Sunday, April 18, 2010

The modern mutiny

Aatish Taseer, author of The Temple-goers, walks Raghu Karnad through a city of ambition, horror and flowering trees. Photography by Mikma Lepcha

In his third book, Aatish Taseer’s observant eye scans from the lawn parties of  Sunder Nagar to the cement plains of Dwarka, recording the Delhi of right now. The Temple-goers is a novel about a young writer returning to Delhi, a city of scorching newness, and befriending his gym trainer Aakash, who embodies that newness. As a young Haryanvi man full of ambition, bravado and class confusion, Aakash is an easy figure to spot. Yet the detail and particularity of his character are the real accomplishments of The Temple-goers. “For a character to be ‘credible’ is my highest aim,” Taseer said. “It means he can’t be dismissed, whether you like him or not.”

How did you develop Aakash, and make him so recognisable without becoming a stereotype?
The first little throb of Aakash went through me in a story I wrote about a year before I began The Temple-goers. It resulted in a kinder, more vulnerable likeness who, at the end of the story, is cut down by the system. He sinks from being a trainer at a gym to a security guard.

At the time I was quite happy with the story, but as the months went by, I began to feel that I had underestimated Aakash. I had filled him with my own fears and reservations about the world that was coming into being in Delhi and India, and made him more fragile than he really was. When I sat down to write the novel, Aakash’s frailer twin emerged not some easy prey of the new system, but made by it, and full of resilience and survival instinct. But he is not some sociopath or amoral creature – he is someone very shrewdly aware of being in a society in which his hard work and talent might not be enough.

Full interview here Timeout Delhi 

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