So excited to report back with an insightful conversation with Anjum Hasan!
Anjum is one of India’s most loved writers. Novels, short stories or poems, she has worked her magic in all realms of writing. Her books have won awards, have been translated into different languages across the world and touched a billion hearts. Her accomplishments coupled with her humility make her inspiring and endearing at the same time.
I asked Anjum about certain aspects of life – she, being an explorer of human experiences and emotions, lent a unique perspective!
Her journey to becoming a writer was as surreal as her stories. It was refreshing to hear that while growing up, she didn’t face any insistence or pressure to follow the conventional path.
In her own words, her parents allowed her and her siblings to find their own bumbling way through the world. Since she loved reading and writing, she just kept at it.
As a writer, she shared a deep insight on how one could look at finding fulfilment. She says “One can think of writing, being published and having a few people read one’s work as making for some kind of arc of achievement. And this kind of success is of course gratifying. But the fact is that public or market success is hard to gain and easily lost. There is a difference between fulfilment and success even though the two are related. So can one find fulfilment in just the practice of one’s art and live, almost permanently, with some measure of uncertainty about its worth? “. I think that is a powerful question, that each one of us can ask ourselves about our relationship with what we love doing!
I asked Anjum about her message to all women who hold themselves back from doing what they want to do. Her reference to the women of past generations is what really touched me and stayed with me.
“You should, by all means, do what you love. I am really excited that more women have that freedom now and those who don’t are starting to dream of it. I think we’re living through a revolutionary time as far as women are concerned. But we also need to remember that personal fulfilment can sometimes become a kind of monstrous and unattainable ideal. I appreciate the restraint and grace of so many women of my mother’s generation who did not necessarily get to do what they loved, or even find out what this was, but still did what they had to with dignity and intelligence. I think they have something to teach us too.”
Going deeper, we touched upon how dark and difficult phases also come with a sort transformative energy that helps you bring awareness not just to where you are but also about others, their relationship with suffering and sometimes their quiet yet supportive presence in our lives during our dark phases.
“I try to put the tough and dark phases into the writing. That’s the tightrope walk. Either life gets you or you channel it into the art. This doesn’t mean that one writes about oneself all the time. Suffering has a way of making one acutely aware of the presence of others. The extraordinary fragility of human life and the extraordinary conviction that most people display in it nevertheless – that is what the dark stuff makes you see.”
We see what incredibly talented writers and artists create in form of expressive art and writing, but we seldom think about their challenges. Anjum generously shares her honest take on the same.
“The biggest challenge is to retain one’s non-conformism while also hoping to be read, understood and accepted. Writers, perhaps all artists, are always at an angle to society though that view of art is changing in these market-driven times and perhaps it will become totally irrelevant soon. But I’d still like to believe in it.”
How could we not discuss style! I love her style – like her writing, it has imagination, seriousness, sincerity and timeless charm. She also has a short story called “The Question of Style” in her latest book “A Day in The Life”. It is one of my favourite from this collection – a story about two sisters on their combined journey to finding their stylish selves. The protagonist, the elder sister, adventurously attempts to give the younger one a Lady Diana haircut 🙂 .
Anjum wonders what makes some people stylish – “I am taken with the question of what makes some people stylish and others not, and the individuality of style versus the generality of fashion”. She feels expressing oneself through style can be fun, if one has the flair for it. But there is something about the style and beauty, that bothers her
” It also bothers me that style – and beauty in general – is becoming so much about the self and one’s private world – my body, my clothes, my home, my hangouts. We’re losing the idea of beauty as something that is reflected back at you in and through your environment, that is not just a personal fetish. Our towns and cities are becoming uglier as our obsession for an expensive kind of beauty grows and that’s a puzzling and painful paradox.”
Hope you all enjoy reading this conversation and the unique perspectives that it brings with it 🙂 .
Two key pieces that made significant shifts for me were :
- The mention about women of previous generations and the grace with which they went about their lives. Their sacrifices that paved the way for our success, but the acceptance (of results that came with deliberate choices that were made) and restraint that probably didn’t get valued.
- The powerful question about fulfillment and detachment – “So can one find fulfilment in just the practice of one’s art and live, almost permanently, with some measure of uncertainty about its worth? “