Aftab Yusuf Shaikh is the author of Letters to Ammi, the latest book in our City Series. He is a poet, writer, and teacher, who has always had a strong connection with Delhi and its history. Here, he talks about his book with us, and why Delhi will always intrigue and excite him.
A Love Letter To Delhi
1. You are from Mumbai, and yet Letters to Ammi is a love letter to Delhi. Why did you choose this city to set your story in?
I have a strange fondness for cities, especially the ones that are very old. I love Mumbai, but Delhi has made a special place in my heart for itself. I have never felt such passion and closeness for a city the way I feel for Delhi. I don’t know why. I love the Delhi of the 19th Century. Letters to Ammi is indeed a token of my love to this city.
2. The book is a journey through Delhi and some of its most famous historical monuments and locations, could you talk a little about why you chose the places you did for the book?
The present city stands upon layers and layers of Delhis and I feel very peaceful and connected to the places I have mentioned in the book. The centuries-old monuments and locations have seen innumerable events and encountered millions of people. When I am at such a place, I feel like a witness to the past and a strange connection with the millions of people who have lived there. My primary interests in life are people, cultures, history, and religion. These places quench my thirst to a certain extent.
3. The subject of loss is a very delicate one, people are usually afraid to introduce it to children. How did you approach this when writing Letters to Ammi, a story about the death of a loved one?
I am greatly influenced by human beings as a species, and one of the most striking elements in human life is death. Talking with children about death is not easy as they are very sensitive, but bringing them face to face with loss can be subtly done. Them being honest with their emotions helps. Love and loss are primary components of human life and children should understand these two from a tender age.
4. Have you written for children before? Do you find it is any different from writing for adults?
I have written for children before, but Letters to Ammi is the first book to be published. I hope I am able to tell many more stories. Writing for children is completely different from writing for adults. It takes a toll on your grownup ego and brings out the innocence buried in you. The fun and satisfaction that writing for children brings is exceptional and inexplicable.
5. And finally, do you plan on writing any more stories for children?
For sure. I have few novels for adults in my mind. Once I am done with them, I feel like writing for children all my life. In fact, I am already working on some, one of which is a book on a father-son relationship that I deeply hope will become a companion book to Letters to Ammi, which is about a mother-daughter relationship.
Letters to Ammi is being launched on 20th July at 5pm in Starmark Bookstore, Phoenix Marketcity, Chennai. Aftab will be in conversation with playwright and novelist Timeri N. Murari on the book and his connections to Delhi.