A chat with Bangladeshi short story writer and development professional Farah Ghuznavi (picture left) on the sidelines of KLM 2013, held in association with The Telegraph.
You’ve edited Lifelines: New Writing from Bangladesh for Zubaan Books and contributed a story as well...
Bangladesh has always had stories about 1971, floods, disasters… but I realised that the stories that never get told are the stories of survival. There are many stories of resilience and remarkable optimism about life that are worth talking about.
What made you start writing?
I used to write columns for The Daily Star, the English daily in Bangladesh, off and on for 15-odd years. I loved the idea of writing fiction but was terrified. In 2005, when I was doing my second Masters degree at the London School of Economics and Political Science, there was this newspaper headline about a child domestic worker who died in hospital after being beaten by her employers. I called The Daily Star editor and said we should do something. Now, no one was quite waiting for Farah Ghuznavi to write some column about child abuse, so we thought it would be best to get one of the fiction writers to write something about this. Three days later, I sat down at my computer and the first story came to me.
Tell us about Mosquito Net Confessions that featured in What The Ink? published by Writer’s Block...
Mosquito Net Confessions came to me while I was working for Grameen Bank. It’s about two young women coming from very different backgrounds who go on a field trip together. With Grameen Bank as the backdrop, the story is essentially about finding oneself in an alien atmosphere.
Where do you want to go with your storywriting?
I want to go beyond stereotype. I will address issues like domestic violence, violence against women, child abuse or poverty, but that would just be a part of the bigger story.
What is the literary scenario in Bangladesh at present?
It’s fairly rich. The field of Bengali literature has always been quite active. English is still in the early stages. We have a couple of writers like Tahmima Anam and Monica Ali, and maybe we are not yet there, but we are fast working towards it as we have around 20-30 people who have the quality and capacity to make their mark.
How was it being at the Kolkata Literay Meet?
Calcutta is like second home for me; my family has roots here. And KLM was like being at the Oscars of the literary world! It was amazing to be in an environment where ideas are flowing. I was talking to Amitav Ghosh, Ahdaf Soueif and I could almost feel my brain expanding!