‘I’m a Writer without Regrets’
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You had an unusual life, an unusual childhood.
Well, a lonely one at times. My father died when I was eight or nine, and my parents were already separated. I did have to adjust quite a bit. But in a way, that made me turn to books, to writing, to nature.
So do you remember the stories that your mother told you?
Mother didn't tell me stories. I started reading very young. Books were put on my way by my father and he would take me for walks in Delhi in the early '40s. He would take me to Humayun's tomb, Purana Qila, down those steps where Humayun fell and killed himself. He would tell me stories about these monuments and old places.
Yet as you grew up, there was a father-sized hole in your life. Now with your stories for children, are you filling the hole somehow? Are you playing father?
I'm playing grandfather because very often, I tell stories as though they were told by grandparents. And I bring grandparents into stories. Not because the grandparents told me stories. They died when I was young. But I've invented stories about them or told by them. So I may be filling the parental gap not with parents but with grandparents.
And your choice of India over going home...
Well after school, I was packed off to England. No sooner did I get there, I was longing to get back. The pull of friends, relationships, attachments more than anything else. I'm a sentimental person. I have always given priority to friendships, to relationships.
You have never gone back since...
Never been out of India since 1955, which was when I came home to a little flat in Dehradun...
You never felt like or you never had the time?