Sharjah: Bestselling and critically acclaimed Indian author Anita Nair has praised Sharjah International Book Fair for turning the spotlight on readers.
“Unlike regular book fairs which tends to be all about the publishing industry, the Sharjah International Book Fair is a cultural event focusing more on the readers,” she said at the start of a conversation with moderator Chitra Raghavan, an academic, at the Intellectual Hall in SIBF on Saturday.
“Walking through the crowded halls and seeing the programmes featuring inspiring talks and discussions with novelists and writers from all around the world, I believe, this is truly a book fair where the reading public is in the spotlight, and I am grateful to be here,” said Anita, author of Ladies Coupe and Eating Wasps, amongst several other novels and short story collections.
Calling herself a “closet writer”, Anita said her journey to becoming an author was “one of serendipity.”
A former advertising professional, she recalled how in the days before the internet era, she would print out stories she had written on the office printer. “One day, I inadvertently left a story behind which caught the eye of a colleague. That was the first time someone, apart from myself, had read my work. He introduced me to his friend, a journalist, who, after reviewing more stories, suggested I should look for a publisher.”
“I would still have been writing in private if it weren’t for this advice,” said Anita, who has since won many national and international awards.
She sets her stories chiefly in the rural villages of Kerala, her native state in the south of India, as she is not comfortable in the urban milieu. “My characters are drawn mainly from small towns in Kerala and Tamil Nadu as these are places and people I am familiar with,” said the writer.
“I understand their humour and slang, how lyrical they are in their native tongues, and the colours and scents of these landscapes.”
“My characters are grounded in their Indianness and this Indianness is what I try to capture in my books,” said the author, whose latest novel, Eating Wasps, looks at how society shuns women who express their desires.
“While my 2001 novel Ladies Coupe was about women trying to find their identity, Eating Wasps looks at the constant challenges women go through, be it patriarchy, or the all-pervasive touch of technology, to preserve their identity and stake their place in the world.”
“We are becoming a generation of people where social validation is becoming increasingly important; even an everyday meal has to be recorded and Instagrammed,” said the author who advised students in the audience to refrain from allowing social media to be the sum total of their existence.
When asked about her role models, the writer answered, “The pitfalls of being a writer is that you see people for who they really are; and you really do not want to put them up on a pedestal.”