- Your thoughts on turning 87, almost seven decades of writing. Any regrets?
Plenty of thoughts. Very fortunate to make a living out of something I enjoy doing. Making a vocation out of it. But no regrets whatsoever.
“Since I can’t go for my favourite long walks during the pandemic, I walk around the house quite a bit or climb up the staircase to the roof and sit among the pigeons, as there are many of them out there and they’re quite used to me.”
- Your recent book, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, coming out in a grey and frightened world of the pandemic, reminds us to look for joy and hope in everyday things. Is that Dr Bond’s prescription?
My book goes with my thoughts and they go down the optimistic way. No prescription, but we all have our own ways of coping with distress. We have our individual natures, some have a sunny disposition and some have depressing ways. Remember what George Santayana said, “There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval.”
One shouldn’t get bogged down in tremendous philosophies, etc, just derive pleasure out of simple joys of nature. I find bird-watchers to be the most well-balanced people. They are so immersed in their pursuit, getting up early in the morning, marching off with their binoculars, hiding in the bushes just looking at birds. They all seem to be such nice people.
If you meet nature half-way, then you’re half way to happiness.
- You still write with the old-fashioned pen and paper and yet have produced such a large body of literary work! How do you cope in today’s world?
Yes, I do write with pen and paper. But my family members have to do a lot of sorting out later with all papers, documents scattered over my desk. But I get along.
I’m technologically illiterate. Even phones, I’m not comfortable with new phones. But I manage. Recently, 15 stories of mine, narrated over my rickety landline phone, were broadcast over the AIR external services. And I’m told there was a very good response.
- The core elements of your writings are distilled simplicity, kinship with nature and generally, a bemused view of life. How do they all flow so seamlessly?
Over the years, I think the attributes you mention have coalesced into my natural writing style. Every writer should have his own style. If everyone wrote in the same style it would get very boring. Of course, newspaper reporting is something else, they have to give information and facts that require different skills.
The personal element comes a lot in everything I write. Even if I’m writing fiction, the personal element comes. I find it easier that way in first person. And sometimes I’m writing out of my own daily life like a diarist.
- Keeping diaries is a regular practice with you. Have they helped you in mining material for your future writings and to provide emotional catharsis?
I have always enjoyed reading diarists, people like Samuel Pepys who kept fascinating records of London life. The books I enjoy so much are biographies of other writers. But not autobiographies — as writers are great liars. Like everyone else, they might hold back some less desirable parts, keep something back to not offend societies.
I enjoyed reading the biography of Edgar Allan Poe, who was such a good writer but a crazy kind of chap, full of hysteria. I also like Richard Jefferies’ ‘The Story of My Heart’.
The beauty of growing old is that you have so much more material. You have met so many more characters, seen so many events, seen so many changes. Whereas when you’re just 17, when I wrote my first book, you know so little of the world.
So writers can’t say there is no more material. Writers have no excuse to retire!
- Who is the reader in your mind you write for?
The reader is someone like me. Someone who can relate to what I’m experiencing. If I like observing birds, the reader, too, has an empathy for living creatures. If I appreciate the flight of a butterfly, he, too, has an interest in them.
- You mention some of the books you have liked to re-read. Which are those and why?
Yes, I do read a lot of books again and again. Sometimes for the style, sometimes for the characters or sometimes for the atmosphere they create. Such as ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte. I also like ‘The Quest for Corvo’ by AJA Simons.
- Why do ghosts fascinate you so much? You have written so many ghost stories.
It’s simply because I haven’t met one. So, either we’re all ghosts or they are all around and see us. Just as we don’t see stars at daytime but they exist, all of them. After all, so many people die, where do they go… they might be just floating around… (chuckles).
- Do you think that Covid, too, is a ghost?
Yes, it is. It is like nature in revolt. But I only like good ghosts.
- Do you think the printed book will stay on?
Yes, there will be all types of people, with room for all.
— Rajnish Wattas