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Clouds – Chandrahas Choudhury

Clouds – Chandrahas Choudhury

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Clouds – Chandrahas Choudhury

Akshyata Ray

All your characters – Farhad, Mehlata, Rabi and even Eeja – have such powerful character arcs and personalities of their own. Are they all figments of your imagination, or have you drawn them from people in your own life?

They are carefully worked on characters from my imagination!

 

Rabi belongs to Tininadi. Is this a purely fictitious place, or is it based in a real town? Also, as an Odiya person living in Mumbai, is the novel in any way reflective of your own grapple with identities?

Tininadi is a fictitious place. All of us must grapple with some conflicts in our identities. The novelist’s job is to be able to dramatise such conflicts meaningfully.

 

The fable of the cloudmakers is so detailed, interesting and indeed exhilarating. Was it inspired by a fable? What was the process of imagining it like?

No, I have invented the cloud religion and the myth of Cloudmaker. As you can guess, the freedom of inventing a whole new religion was one of the most pleasurable parts of writing the story.

 

There are many novels based on Mumbai, but yours excels in complicating identities of those who live here. What drove you to intersperse the narrative of Farhad, an urban Mumbaikar with that of Rabi, a tribal from Odisha?

I wanted to write a double-sided novel telling radically different stories about Bombay and India today, but united on some thematic level and of course by place. Also I wanted to write a city story and village story without throwing all the elements into one story.

 

Rabi, in the later course of the novel, takes a very drastic step. As the writer and creator of the character, what was the motive behind Rabi’s move?

Rabi finds himself in a very strange predicament: as a person menaced by a certain kind of politics and development in modern India who does not want however to be defined and pinned down as a person by that conflict. Like all young people, he wants to explore the world and even the darkness and light within himself, and in his period of “exile” in Bombay he comes to an awareness of his own potential as a moral agent. So he turns his back on his mentor and becomes one of the anonymous people you meet while walking anywhere in Bombay,

 

All your characters have very diverse philosophies and perspectives – be it religion or in politics. Which character’s ideology, if at all, would you say is most like yours? 

Actually, writing the characters’ worldviews makes me rethink or develop many of my own positions on life. I guess I have something in common with all of Farhad, the professor of literature Hemlata and even the trickster-storyteller Bhagaban.

 

What is the future course of the characters? Will Hemlata and Farhad meet in San Francisco? What will happen to Eeja? Will there be a book preceding the current one, stating the future course of their lives?

This is a very good question. I had thought of a sequel to Clouds but not a prequel. Even I am curious to know what happens to Farhad and Hemlata (less so Eeja). Let’s give it four years and see if they have something more to share with us. Till then, you can always reread Clouds! I have put in some things in it that don’t appear till a second reading.

About the Interviewee:

Chandrahas Choudhury grew up in Bombay and his native Orissa, was educated at the Universities of Delhi and Cambridge, and now lives between Delhi and Mumbai. His book reviews appear in the National, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. He is also the editor of the anthology of Indian fiction India: A Traveller’s Literary Companion published by HarperCollins.