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November 23, 2014

Q&A with Gurpartap Khairah

I read Obsession: Eternal Stories Of Life And Death by Tara press and absolutely loved the anthology. I got a chance to have an email conversation with one of the writers of the book - Gurpartap Khairah

Q1. How was the process of co-authoring the book? How did the collaboration happened?
A1.I have been told that it is a smart idea to get four authors’ compilation for a single book but it wasn’t our idea; indeed we did not even know each other or each others’ works. The people at Tara, especially Sharvani, our reader and editor, came up with this novel concept. She was, I believe, working on our manuscripts and found that there was a thematic link in the stories. Hence the title ‘Obsession’ and the collaboration.

Q2. How long did it take you to pen down the stories. Was it a long drawn process or written in short time?
A2: Each story dictates its own time and language. Some of the stories, the very short ones, were written in one sitting or a single day, while others took a longer while. Sometimes, I had to go back to a story with major editing or changes as demanded by the story.

Q3. Most of the stories deal with darkness and death. Does writing about these emotions come naturally to you?
A3: It isn't really an intention to write about dark themes; some of the stories penned by me, not in this collection, make for a lighter reading. But if a writer is to talk about his/her times, trying to make the stories as real and topical as possible, darkness somehow naturally weaves itself into the stories. Basically it is just the unusual premise of an episode that demands to be penned.

Q4. Do you think people react more passionately for dark, brooding humour as evident in 'Last card' or even 'Yellow tears'?
 I think any good story involves the readers, irrespective of the genre. If people are able to identify with the story and characters, the tone really becomes just a complement or a vehicle to put the message across. That is also true of cinema where dark, brooding visions are as appreciated as their lighter counterparts. As long as the story captivates, the language, mood and tone all come in for appreciation. If it is true that people today are keen on escapist literature which provides succour from life’s tensions, it is equally true that the dark realities of life also strike a chord with them.

Q5. How has the response been to the book so far? Any particular feedback which may have touched you?
The response to the collection has been quite overwhelming. The book has garnered excellent reviews in reputed dailies like The Tribune and Deccan Herald and on many blogs also. Individual readers too have been very kind with their response. I have been told that they were able to identify with my stories and found shades of themselves in the characters. 

'The Making of A Married Woman' especially has found sympathy with many readers, especially women. Readers have told me that either they were caught in a similar situation or knew of someone who was. 'Letting Go', I believe, has moved many readers to tears. These two stories have become the favourite of many readers. Someone also compared my tales to Aesop’s fables! These are the kind of compliments that make a writer’s day. But the crowning glory was for me when Gulzar sa’ab, a father figure, told me that he had liked a particular scene in a story and if he got the chance would like to use it in one of his films!

Q6. Any work which you have completed or currently writing in?
When I was writing short stories and trying to get them published I got very good reviews from publishing houses and agents only to be told that this genre wasn't very ‘marketable’ nowadays. Thus, I started working on a novel, The Unveiling, which is a political thriller and works as an expose at many levels. The novel is complete now and with Tara. I am currently working on a murder mystery, replete with humour, satire, digs and melodrama. I am also engaged with another project, a collection of very short stories that look at different aspects of love. So you can say I am quite busy writing and writing!

Q7 I particularly enjoyed 'My husband's best friend' and the emotional quotient of homosexuals. How did this story originated and flowed in? Your views on Article 377?
A7: I enjoyed writing My Husband’ Best Friend. As in every story, it was the unusual perspective that drew me to the story. Usually when we talk about acceptance of homosexuals it is from the point of view of heterosexuals. Everyone appears to be concerned with granting acceptance to gays as if they are a weaker section and it is something to be condoned. When I first thought of writing about homosexuality, acceptance was a major issue but had I let it remain just like that it would have been just another story extolling the virtues of gays. So the twist came when the question of even well-adjusted homosexuals’ acceptance of their own sexuality was raised. Juxtaposing this with the lives of a married couple gave it a different background.

As far as Article 377 is concerned, as a person, as a writer I am against anything and everything that divides or discriminates. If sex between consenting adults is deemed fine, why shouldn't it be the prerogatives of homosexuals also? They, as individuals in their own right, should also have equal freedom for everything that is granted naturally to everyone else. Besides, I have never understood why the sex quotient is so important for everyone? What and why does it matter to anyone with whom one has sex at the end of the day? It should be the least of anyone’s concerns.

Q8. 'Killing the lizard' brings out one's insecurities but also teaches us how to overcome them. Are you in real life also afraid of lizards?
I cannot think of any person I know who is not afraid of or at least repulsed by lizards! If one is not afraid of lizards per se, one cannot help a creepy feeling on seeing a lizard; they do make the skin crawl! I am also not scared of lizards even though one fell right on my head in childhood! But when confronted by one, I have to tell myself that it is just a lizard, a creature so much smaller in size and strength.

Although the lizard in the story is a symbol for all the troubles in a person’s life that obsess him/her, the basic premise of the story came to me when I chanced upon a lizard behind the fridge in the kitchen much like the situation in the story! That it developed into an archetype of worries, giving the message of acceptance, is another story altogether!

[Gurpartap Khairah believes a writer should be politically incorrect and while writing, makes every effort to say the worst in the best possible manner. Gurpartap teaches English literature in Hindu college, Amritsar. He loves his job because it keeps him in constant touch with the youth and the current modern lingo]

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