, or in Tuscany.

You are late for work and all the roads are jammed. Choose a mode of transport: a cycle, a horse or a skateboard. Why?
A horse, so we can chat during the jam.

Love is...
The only app on my iPhone that totally died.

A tune you can’t get out of your head?
Gili Gili Gappa.

What makes your day?
When I’m left alone.

What screws it up?
The BMC, Kalmadi, bleeding heart liberals.

Life in the fast food lane: Choose your menu.

I’ll have a McBeer.

What did you do with your first pay cheque?
I gave it away to charity (you really going to buy that?).

If you were the last person left on Earth, what would you do?
Remove all my clothes and have a drink.

The last movie that made you cry?
Anything by David Dhawan. Strong stuff there!

Who is your favourite freedom fighter?
Three – Sunderlal Bahuguna, Gloria Steinem and Urvashi Vaid

If you could have a star perform at your wedding, who would it be?
Minnie Mouse. If most of our stars are cartoons, then i’ll take the real deal!

Siddharth on his Exhibition

Giving Up The Ghost
I sort of gave up writing when I realized I'd never write as well as Philip Glass makes music (not that I believed I had either the talent or ambition to hold out on my own). Yet, I knew I'd never stop reading; and, if Satre is to be believed, reading and writing are the same thing. I have, and will continue to, read everything: the back of a cereal box, bathroom graffiti, faces and hands, Jhumpa Lahiri, the doctor's prescription. I came to photography from this same desire to read. With the camera, I looked at my father's life, after the death of my mother, his wife; and after his battle with brain cancer. The result were sedate, solitary photographs sometimes shot through with joy unleashed by Bruschetta, our dachshund puppy.

When these photographs were shown at a gallery in Sweden, a friend remarked: And now you have given up writing. This seemed an odd observation, although somewhat accurate. I could not explain to my friend that I might not write novels but photography feeds my desire to tell stories, and to read stories. The time I spent photographing my father and Bruschetta showed me that we might prize the world for how broad it is but we often fail to cherish how deep its particulars really are. To see my father eat his meal or to watch Bruschetta play, these might not possess the breadth of imagined worlds but they possess a tenderness of lived ones. I'm not sure which world is more important, or larger, but I am certain I no longer care about such distinctions.

- From HT Brunch, January 30

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