Answering the unanswered questions
In a four-way conversation that took place at the India International Centre, Keki N. Daruwalla, Indian poet and short story writer, Namita Gokhale, Indian writer, publisher and festival director and Malashri Lal, writer and academic, former professor, Department of English, University of Delhi discussed with Deepa Agarwal, about the idea behind naming the book as 'You Cannot Have All The Answers.'
'You Cannot Have All the Answers', a collection of short stories takes on life's unanswered questions while dealing with issues like trauma, sexuality and prejudice.
Deepa Agarwal, before answering the queries, thanked Niyogi Books for publishing the title. She stated that she attempts to find the answers to her questions and her short stories are the evident outcome of this quest. 'But it is not possible ever for one to find all the answers.' And hence the title of the book.
While referring to the popular folktales of Vikram and Vetal and Chandrakanta, Namita Gokhale praised the author as: 'A sceptic and pragmatic writer yet rooted and grounded.' She observed that Deepa Agarwal writes both for children and adult readers, and asked her: 'How does it come when you write stories for children? Is there any particular discipline that you maintain while writing?'
To that Deepa responded that the treatment has to be different according to the age group of the readers. When writing for children, having five grandchildren, looking through their (children's) eyes, and drawing from her own treasure trove of childhood memories characteristically help her in composing the stories. They have to be less ambiguous and more explanatory, unlike when writing for adults—when mystification and less disclosure makes the narration more interesting.
To give the audience a taste of the short story collection in discussion, Malashri read out from one of the more 'adult' stories—'The Stuff of Our Dreams'—and lines like, "No dream is ever false…" and "Find the mad woman from the streets and find yourself…" resonated through the auditorium hall.
Keki N. Daruwala read out from the end part of the story titled 'The Crossing'. 'Brilliant' was the compliment he gave to this one. When Malashri prompted that he must have been able to relate more to the partition story, 'The Cradle Song', for his previous writings on the subject, he expressed that he had felt that this one must have been the most difficult story to write in the book because it is a fable set amidst a city. 'It is very touching,' he said, 'and the best part of her (Deepa Agarwal's) writing is that her treatment is original.'
Malashri observed that the time zone of stories in 'You cannot have all the answers' expand over a long period of time and asked the author for the reason behind it. To that, the author replied: "Writing a story is like composing poetry. Memories overheard conversations and research play key roles."