In Conversation With The Indian Fiction Project

We caught up with "Indian Fiction Project" to talk about their love for short stories, the idea behind the project, and more.

Why ‘The Indian Fiction Project’?
We started with the thought that we wanted to redefine how Indian fiction in English is viewed and this was our working title. Somewhere along the way, it just stuck, and it sums up what we’re trying to do pretty well.

If you had to describe what you do to someone you’ve just met, what would you say?
“Do you write? Do you read? You should check us out, we’re cool.”

What’s the idea behind IFP?
We realized that the Indian Fiction aisles in bookstores weren’t stacking the kind of stories we wanted to read. At the same time, writers who had the potential to write the kind of fiction that would excite us and be able to compete with the other books in the store existed in dark corners of the internet writing for a sorely limited audience. We began IFP to bridge the gap between these two communities.

Initially, what got you into this? Where did it all begin?
Sanika: I was reading Stories, which is an anthology of short stories collected by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio and that is when I realized that I wanted to write short stories too. But I didn’t know who would want to read them, so I decided to find out.
Kanika: She was very persuasive.
Sanika: Ok.

What do you prefer- the content, or the expression? Why?
How can we pick? You can’t really separate the two because neither works well without the other.

Describe a day in your work life.
Sanika: Nothing’s ever planned. We don’t really know if that’s good or bad, but it seems to be working. Kanika: But it involves a lot of Sanika being nice to people and me being mean to them.

Describe an ideal day in your work life.
Sanika: I’d like to spend the whole day writing and making stuff up.

We actually got to do that when we were planning our Hyderabad event. We had based it on the Give Yourselves Goosebumps series, so people got to make decisions and follow their own stories, and take home a folder with their personal story. We wrote this absurd story about an imaginary friend world that was in danger from a scientist who had no imagination. We wrote enough to make up a novella. It was pretty cool. We also got to travel, and that’s always fun.

What would the last line of your autobiography be?
Kanika: “No, really. It happened.”
Sanika: “Are you sure this works?”

Which one of your own works has influenced you the most?
Sanika: A story called Serendipity.
Kanika: It was a short piece for my school newspaper, about writing. I’d always thought that whatever I wrote was too ‘short’, but writing this made me realize that length isn’t as important as people say it is.

Which of someone else’s works has influenced you the most, and why?
Sanika: There’s way too many. I couldn’t pick one. But since I’m focussing on short stories, I’d have to say Neil Gaiman’s “Sunbird”, Roddy Doyle’s The Deportees and Saadat Hasan Manto’s “The Last Salute”.

What are you currently working on?
We’re writing a script for a short film, and planning our next event(s).

Are you involved in something other than this? Tell us about it.
Sanika: Masters' applications leave no time for anything else, but I try to write something once in a while.
Kanika: I’m doing the Teach For India fellowship this year and the training begins soon.

If not this, what?
We really don’t know. We can’t imagine giving this much time and thought to anything else. We spend most of our time reading and/or writing anyway.

If you were a pizza delivery guy, how would you benefit from scissors?
Sanika: I was going to say I’d stab people, but then I noticed the ‘benefit’ so I don’t think that works.
Kanika: I’d cut off parts of the pizza if people don’t tip well.

How do you balance your personal and professional lives?
We spend too much time together anyway, so we’re not sure where the ‘personal’ ends and the ‘professional’ begins. We go from talking about a book to talking about a boy to talking about how to get that boy as an intern. (:P)

If you were a box of cereal, what would you be? Why?
Sanika: Chocos, but moon and stars. Dark and weirdly-shaped.
Kanika: Cornflakes, because they’re easily available.

What would your three sentences in the game ‘Two truths and a lie’ be?
Sanika:

  1. I once got into a T-shirt with my room-mate to get our third roommate off the phone.
  2. I hang up in the middle of phone conversations and pretend that I lost signal.
  3. I accidentally kicked a baby off the top berth of the train.
    Kanika:
  4. I have been peed on in a train.
  5. I broke my foot once when i jumped out of a local train on a bet with a nine year old.
  6. I accidentally kicked a baby off the top berth of the train.

What’s your least favorite thing about each other?
Sanika: I hate waking her up. I hate it. Every time I try to do it, she mutters some variation of “hngmph” and turns over and goes right back to sleep.
Kanika: She wakes me up when I specifically tell her not to. Also - Her voice.

With regard to what you’re pursuing, do you have a story for your grandchildren?
Kanika: Grandchildren? what? children. Aaaaahh.

What has been your best experience while interacting with people who respect your work?
Kanika: When I met the director of Queer Ink, and she’d already heard about our work.
Sanika: When we went to JLF and told Eleanor Catton about IFP. She seemed really interested and she took our card too! I don’t know if she’s checked us out, but she may just stumble upon it one day and decide to.

Do you believe in the butterfly effect?
The whole point of the Butterfly Effect is that you can’t necessarily comprehend the effect of your actions. If that is so, then I suppose we do believe in it. But that also means that we can’t know what will happen, as a result of what we’re doing. It has changed a lot of things for us, though, and in a good way. So we hope that extends to anyone who chances upon our work and decides to join us.


Pssst. If you think you’d like to be doing what they’re doing, here’s your chance! Drop them a mail here and grab your chance to intern with them!

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