Wednesday , 17 October 2018

Genres aren’t powerful. Writing is, says Annie Zaidi

Mumbai- based poet, fiction writer, editor and script writer Annie Zaidi is one of the speakers for the Goa Arts and Literary Festival (GALF) 2017. Zaidi has experimented in all formats and has won several prizes for her works. In conversation with NT KURIOCITY she speaks about her work and shares a lot more with us


Q:  Many of your works are women-centric. Why is that?

My work is rooted in my concerns, and naturally, one’s concerns are formed by experience. There is the primary experience – being a girl and then a woman myself – and the secondary experience of living in an unequal, unjust world. If I was not moved to write about this, what else would I write about?


Q:  From where do you draw inspiration for your works?

A lot of my writing is inspired from what goes on around me. It could be the moment in time – hearing a voice, seeing something unfold on the streets – or it could be a news report. My non- fiction writing is based on reportage, of course, and the lives and events that I am witness to, or the stories that other people choose to share with me.


Q:  Your work has a lot of variety in the form of short stories, poetry, essays, playwriting, and writing for radio. Which do you feel is the most powerful genre?

Genres aren’t powerful. Writing is. A great poem, written by someone who commandeers her (or his) words skillfully to mix image, metaphor and narrative in succinct form is more effective than a weak novel or play that fails to bring anything new to the reader. The reverse could also hold true. One just has to search one’s own mind to figure out what genre the idea seeks, and then attempt to set it down and hope for the best.


Q:  When you write, do you intend that each of your work should send out a message?

I don’t write to give out a message. If there is any sort of message, I hope it reads: learn to recognise the humanity of other people.


Q:  According to you, what is the status of Indian women today? Is it better than what it used to be in the years gone by? What are the factors that make you believe so?

Well, some reports suggest it is one of worst nations for women to live in. We get upset when we hear things like that said about our country, partly because it doesn’t feel true. But then, those of us who react to such reports are relatively privileged. Our lives may not be as hard, our choices may not be as restricted, our bodies and minds may not be as vulnerable to harm and bondage, as that of the majority of women in India. I think it says a lot about the nation’s attitude to women, that we like to call India ‘mother’, but we don’t let girls choose their own life partners.


Q:  Crime against women is increasing in India despite awareness and education. Why in your opinion is this happening? How can this be curbed?

I don’t know whether crime itself is increasing, or whether it being reported more often. I hope it is the latter. This situation is enabled by patriarchal mindsets. It will not change until we choose equality as a state of mind. Whether it is rape or domestic violence, or dowry demands, harassment on the streets – all of it is finally about men claiming power. Those who hurt women in any way do so because they want to control them in some way, limit their choices. The only answer is for men in general to stop trying to control them, and for women to stop fearing men.


Q:  Lastly, a brief about your book ‘Unbound: 2000 Years of Indian Women’s Writing’.

I have written more extensively about how I made the selections in ‘Unbound: 2000 Years of Indian Women’s Writing’ in my introduction. But briefly, the book sets out to present tiny samples from the most significant writing produced by women in India down the ages, and which was available to me in English translation.

Of course, the question of what piece of writing is powerful or significant, and why, is hard to answer. The anthology reflects to some extent on my own literary tastes. But I have also made an effort to represent every genre, every mood and ‘ras’, so to speak.

(Book launch: ‘The way I see it; a Gauri Lankesh reader’- Chandan Gowda in conversation with Annie Zaidi and Albertina Almeida on December 8 from 11.40 a.m. to 12.25 p.m. at Mandovi Hall, ICG)


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