Current issue
Installation by Subba Ghosh (fragment)
Current issue
  The moving finger — 2  

  Vol III : issue 3

  Vinton Cerf
  Krishna Sobti
  Devendra Ankur
  Ashapurna Debi
Kamala Das
  Joy Goswami
  Jerry Pinto
  Only in Print

Subscribe to The Little Magazine
Order the print edition of this issue
Browse our bookstore
Browse back issues

   Mail this page link
   Enter recipient's e-mail:

Krishna Sobti

Conte on paper by Jatin Das


The creation of a text does not depend solely on the skills, talent and awareness of the writer. Behind every text lies a tradition that even in its silence has the power to influence the writer and the writing. Besides, there is the language of the people, which always treads softly.

A creative work is not a toy in the hands of a writer. It is the outcome of a writer’s mental, ideological and linguistic environment. The truth is that the script a writer uses breathes the words he weaves to create a community.

It is said that I change my language with every new work. This is not the result of an act of will. The creation imposes its own conditions on the creator. When I write, I maintain a certain detachment from my work — neither too close nor too far. Strict discipline and patience alone make this possible. It is a tightrope walk. Intimacy and distance must be roughly equidistant and must pull in opposite directions.

Let me relate the experience of writing Zindaginama. The novel was completed a little before dawn. After completing a text, I always read it out loud to myself. But how was I to read aloud this novel of 400 pages? I decided to let it be. But no, it wouldn’t leave me be.

It was a long tale, with some 500 characters and countless episodes. I read through the day. My throat went dry. I drank endless cups of coffee and cinnamon tea. Evening fell and when I finished reading the last line, it was night.

I rose from the table and paced the room. My thoughts were troubled. I felt the novel began on a weak note — too weak to carry the story forward.

I turned to the raw language and traditions of rural society. My mind’s eye saw a full-moon night, the mud-plastered courtyard of a village home. A wise elder of the village is telling a tale to the children —

Children —

Listen, children —

I took up my pen to write, but my mind was blank.

For some four or five days a struggle raged within me. Then one day I came to my desk and, without any premeditation, wrote out a line on the blank page.

Listen, children, every son is an incarnation of his father…

Thus began the tale of Aditi and Prajapati, the tale of creation.

The creation, the creator and the creative impulse are ingrained in our individual and collective consciousness. It is for the critic or reader to assess a writer’s worth.

You, I, we pluck out words from the air and weave them into stories, into our lives. We turn over the words and give them new form. Sometimes we remember them, sometimes we are afraid to remember. Sometimes we push them away to the periphery of consciousness. At other times they loom large in our memory. Sometimes, we find their many forms oppressive — we trample them underfoot and walk on. At other times we gather them from memory and turn them into letters and lines. We express the unexpressed — and sometimes capture the elusive in just one word. And time flows on, manifested in a myriad forms, melodies and songs. Time changes the import of words; it links them to human suffering.

We are born with the dawn and spend our lives chasing dreams, extending horizons. We give meaning to our beliefs and cope with the struggles of life. Shaped by custom and experience, we immerse ourselves in the endless stream of life. This is the story of every writer. It is repeated time and again. The beginning and the end are the same, and yet not the same. A writer’s distinct background and experience makes his work different from that of others. The community and society give the writer a place. A writer’s capacity to seek is his wealth. Every child born is part of an epic that was begun long ago. The child grows up, flowers and then withers away, and in the process becomes the story of the limits and limitlessness of his life. This, then, is the story, my friends. This is the human epic that we seek to write, over and over again.

Translated from the Hindi by TLM

p. 1 p. 2

Hindi fiction writer and essayist, Krishna Sobti's honours include the National Academy Award