You’ve been chosen for Sahitya Akademi’s highest award, a fellowship. Why?
No writer works for rewards, but if recognition comes, it is gratifying.
Do you think you deserve an award reserved for the 18 best living writers of India?
My job is to keep working, and it is for others to judge the quality and quantum of my work.
If your books are that good, why haven’t you won any prizes outside the akademi?
I hate to boast but I’ve received more than 30 awards, including the Ghalib and Amir Khusro awards. But I have never entered any of my books for a prize, not even for the fellowship.
You stood for re-election as the akademi president in 2007, but dropped out. Why?
I had decided not to contest. But 70 per cent of the general council nominated me.
Rumour has it that you transferred your votes to the winner, Sunil Gangopadhyay?
Writers are nobody’s votebank, they are individualists. Sunil deserved to win.
Did you transfer your votes in exchange for an assurance of the fellowship?
Gossip is the last resort of the frustrated. I have written 64 books, more than many others whose names were proposed.
Is it true the akademi’s fellowship will now be given to all retiring presidents?
There’s no such decision. Fellows are elected only on literary merit.
Which writer would you like to see getting the next fellowship?
I’m an outsider at the moment, but during my tenure I gave fellowship to Amrita Pritam, Nirmal Verma, Kartar Singh Duggal and others.
Who’s responsible for the akademi turning from literary institution to petty politicking?
The akademi strictly follows its constitution and conventions, and will continue to do so.
What are you working on now?
A Hindi version of my work on Urdu ghazal and the Indian mind.