Irwin Allan Sealy, born 1951 in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India is a writer whose novel The Everest Hotel: A Calendar was shortlisted for the 1998 Booker prize. His first novel The Trotter Nama was published in 1988 and tells the story of seven generations of an Anglo-Indian family. He received several awards one of which is the Padma Shri award in 2012.
Q1. What catalyzed your interest in writing?
Ans: It was all like an accident. I realized that there was a community of Anglo-Indians who were misrepresented in fiction. So, I thought that maybe I can correct that, which later led me to write my first book- ‘The Trotter Nama’.
Q2. When did you write your first book?
Ans: I was not young when I wrote it. I wrote poems as a teenager, but wrote ‘The Trotter Nama’ in my late twenties. It was in my late twenties when serious writing started.
Q3. Please tell us something about your new book ‘Zelaldinus’ and what inspired you to write it?
Ans:The book is about Akbar.Many years ago, I visited Fatehpur Sikri, but kept going there many times. ‘Zelaldinus’ is the great emperor Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar, and the story consisted of fictional events around Akbar and Irv during my visit as a tourist to Fatehpur Sikri.
Q4. Your view on the slowly vanishing world of Anglo-Indians. Is there anything the government can do to prohibit this?
Ans: I don’t think that the governments has any say on these matters. Lot of it is fate. Lot of it is just history. That’s the way history works. Every year, ‘x’ number of languages are lost in the world, because the population has dwindled and then faded away completely. In this case, the language was English, but most of them went to other English speaking countries. They still have the notion of what they were, and they still have international reunions. That history is continuing, but now in a different way.
Q5.Has the literary scene in India changed over the years?
Ans: Yes, the literary scene has changed greatly. It has spread out and lot of people are writing well. Say 40 years ago, I was not happy with the average book that I picked up, but now I do find things that please me greatly. Today’s new, young authors give me hope that literature is finally finding its footing.
Q6.What is your favourite book and who is your favourite author?
Ans: I really like Rahul Bhattacharya’s work. His book-‘ The Sly Company Of People Who Care’ is a wonderful book. I advise everyone to read it.
Q7. Your view on the censorship in India.
Ans: I believe that censorship of any kind is unhealthy. It sends literature underground. So it doesn’t mean that you’ve been silenced, it simply means that you’ve shifted your focus when you are doing something, that you would do anyway. Literature will find its way back. Literature is never lost.
Q8. Do you believe that it is important for our politicians to know our Indian history?
Ans: Absolutely! They no nothing about Indian history. (Laughs) They’ve got everything completely wrong!
Q9. On that note, do you believe that it is inevitable for us to ‘repeat history’?
Ans: Yes, but at every stage there is a movement forward. Although it’s not that history becomes less bloody, but things do improve.The future would probably be as it was in the past. But certain amount of human decency develops over time, which is extremely important.
Q10. What would Allan Sealy be if not an author?
Ans: I would have liked to paint and become a painter! (Laughs)
Q11. What are the other things that you are passionate about?
Ans: Building, gardening and painting…although I haven’t painted for quite a long time.
Q12. What is the one thing that is absolutely essential in order to become a good author?
Ans: Telling the truth is very important. A good author should always tell the truth about how he/she feels, thinks and perceives the world as.
Q13. Your advice for young readers.
Ans: Read books indiscriminately. If the book is bad, then immediately put the book down. But always keep picking up books.