In Conversation with Meghnad Desai

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Economist Meghnad Desai on the fun he had—despite the many challenges—while writing his first work of fiction titled ‘Dead on Time’

Economist Meghnad Desai on the fun he had—despite the many challenges—while writing his first work of fiction, a political thriller titled Dead on Time

Q Why the shift from non-fiction to fiction?

A Fun. Simple. I had great fun writing fiction. And just because I’ve turned my hand to fiction doesn’t mean I’ve stopped writing non-fiction. In fact, I have another book on India due for release in September.

Q What were the challenges behind writing your first novel?

A With non-fiction, the author’s sense of the audience is clear. With fiction, that goes out of the window. I’m writing for just about anybody who may be interested in a human story. It will be interesting to someone who is not British too.

Q How long did you take to write it?

A I had written the first draft between 1995 and 1997, but it got lost. Those days, I used to write longhand and my secretary would type it out. In 2005, I resumed the novel on my laptop and finished it by 2007.

Q Do you prefer teaching or writing?

A Now, after a career in academics and teaching, I’m just bored of it. Writing gives me the greatest pleasure.

Q Who are your favourite writers? Do we see a Jeffrey Archer in the making?

A Ha ha. I don’t read novels too much. I find that after 50 pages or so, I just put them down. But in the past, I read most of the great works of Western literature—Tolstoy, Joyce, Dickens and Hardy. From the current era, I have great admiration for PD James. You will find my novel is very strongly plotted with gripping human drama.

Q Why a novel on UK politics and not India?

A Because I’ve lived in Britain, and also because of my political work. When I started this novel, I knew what I was talking about. I know how a British MP spends his day. I don’t know how an Indian MP does the same. I know the ins and outs of UK politics. I don’t know the ins and outs of Indian politics.  I know the specifics and texture of social life in Britain. So I chose to write about that.