My works essentially deal with situations arising out of
troubled relationships among the members of the same family or
strained man-woman ties. Indians are very accustomed to the
joint family system with strong ties of kinship. But in the
last 30-40 years, increasing industrialisation and massive
migration of people has taken its toll on the system. With the
evolution of the nuclear family, everyone now has to lead his
own life. The disintegration of the joint family has snatched
the feeling of security from individuals who now have to bear
strains and tensions alone.
most important development is the emergence of an independent
woman — a woman not dependent on others but a person who has
the capacity to stand on her own feet. In the past, the Indian
woman has been a victim of many malpractices and injustices
that were operating in our family system. The emergence of the
‘new’ woman has created a sort of a revolution in the
network of human relationships in society and also led to
peculiar tensions. These important developments in the Indian
family system and society have created situations in
relationships that have become central themes of my fiction.
You have been
very objective in your writing and have never taken sides. How
do you personally identify with your creations and manage to
detach yourself from them?
Yes, I try to
be completely impartial and objective when I am writing. The
whole purpose of my writing is defeated when one side has all
the nobility and truth and the other is the bearer of intense
As you see in
my stories and novels, the problem is not that one is guilty
and the other is not. In fact, everyone is participating in
some tragic drama for which each one of them has certain
responsibility. You can do this with great artistic
authenticity only when you refuse to take sides and remain
invisible. So the author has to be what T.S. Eliot called ‘impersonal’.
It is when your are impersonal that you become objective —
one who is sympathetic both to the ‘Kauravas’ and the ‘Pandavas’.
If you start taking sides, the entire conflict becomes
one-sided. You see the most painful predicaments and artistic
spaces in the Mahabharata are those where you fail to
decide — whom to blame, on which side is the truth? This
helps you to enhance your perception of the richness and
complexity of human life.
deliberately avoided socio-political themes in your fiction
and included them in your essays? It seems as if they were
catering to a different set of intellectuals?
Essays are an
important and indispensable part of my writings. They
complement my fiction. The questions that I cannot raise in
the limited frame of my short stories and novels are raised in
my essays. Therefore, subjects like industrialisation,
religion and secularism have become important themes of my
essays. My essays have antagonised many people. Many love my
fiction but hate me for my articles and essays. They think
there is a lot of dichotomy in me as a writer. But, I am not
complete without the other. I am certainly not catering to
different people but different layers of sensibilities in the
progressive writers have cited the absence of contemporary
socio-political conditions in your fiction and accuse you of
being distanced from what they term as ‘relevant’.
what is ‘relevant’? The government, the party or the
leader? How can you define relevance? Usually the Left parties
take upon themselves the authority to decide what is actually
‘significant’. One has seen their own definitions becoming
so irrelevant. What they considered relevant in Stalinistic
times is termed unimportant by these very people now.
You see, ‘relevance’
of art is in itself a meaningless term. One has seen the
hollowness of terms like ‘significant’ and ‘socially
important’. This is not literary criticism, but literally
Some of your
essays and articles are in English. Haven’t you ever felt an
urge to write your fiction in English, especially when Indians
writing in English are today gaining so much publicity and
enormous financial benefit?
started writing, my contemporaries like Mulk Raj Anand and R.K.
Narayan were struggling for a livelihood as those who were
writing in Indian languages. Big advances running into
millions of dollars were unthinkable at that time. Anyway, if
I was asked to write in a language other than my mother
tongue, I would refuse. The reason is that my stories and
novels are very much a product of my emotional world, and the
language of my inner world is Hindi.
India has ‘improved’ from An Area of Darkness to A
Wounded Civilization. You have accused those who disown
Naipaul as having a ‘Taliban’ mentality. Please elaborate.
are so accustomed to hating ourselves. So if a person who was
critical of India earlier suddenly starts praising the country
for its rich heritage, he is seen suspiciously. Our ‘progressives’
do not like him much because Naipaul has been critical of the
damage that years of Muslim invasions did to the Indian
civilisation in terms of burning of libraries and destruction
of temples. This left a deep wound on the Indian psyche —
the reason he calls the Indian civilisation a wounded one.
When you asked me about objectivity, I think Naipaul is the
most objective observer.
have this burden of ‘guilt’ that if we talk about the
richness of our culture we will be accused of being a BJP or a
VHP person. Naipaul does not have any such worry. That is why
there is so much truth in his statements, and truth is always
bitter for those who, like the extremists, want it to be
When do you
plan to write an autobiography?
I think my entire writing is
an autobiography (laughs). In fiction, you can be objective
because you are not trying to be factual, but truthful. When
you are being truthful in the abstract sense of the word, you
talk about the individual whom you have created. Although you
wish to be as honest and as objective about yourself when you
write your own story it seldom happens and distortions come