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My mother had asked me to leave India to Indians, says Naipaul


Jaipur: After Nobel Laureate V S Naipaul penned books on India with titles such as “An Area of Darkness” and “A Wounded Civilisation,” his mother asked him to leave India and write on other subjects, the Nobel Laureate said today.


The Indian-origin British author, who was born in Trinidad narrated what his mother had to say to him.  “The only Hindi word my mother carried from India was ‘beta’ and she said ‘beta please leave India to the Indians’,” Naipaul recalled during the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival.


The 82-year-old wheelchair bound author has published 30 books over half a decade and that includes those on travel.  “I came to India first because of curiosity about my ancestral land. My publisher had agreed to pay me an advance for anything I would write on India. Although it was a petty amount even then, but I felt at peace to get it. I didn’t know how to move in India but eventually I had to find my way,” he said.


Naipaul broke down at this point and his wife Nadira assisted him in wiping his tears. On the inaugural day of the festival too the author had been in tears after listening to travel writer Paul Theroux, with whom he had reportedly his first public reunion in 19 years.


Naipaul’s first travel book was called “The Middle Passage” (1962). He had also written the India trilogy starting with “An Area of Darkness” (1964), which relates to his first journey to India, followed by “India, A Wounded Civilisation” and “India, A Million Mutinies Now.”


“I began to write but I realised that I was writing frivolously and it wasn’t coming out the way it should have.  I used the term an area of wounded civilisation in an attempt to suggest the effect of its history on India of the precarious evasion,” Naipaul said.


The session on the fourth day of the festival saw Naipaul in conversation with Farrukh Dhondy in a session titled, “The Writer and the World.”


Festival organiser William Darlymple, who tweeted about the session, said, “V S Naipaul got a larger crowd on the front lawn than anyone else we’ve ever hosted- just under 6,000-more than Oprah, more even than Amitabh.  US talk show host Oprah Winfrey had visited the festival in 2012 while Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan had spoken at the event in the year 2009.


During his session, at the literary festival, Naipaul who studied at the Oxford University in Britain and became a BBC correspondent for Carribians, spoke about how he ended up being a writer.


“I was one of those people who desperately wanted to be a writer but had nothing to write about. When I had approached a publisher with my first book, he had asked me to leave that piece as it is and do something else. I was disappointed and demotivated but that’s what exactly I did, left it and wrote something else,” he said.


Naipaul also had advice for aspiring authors to be not critical of publishers when their work is not accepted.  “Everyone goes through that. Publishers must not be blamed for their indifferent attitude and unkindness. I believed in myself and my talent and believed that’s going to be all good in the end. I kept writing and it went on. That’s what you all should do,” he said.


The celebrated author said writers should experiment with new themes and style with each book.  “That’s where Dickens went wrong, he began to repeat. An author should avoid doing that,” he said.  Explaining his choice of subjects Naipaul said he always thought that it would be easier to write non-fiction but his views changed with time.


“I always thought it was easier to write non-fiction because they were facts and not constructed thoughts. When I wrote my book on Canberra Islands that’s when I realised that it is one difficult task to write real stories about real places and real people,” said the author.

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