An interview with Zafar Anjum, on his experience at Jaipur Literary Festival

January 23, 2013

When in Jaipur, with books and words…The author of "The Resurgence of Satyam", Zafar Anjum

From journalism to writing, Zafar Anjum has portrayed a beautiful transition. Currently the Asia Online Editor at Fairfax Business Media (Asia), Singapore, the author shares his ideas as well as his expectations from the Jaipur Literary Festival with IndiaBookstore. Excerpts from an interview:

1. Hello Sir. Can you tell us about your recent work and the experience you had while coming up with this?

I recently had two of my books released: The Resurgence of Satyam (Random House India) and The Singapore Decalogue (Red Wheelbarrow Books, Singapore). Both the books were launched in November at Singapore Writers Festival.
I had started The Singapore Decalogue first which is a collection of ten interconnected short stories set in Singapore. Meanwhile, I was also chasing the Satyam story. The Satyam scandal became a global business story pretty quickly after it hit the headlines in India in 2009. After all, it was India’s fourth largest outsourcing company and it was also listed on the Nasdaq in the USA. The Indian growth story was being keenly watched in the outside world and Satyam’s fall was not a blip. It grabbed eyeballs everywhere as it seemed to puncture the ‘India Shining’ story outside India. India, which was then a rising and shining outpost of globalization in Asia, suddenly had this blot on its resplendent reputation. Seemingly all was lost but not quite..
Personally, I see the story of Satyam’s turnaround as a positive story. This was a unique example to come from a place where corruption has been seen to be endemic. In the West, many companies have melted away after falling victim to financial scandals. The example of Enron comes to mind. Satyam survived a deadly implosion and how quickly it bounced back on its feet—that is an inspiring story to come from India where some much negativity floats around. That’s why I decided to tell the story of Satyam’s bouncing back.

2. As a writer, what’s the most exciting part of the "Jaipur Literature Festival" you’re looking forward to?

I have read and heard a lot about the Jaipur Lit fest and how it has evolved as the Mecca of literary tourism over the years (forgive me if that sounds too corny). Ten years ago, there were hardly any big literary festivals in India, and the first time I attended a lit fest was in Hong Kong. I am so glad to visit Jaipur and I am so excited to be there, and soak in the literary atmosphere in my own country for the first time in my life.

3. Is there any particular author you’re especially looking forward to meet?

I would love to meet a lot of writers but I become speechless when I come face to face with my favourite writers. Usually, I already know a lot of about them and I wouldn’t know how to start a conversation with them. Everything would sound so second-hand to me. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? However, I like to watch them in action, talking to others, mingling with their fans and so on. It’s like bird watching for me and I wish them all the best from a distance. I am looking forward to see and hear writers such as Howard Jacobson, Ian Buruma, Yiyun Li, Nadeem Aslam, Musharraf Ali Farooqi, Reza Aslan, Ruchir Sharma, and many many others.

4. In the larger scheme of things, what kind of role do you think a literary festival, such as the Jaipur one, plays in society?

Any literary festival, however big or small, plays a vital role in livening up the literary scene. Where else but at literary festivals we get to meet our favourite writers and ardent fans? Where else but at literary festivals we come across new voices and fall in love with them? Literary festivals are a must have on the calendar of any civilized society.

5. One parting question – if you had to write a story with the Jaipur Literary Festival as a backdrop, what kind of story would it be?

It has to be a story about a crazy writer or a crazy fan or a mad editor who catches my fancy by some quirky element in his or her character. Doesn’t that sound fun to you?

Thank you very much, Mr. Anjum for taking time out from your busy schedule for this interview with Indiabookstore. We wish you all the best for your future endeavors. 

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