Zafar Anjum is a Singapore based tech journalist, author, filmmaker. He is founder editor of an online journal – Kitaab – that proudly promotes Asian Writers. Anjum talks about Kitaab and benefits of reading fiction and non-fiction books with Asma Rafat.
Which authors have inspired you to write?
My initial exposure was to writers such as Premchand, Tolstoy, and Tagore. A little later I discovered giants such as Krishan Chander, Bedi, and Manto. Much then, when I began to read in English, I was inspired by writers like Somerset Maugham, Khushwant Singh, and Arundhati Roy, and as I read along, by J M Coetzee, Naipaul, Marquez, Borges, and a host of other writers.
You have written books on different subjects, from Startup Capitals to Iqbal to The Resurgence of Satyam. What is the reason behind writing such different topics?
My love extends to a lot of areas. Also, choosing different topics allows me to engage with various aspects of the world. Of late, I have been drawn to non-fiction because it is also a kind of storytelling.
What was the idea behind writing Iqbal: The life of Poet, Philosopher, and Politician?
Iqbal has been one of the greatest poets that India has produced. After Ghalib and Mir, he is the most respected Urdu poet, and efficiently, the tallest among Urdu poets of the 20th century. I wrote ‘Iqbal’ because I believe that his life (he was also a politician) and times have great lessons for us in India and Pakistan today. Through Iqbal’s life, I wanted to warn the people of my country not to let another division take place in the soul of India. India’s strength lies in its pluralism, and we must preserve it at any cost.
Tell us about Kitaab.
I started Kitaab in Singapore in 2005 when I found nothing on Asian writing and writers on the Internet. I wanted to create a platform where Asian writing could be tracked, and new voices could be encouraged. Today, we are easily one of Asia’s most visited literary websites. Recently, we diversified into publishing.
What are the benefits of reading ‘fiction’ and ‘non-fiction’? Please elaborate.
Reading, in general, enriches you as a person. Fiction nurtures the soul, non-fiction, the mind. Fiction relays human experiences to you and shows you the inner life of people. It adds to your power of imagination. It can delight you, give pleasure to you and at the same time, enlighten you.
Non-fiction, on the other hand, can give you domain knowledge & information in your area of interest. Some of the non-fiction being produced today is so creative and enlightening that you tend you read them like a novel. Look at Ram Guha’s books on Indian history, on Gandhi, or Amitava Kumar’s books on Indian writing or terrorism. Read the books by Patrick French (his biography of VS Naipaul) or Samanth Subramanian (This Divided Island).