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Poetry doesn’t keep an audience together, says Vikram Seth at Kasauli Litfest

The eminent Indian author and poet kept festival-goers hooked to his interesting session that started and ended with poems.

books Updated: Oct 08, 2017 10:23 IST
Oindrila Mukherjee
Oindrila Mukherjee
HindustanTimes, Kasauli
Vikram Seth,Kasauli litfest,Khushwant Singh
Author Vikram Seth during a session on the second day of the Khushwant Singh Literary Festival in Kasauli on Saturday.(Ravi Kumar/HT)

There is magic in poetry. Writer Vikram Seth ensured that the audience felt the same as he interspersed his session with poems on second day of the three-day Khushwant Singh Literary Festival on Saturday.

One of India’s finest contemporary poets, Seth started with an acrostic (a poem, word puzzle, or other composition in which certain letters in each line form a word or words) dedicated to his close friend, the late Khushwant Singh, and ended with a poignant poem, ‘Small Things’, he wrote on his father’s 90th birthday in 2013. “I’ll always be a poet. But poetry doesn’t keep an audience together. You have to subsidise your poetry,” he said, when moderator Ashok Chopra asked him if we have lost the poet to the prose writer in him.

‘A Suitable Girl’ comes out this year

His magnum opus, ‘A Suitable Boy’ catapulted him into the international fame in 1993. A prose writer was born, who never looked back. But he has often been known to struggle with its sequel, ‘A Suitable Girl’ that finally comes out this year.

Seth also confirmed that its prequel will be made into a television series that will be shot in India with Indian actors playing all the roles. Many say Seth is the next best hope for a Nobel Prize in Literature from India. British writer of Japanese origin, Kazuo Ishiguro, has won the Nobel Prize in Literature 2017. “Ishiguro is a fine man. He wouldn’t let his head get turned by an award. But success makes you giddy in the beginning. Everyone thinks that you have a connection to Zeus or Indra, so they want your opinion on everything,” said Seth.

Festivals and success mantra

Sipping on red wine, the 65-year-old writer talked about his aversion to literary festivals and launched into a humorous poem he wrote about scorned festival organisers who jealously guarded their turfs.

Speaking about his success mantra, Seth said, “Try to get inspired and learn to say no. When no doesn’t work, go with, ‘Because I’m afraid it’s just not possible’ and put the phone down. This will help you and enrich your life.”

No other form of writing

Besides prose and poetry, Seth has consciously stayed away from any other form of writing. He has never attempted plays. “I don’t try to write in different forms just for the sake of it. Years ago, I did write a play, but didn’t like it too much when I read it. I have been too intolerant towards my younger self, so I decided to read the play again to find a redeeming quality in it. Sadly, I did not.”

He professed his love for late afternoon Hindustani classical ragas and his admiration for Khushwant Singh’s gravitas. But, at the end he told the audience what he loved about writing.

“Academia tells you to focus on the theoretical part of literary texts. With a background in economics, I never got the chance to study literature. However, I believe that the plot and the story is the heart of it. I mean, why should I turn a page unless I want to know what comes next? A novelist is basically a gossip who hears things and tells it like it is.”

First Published: Oct 08, 2017 10:22 IST