We got to speak to Apurba yet again. And this time she told us quite a bit about her book journey.
How did your love affair with books begin?
My parents read a lot and it must have rubbed off. They also used to read to me, both of them. My mom would read to me in the afternoons and my dad would read me a bedtime story every day. For the first twelve years of my life, I read only Bengali literature and Bengali children’s books and magazines like Sandesh that the entire Ray family wrote for are quite amazing.
Favorite children’s book author?
Satyajit Ray. Everyone knows him as a filmmaker but he wrote amazing stories. Even the story of ET started with Ray’s screenplay called The Alien. [Check out this link to know more]. Ray also did his own illustrations. Reading this multi-talented author was my first brush with sci-fi. I particularly loved one of his characters -Professor Shonku, a mad scientist who lived in Giridi, Jharkhand. In his story Ek Shringo Abhijan, the professor goes to Tibet to find out about a Unicorn. In the process he discovers Utopia. [Check out The Incredible Adventures of Professor Shonku, the English version.]
Reading Ray built my interest in geography and history. Another detective series for adolescents was the Feluda series. Being a Probashi Bengali, Ray’s work was an eye-opener for me and an introduction to Bengali culture and food. I learned so much about Calcutta as he weaves in so much background into the stories he writes.
[Watch this interview with Satyajit Ray]
What about Tagore?
I started late, so I’ve hardly read any of the popular children’s books like Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, etc. Harry Potter is what got me started. My school had a good library and as was typical of schools, the library was the last place that the other students chose to visit., so the library became my private paradise. I read Indian authors who wrote in English as it was easier for me to identify with them and my interest in places made me consciously try to read a lot more historical fiction.
Favorite Indian writer?
Amitav Ghosh. He writes in all genres: historical fiction, fiction, magical realism….
And Shadow Lines…have you read that?
No, it was one of those books that I started and left midway. It’s happened to me with many books and I think it just means that it is not the right time to read that book. Ghosh has also written a sci-fi book called The Calcutta Chromosome but I like other books by him- especially the Ibis trilogy. I lived in Kolkata for a while and I liked to visit all the places that Ghosh talked about in his books. His books throw light on the opium trade (even the Tagores invested in the opium trade) and the indentured laborers who traveled to Mauritius and Fiji.
Any other authors you love?
Most of the authors I love are from Asia. So I really love Mohammed Hanif, Mohsin Hamid, Daniyal Mueenuddin, Tahmima Anam….A lot of writers from South Asia talk about partition and how it has shaped our psyche. I also love authors who have shaped my understanding of history like Gary J. Bass who wrote The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide and everything by William Dalrymple. I also enjoy reading Manu Pillai’s writing.
History has to be presented in a way that can be digested as it is in William Dalrymple’s books. When I moved to Delhi, the first thing I did was pick up City of Djinns. Even when my dad got transferred to Dehradun, I read up my Ruskin Bond. It was so realistic- the hills he described resembled the hills behind my own home.
In fact, this was a tradition I stuck to. Whenever I moved, I would read up and soak myself in the history of that place. I’ve read books about Delhi, Ahmedabad and so many cities as the history of cities interests me.
Any book about Bengaluru that you enjoyed?
Aditi De’s book on Bangalore called Multiple City.
Print books, eBooks or audiobooks?
I don’t have a Kindle and I do find it difficult to manage books as I move around a lot. I’ve started exchanging books instead of buying them. I’m a little wary of going digital with my reading habit. Anyway, I spend way too much on twitter anyway.
Thanks for talking to us Apurba! Was a pleasure talking to you as usual:)