FEATURE: THE TIMES OF INDIA/SHELF ESTEEM INTERVIEW/BOOKS

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SHELF ESTEEM

The Ayatollah and I weren't on  the same page



 What are you reading right now? 
The Patna Manual of Style by SIDDHARTH CHOWDHURY, though in a mystified fashion.

Which book, author or series do you reach out for when you just want a comfort read?
Life at Blandings or any of the Emsworth stories by PG WODEHOUSE.

Which is the weirdest book you have read, and why was it weird?
The Little Green Book by AYATOLLAH KHOMEINI. Someone gifted it to me, for reasons I can`t begin to imagine. The book contains nuggets of perceived wisdom from the man when he was in exile. Suffice it to say I read it from cover to cover with an open mouth. Suffice it to also say that the Ayatollah and I were not on the same page as regards those insights of his. 

Who are your favorite contemporary writers, and your favourite writers of all time?
Tough question. I like virtually everything RUSHDIE, VIKRAM SETH, MANU JOSEPH and KIRAN NAGARKAR write. As also AMITAV GHOSH, WILLIAM DALRYMPLE, IRWIN ALLAN SEALY, NEIL GAIMAN, ANEES SALIM, NADEEM ASLAM. My favourite writers of all time are the aforementioned PGW, SHAKESPEARE, JRR TOLKIEN, and (here I`m leading with my chin) AYN RAND, as also COLIN THUBRON, JANE AUSTEN and BRUCE CHATWIN. And… no, I`d better stop.

Which was the last book that made you laugh?
The Competent Authority by SHOVON CHOWDHURY. Brilliant satire with many laugh-out-aloud passages. 

If you have to get the PM  to read one book, which one would it be and why?
The Hindus, An Alternative History by WENDY DONIGER. Oh wait, that`s still banned, right? Then maybe my book Kith and Kin, for a light read. It will give him an insight into the way Mallus think and behave!


Name one book that is a favourite -- but most people would be surprised to know you'd even read it...  
HANNAH GREEN`s I Never Promised You A Rose Garden. It deals with terminal schizophrenia and is a most disturbing read, but it is also the most compelling first-person account of mental illness.


Which was the last book you just couldn't finish?
I`m a compulsive book-finisher but I just couldn’t reach the end of In the Light of What We Know by ZIA HAIDER RAHMAN. Erudition, alas, does not always make for good reading.

Which book would you ask people not to read -- if you believed in doing such things, of course?
I don`t... not even the books I pan while reviewing them for newspapers, magazines and my book blog. The truth is, reading is a deeply enriching activity. You learn, even from the books you dislike.

Which book do you remember most vividly from your childhood?
Beau Geste by PC WREN. I first plucked it from my grandmother`s bookshelf when I was about twelve years old. Loved the story, which was basically an homage to courage, decency, doing the right thing. What`s more, it stood up very well to a second reading last year.

Sheila Kumar is author of the book Kith and Kin, Chronicles of a Clan. She regularly reviews books for periodicals as well as on her blog.





































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