Sunday, November 30, 2003

Meet the author
“Writing novels is just a hobby”

Krishnan SrinivasanKrishnan Srinivasan, a former foreign secretary, later joined the Commonwealth Secretariat. He is, at present, residing in the UK. The Ugly Ambassador (Har Anand) is his second novel.

He was in New Delhi for its launch at the IIC. Excerpts from an interview that he gave to Humra Quraishi:

Even though you reside in the UK, why did you chose an Indian publisher and an Indian city for the launch of The Ugly Ambassador? Also, the novel is not set in either India or the UK but in Africa.

I consider myself a resident of India. I am in the UK temporarily, in connection with my research. My last novel, to which The Ugly Ambassador is a prequel, was published in India, and hence it made sense to publish this one in India as well. As far as the locale of the plot is concerned, writers are not circumscribed by the setting in which they place their works. That's the best thing about imaginative writing.

Though novels are works of fiction but many times these do reflect the writer's personal and professional life. Is The Ugly Ambassador reflective of the nine long years you spent in the African continent, working in Indian missions in the African capitals?

Obviously a writer must draw on personal experience — though it could be second or third hand experience. My stay in Africa and contacts with liberation movements in Africa played a part, as did the legitimate depth of feeling among Africans about racial discrimination in South Africa.

Your novel is set against the backdrop of racial discrimination in South Africa and revolves around the political games played by the superpowers through their diplomats. Are these games played in other countries of other continents too? Also, comment on the Indian scenario.

The story has no relevance to India. The plot is set during the Cold War. The USSR no longer exists. The novel is fiction, not a morality tale!

You have portrayed the American envoy — one of the main characters in the novel — in a rather negative light. Did you have any special reason for doing so?
I would not describe the development of the US Ambassador's character as negative. In fact, this man endures his problems, shows remorse and magnanimity, and emerges a wiser and better man. What is negative bout that?

Did you ever feel tempted to set the novel in India? If so, why you didn't do so?
My last novel was set largely in India. Why should I keep repeating the locale when there is whole world to choose from?

One of the main characters in your novel is a Black terrorist beauty who beds every diplomat for getting them to support the cause of liberating South Africa. Do women actually play such a vital role in coups etc or did you get influenced by Bollywood thrillers?

The female character you are referring to is a highly intelligent, principled and dedicated person passionately devoted to the cause of the freedom of South Africa. Something of a Joan of Arc.

Comment on today's changing world order and its impact on people like you?
My book is pure fiction. I have nothing more to add to that.

It is said that turbulent times affect writers. Comment

My last novel was during the Commonwealth period and was partly set against the backdrop of the Commonwealth. Apart from novels, I have written, and continue to write, dozens of serious articles on international affairs which have been published in renowned journals in the UK, Canada, India and Europe. Writing novels is just a hobby.