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"I never thought I would see in the flesh J.M. Coetzee - that was one of the most important moments for me in the last few days." - File Photo

Jaipur, January 26, 2011.

Well, festival is over and I am headed home with crowded memories, copious notes and a copy of ‘Book Shelf’ by Sunil Sethi, the NDTV host who has collected together his literary interviews in this book, which I am looking forward to reading. He was very much there at the festival, though at that busy, overflowing venue it was not always easy to locate friends and acquaintances.

I finally managed to catch up with H.M. Naqvi, winner of the DSC prize, at the Writers Ball at the close of the festival. The ball was held at a positively spectacular venue: on a series of terraces at the foot of the floodlit Amer Fort with fairy lights illuminating a geometrical Mughal garden, adjoining arched and paved areas where dinner was served. This is my conversation with Naqvi:

Q: How does it feel to have won the DSC Award?

A: It feels fabulous. I have been writing since I was 5 years old and I will continue writing till I am dead. I write because I have an itch which I need to scratch and I also need to earn a living. The prize is a wonderful development. To me it is an acknowledgement of the hard work that went into creating ‘Home Boy’ - the four years I spent under difficult circumstances working on it.

Q: How will it affect you in other ways?

A: I have not had the luxury to dwell on the ramifications of the prize as I yet. I hadn't been thinking much about the prize when I got to Jaipur, I was just happy to participate in the festival. While I was sitting there [during the announcement ceremony] I felt a palpable anxiety - the award ceremony was dramatic like the Oscars or the Golden Globe Awards - and it was then that I thought about the possibility of being one of six to get this prize.

Q: Have you enjoyed the Festival?

A: I was here last year and I enjoyed myself thoroughly as I did this year. It is a wonderful animate festival and it approaches fiction in a holistic way. Although it has a South Asian character, it also has an international character. I never thought I would see in the flesh J.M. Coetzee - that was one of the most important moments for me in the last few days.


Muneeza Shamsie , in Jaipur.