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HindustanTimes Fri,24 Oct 2014
Greatest Indian Novels: Interview with Akhil Sharma
Saudamini Jain, Hindustan Times
June 21, 2014
First Published: 13:50 IST(21/6/2014)
Last Updated: 20:32 IST(21/6/2014)
Akhil Sharma

1. An Obedient Father is on our list of the greatest Indian novels of all time. What was your immediate reaction when you heard that?
I felt relief. The book, when it came out, sold 400 copies. The fact that it is remembered makes me think all that hard work I put in was not wasted.

2. How long did it take for you to write the book?
Nine years. With An Obedient Father I worked almost like a watch maker working with enormously small cogs. Everything had to be meticulous.

3. How did Ram Karan (from An Obedient Father) occur to you? Do you like him?
In some ways I view Ram Karan as representing the shame and guilt I felt for the fact that I was OK and that my older brother was severely brain damaged. I knew that it did not make sense to feel this guilt and so I sought to create a character who would be deserving of the shame that I felt. My feelings towards Ram Karan are complicated. My belief is that fiction allows us to engage with people we would not normally engage with in real life. Ram Karan, therefore, allows us as readers to have an experience which is only really possible in fiction. Finally, I do believe that we cannot only love the lovable. We need to stretch our compassion and empathy towards people whom we would normally dismiss. Because of this I believe that Ram Karan is deserving of attention.

4. What are your reading habits?
I read through the day and often at night as I lie in bed. I like to read a mixture of fiction and non-fiction.

5. In an article in the New York Magazine, Ray Isle, called you "sort of like our Gertrude Stein, but straight, Indian, male." Are you really?
Ray was making a joke. He was referring to the fact that I have a wide network of friends like Stein did and so many people are connected through me.

6. Princeton, Harvard, Stanford. Investment banker turned writer. Are these your worst Indian stereotypes?
They are not my stereotypes. My sense of Indians is that we are a hard working people who try to make a living doing all sorts of things: running shops, travel agencies, being accountants. My successes are just due to luck and very supportive parents.

From HT Brunch, June 22

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