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My job as a writer is to over-react to the headlines: Altaf Tyrewala

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Dec 18, 2012 at 03:52pm IST

The author, Altaf Tyrewala, joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on his new book 'Ministry of Hurt Sentiments'.

Q. What is the genre you are writing in? Prose or poetry? Asked by: Sudeep Sen

A. Hi Sudeep, good question. I don't know either. Writing is a lot like rebirth: your ideas will wait and wait till they've found the right body. 'Ministry of Hurt Sentiments' looks like poetry, but I meant it be a cascade of stories and images, to somehow reflect the incoherence of modern-day Mumbai and India. I am not a poet. But I don't know if I can qualify as a novelist, either. My first book, 'No God In Sight', was a series of interconnected monologues. 'Ministry...' has probably blurred the genre boundaries even further.

My job as a writer is to over-react to the headlines: Altaf Tyrewala

The author, Altaf Tyrewala, joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on his new book 'Ministry of Hurt Sentiments'.

Q. I like to the title of this book, what are the contents of this book? Asked by: Qusroo

A. Hello, Qusroo. The 'Ministry of Hurt Sentiments' is a lot of things: it contains stories, images, sudden narrative streams that intertwine with other narrative streams, social commentary, street lingo. It is, to quote some lines from the book: "Packed with a thousand characters/ That feature for a sentence or two/ Blossoms of flesh that fade like mist/To say I Do..."

Q. Hi Altaf....just saw this new title...seems very interesting....what's it about- satire, fiction, humor? Asked by: Sandy

A. Hello, Sandy. You can check out reviews of my book at the following blog: http://ministryofhurtsentiments.blogspot.in/ I hope the reviews will give you a rough idea about the book, and hopefully encourage you to pick up a copy.

Q. The book seems to be written in free verse. What made you choose that style? Asked by: Priyanka

A. Hi Priyanka, I didn't choose the style consciously. After I finished my first novel in 2005, I made several failed attempts (six, to be precise) at writing a conventional novel. It was sometime in late 2010 when I began writing 'Ministry...' The free verse structure liberated me. It allowed me to pack in all the things I wanted to write. In retrospect, I feel the free verse structure also somehow reflects the free-for-all chaos unfolding in Mumbai and other Indian cities. I can only hope that readers enjoy the structure and content.

Q. 'Ministry of Hurt Sentiments' - interesting title. Waiting to know more about the book. Hope to get one soon.... Asked by: Sandeep Keswani

A. Please do, Sandeep, and I hope you don't regret your purchase.

Q. You paint a bleak picture of life. Though beautifully written, it is very dark. Do you think beautiful literature is always dark? Asked by: Prateek

A. Thanks, Prateek. For me, "beautiful literature" is intensely alive literature. Each sentence should be like a dynamite stick about to explode. I don't know how successful I am in achieving that effect, but that is the ideal I strive for in any case. I began writing 'Ministry...' in a certain frame of mind. That defined the book's tone. I'd like to believe that there are also moments of relief and humour in the book. But yes, once you've committed to a tone, you have to see it through the end. That is my only defense.

Q. Your book is hard-hitting and brilliantly written. Congratulations! Asked by: Radhika

A. Thanks, Radhika, thank you very much.

Q. Do you have an intended readership with this book other than the regular appreciative audience? Asked by: Sujana

A. Good question, Sujana. It was while writing this book that I finally shed the various types of audience (real and imaginary) whom I'd allowed into the auditorium of my head. It's a cliche, I know, but these outside pressures play on one's mind without one realising it. I'm not suggesting that I wrote 'Ministry...' for 'no one but myself'. That too is a cliche, and it would be untrue. I write to be read, to be (hopefully) appreciated. But I also write for someone like myself, someone who shares the intensely local worldview that I've formed over a lifetime of living.

Q. Many of the incidents you have spoken about, have of course been influenced by real events in the city? Or have you amalgamated a number of newspaper reports? Asked by: Rohini

A. Hi Rohini, I read the papers like everyone else. But my job as a writer is to over-react to the headlines. The question is: have I transformed these headlines into something interesting and unforgettable? That's for you to decide.

Q. I noticed that the different sections are not necessarily related but are linked by a single word. Great technique, if that was deliberate. Asked by: Kiran

A. It was, Kiran, it was. (Phew!)

Q. How long did it take you to write this? Asked by: Arjun

A. Hi Arjun, a year and a half. For 9000 words. Deplorable daily average, if you think about it.

Q. Is there a particular incident that led to the penning of this book? Asked by: Lori

A. Hi Lori, six failed attempts at writing a novel. That's the sort of crippling misery that led to the penning of this book.

Q. Haha. Overreact to the headlines. That's a good one. And yes, you certainly have written something unforgettable. Asked by: Rohini

A. Thanks, Rohini, much appreciated.

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