WoT's Hot

Conversation With Chroniclers From The Hills

Hemalatha Sridhar

The Victoria Memorial was graced by the esteemed presence of acclaimed authors Irwin Allan Sealy and Ruskin Bond on the 27th of January, for the event entitled ‘The Republic: Chroniclers from the Hills’. In conversation with journalist Malavika Banerjee, the talk was a wonderful blend of the penetrative and the informative. Both gentleman charmed the audience with their jocular, easy going personalities, creating a very intimate atmosphere for their doting fans.

Mister Sealy’s recent masque, ‘Zeladinus’ was discussed as he spoke of how Akbar greatly intrigued him, causing him to choose the great Mughal emperor as his central figure in his work. He informed every one of how he visited Fatehpur Sikri seven times for research purposes, and how much enjoyed collecting data for his work. His famous ‘Trotter-Nama’ as a delightful depiction of the Anglo-Indian culture was also spoken of by Malavika Banerjee. Ruskin Bond’s court case was addressed, where the author was charged with obscenity for a story, but ultimately, the judge let him go free because he too, enjoyed the tale. The author’s comical narration of the incident made everyone chuckle, making them reaffirm their affection for him.

Mister Bond’s legendary ‘Room on the Roof’ was discussed, bringing a nostalgic smile to the lips of each person in the audience, as the author talked about his time of adolescence and about how his works are all based on his subjective experiences, and therefore, are not representative of any community, unlike Sealy, whose works are a mix of the subjective and objective.

On being asked about what troubles them about India at present, both authors had very insightful views. Sealy spoke of how the clothes people wore became more refined, but there were still children who are subject to harsh neglect. He elaborated by saying that the gap between the haves and have-nots is still present, as it was when the Indian Republic was still in formation. Bond too, spoke about how education was taken for granted in several places, especially villages that lacked basic amenities for the lower classes.

Both writers started their careers at a time when vernacular literature flourished. On being questioned about whether English had replaced the vernacular languages with respect to literature, Allan Sealy said that he saw English as an Indian language, rather than a Western one, because it has been so deeply internalized by the nation. Ruskin Bond said that one must write in whatever language he is comfortable with in order to do justice to what he writes about. He expressed the need for translators, to translate English works into the regional languages and vice versa, for an expansive reading experience.

The gentlemen entertained several questions from the audience, humoring both children and adults alike. Several bits of trivia on their lives were revealed to the engaged audience, along with the engrossing discussion on how India has changed over the years. Both authors expressed how they felt a kinship with Kolkata and were always delighted to come back because they appreciated Kolkata’s ever-present literary flavor.