Q&A with Haroon Khalid
Q Why do you write?
Writing for me began as an expression of political activism. I was writing about topics I felt strongly about. My interest has particularly been non-Muslim history and heritage in the country. Through my writing not only did I want to raise awareness about a lot of these monuments which were being neglected and hence destroyed, but also wanted to raise a voice to mainstream non-Muslim history of Pakistan. Whereas I feel that part of my motivation still exists, writing for me has also become a creative expression, without which I wouldn’t feel alive enough.
Q Describe your favourite writing space.
My favourite writing space is a quiet place devoid of all human beings. I cannot write with even the smallest of distractions. I tried writing at a café once. Not my cup of tea. It doesn’t matter what the space looks like. It just needs to be empty and quiet.
Q Your favourite word?
Q Do you have a writing schedule?
I have a full time job hence I need to follow a strict writing schedule to meet my deadlines. I get done around 2, so I usually end up writing for a couple of hours every day after lunch. However, on days when there isn’t much pressure from work I do try get a few lines done at work. (I hope my boss doesn’t read this).
Q Ever struggled with writer’s block?
I have never been not able to write. I have always been able to push myself beyond inertia. However there are days when writing requires a lot of energy, struggling for every word. On better days the words flow.
Q Do you keep a diary?
Yes. I keep a track of all the books I read and review them in my diary. Usually it is a commentary on what are the different techniques the author has used and why. What was the setting of the narration like and why was it important to present the story in that particular way? Finally, if I was to write this book how would I write it differently.
I also keep a track of ideas in the diary. Books I eventually want to write. Stories I am evolving. There are certain ideas that take a long time to shape, in which writing a diary helps immensely. For example, I conceptualised Walking with Nanak for three years in my diary before I actually began writing.
Q What inspires you to write? Do you have a secret trick, or a book/author that helps?
Over the years, writing has become an essential part of who I am. It is my creative expression. It allows me to stay positive and look forward to waking up in the morning. It is my little dose of optimism.
Q Best piece of advice you’ve ever got?
Q Coffee/tea/cigarettes — numbers please — while you are writing…
Tea. At least 4 cups a day
Q Which books are you reading at present?
Just finished reading Kohinoor by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand, Faiz Ahmed Faiz by Ali Madeeh Hashmi. Now reading Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan by Stanley Wolpert.
Q Who are your favourite authors?
William Dalrymple, Jurgen Wasim Frembgen, Ryszard Kapuscinski, Jawaharlal Nehru, Naguib Mahfouz, Amin Maalouf, Ma Jian, Mo Yan, Karen Armstrong, Mohammed Hanif, Tariq Ali, Khushwant Singh.
Q Which book/author should be banned on grounds of bad taste?
I usually read very particular books so there aren’t many I would ban. However, there was one book by V.S. Naipaul Among the Believers which I found absolutely ridiculous. Also, any more fictional books on Rumi should be banned.
Q Which according to you is the most under-rated book?
A Spoke in the Wheel by Amita Kanekar. It’s a literary masterpiece.
Q Which are your favourite children’s books?
Harry Potter, Famous Five.
Q Which classics do you want to read?
A Tale of Two Cities, Anna Karenina, Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Dalloway.
Q Who is your favourite literary character?
Gora from Rabindranath Tagore’s Gora.
Q Which is the funniest book you have read?
A.A. Gill is Further Away.
Q Which is the most erotic book you have read?
The Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature
Q Which book do you wish you had written?
The Shadows of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuscinski.