Why don’t you introduce yourself? Where do you live? What do you do for a living?
I live in Delhi where I teach in the Department of English at Jamia Millia Islamia. I began teaching soon after completing my MA in 1993 and have been teaching ever since. I have taught at BHU [affiliated college run by Krishnamuti Foundation, Rajghat, AMU and now at JMI.
What’s the first book you remember reading?
I grew up in a house where Urdu and Hindi poetry was a part of daily life with a mix of some Sanskrit Shlokas once in a while. So we absorbed a lot of literature by listening to others around us. Ours was a family that revelled in literature [almost everyone was a shayar, some formally some informally] and where everyone remembered a lot of poetry by heart, Farsi asha’ar, Kabir, Rahim, Tulsidas, and Marsias of Mir Anis all flowed together, leaving a very strong impression on my mind. I began reading books a bit late compared to children these days. The earliest books I read, like one Hindi pocket book of anthology of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s poetry , or Boris Pasternak’s novel Doctor Zhivago were the copies I found in my uncle’s shelf, who also read a lot of James Hadley Chase, but I never developed a taste for it.
The first story or poem that left a strong impression on you and why?
Doctor Zhivago for recording in an almost spiritual manner the ordinary sufferings of men during times of political crisis.
What is your favourite book/author?
Difficult to say, but of late I have been working on Intizar Husain and I find him extremely fascinating. Naiyyer Masud is another writer whom I admire. Among South Asian writers in English, I admire Amitav Ghosh, Mohammad Hanif and Nadeem Aslam.
What’s the biggest influence on what you read?
When I was in school I read whatever was available, as we did not have access to libraries. Now apart from what I enjoy, I also read what I need to read for academic purposes.
Is there a book/ books you have read more than once? Which one and what makes you go back to it?
Agha Shahid Ali’s poetry, Mir, Ghalib, Faiz, Anis,
Is there any genre you would never read?
An author and /or a book you think are underrated and why?
Many Hindi Urdu writers are extremely underrated, the reason being there are very few who understand the language.
If you could be a character in any book, what would it be?
A little bit of many characters I guess, Eustacia Vye, Scarlett O Hara etc etc
Is there a particular genre you like reading?
No, but I haven’t been able to develop a taste for fantasy, spy and thriller fiction.
A book you have been wanting to read but haven’t yet?
A genre that dominates your bookshelf?
Criticism, Translations, Indian writing in English and English and Urdu classics share equal space.
Do you have a blog where people can follow you?
What are you currently reading?
Well-just finished re-reading of Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy.
What is the next book you are planning to read?
Ghachar Ghochar, Anis Saleem’s novels and Sinan Antoon’s work on and about Baghdad, are on my reading list.
Dr. Nishat Zaidi’s translation of Intizar Husains fantastic stories Din (Day) and Dastan is out now.
Day, a realistic story, is a meditation on the cruellest of events to have scarred our times – migrations and in contrast, Dastan is a traditional tale of wonder. You can buy it here.