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Don’t date someone who doesn’t read, says author Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi

Author Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi talks about his latest book, titled, The Rabbit & the Squirrel, the process behind it, and why one should never date someone who doesn’t read.

books Updated: Nov 02, 2018 14:16 IST
Aditya Dogra
Aditya Dogra
Hindustan Times
Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi,The Rabbit & The Squirrel,The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay
Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi ‘s new book is titled, The Rabbit & the Squirrel.

After a gap of almost nine years, Author Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi has come out with his latest book The Rabbit & the Squirrel. We caught up with the author who explained the gap between his last book and the latest, shed some light on his creative process and ideal day in his life, and even had some wise words for up and coming authors.

Every book has a story attached to its creation, so what is the story behind The Rabbit & the Squirrel?

It was a gift I made for a friend – she was leaving the country, and I wanted her to have something to remember our private, magic hours. The published form of this gift, The Rabbit & The Squirrel, that was to say thank you to the readers of my fiction – for standing by me in absence of work.

Your last book came out in 2009, could you tell us why there was such a long gap between this one and the last? Was it because The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay was supposed to be your last book?

I was doing other things – I was curating shows, I was travelling. What leads up and into a book is experience, that dusty bank of conversation, voyage, affairs. One draws from this, as well the idea that sometimes life is more interesting than the art we make from it.

The Rabbit & the Squirrel is beautiful, and it is the illustrations by Stina Wirsen that make it even better. How did you end up collaborating? And what was the process like?

The process of collaborating with Stina was a dream, she is as intuitive an artist as she is skilled. The combination of her sensitivity and formidable talent makes her an artist of experience. I had only to read The Rabbit & The Squirrel out loud to her for her bring these characters to life; we spoke about little scenes and she would immediately respond with such soulful presence that I recognised what makes her a great artist: her imaginative sympathies are diverse and profound. She came to my work with such humility and grace that all I might do is bow before her genius.

One of the illustrations that are part of the book. The illustrations have been created by Stina Wirsen.

Love and Friendship are common strains that one can find throughout your works. If you had to write on anything else, what would it be? Also, on a side note, why love and friendship?

I’d write more about the complexities and nuance of the sexual self, how this changes and shifts. I’d like to write more about gender, how we will inhabit a world that transcends binaries of male and female. I’d like to write about how modern India, and this fundamental, large-scale failure of morality in our everyday lives. Perhaps a writer’s job is merely to point out to the remaining beauty in the wounded world.

I write about friendship and love as these are the animating cornerstones in my life. Without them I think we’d all be a planet of lemmings, waiting to jump off a cliff because we didn’t seem to get the point of it all.

How would you describe a normal day in your life when you’re working on a book? Creative processes often shed light on how certain stories are shaped, so we were just curious.

I don’t have a normal day but this is the day I aspire to: to rise at 4 am and to write until 8 am. I am saying this aloud, writing it down to you, so I know a part of me will hold myself to it. I want to bring this discipline to life.

Do you have any wise words for young authors who are looking to make a mark, or are working on their breakout book?

Read more. See more art – visit museums, study how painters use light, how video artists work with music they score. Try and figure what you can bring to your medium. But read more. Toni Morrison. Michael Ondaatje. James Salter. Don’t date someone who doesn’t read: they won’t know how to pay attention to your quietness.

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First Published: Nov 02, 2018 14:14 IST