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Pico likes to keep his facts right

January 26, 2009

The Times of India
24 Jan 2009
Avinash Kalla
 
 
JAIPUR: Mingling with his readers, attending sessions, rigorously scribbling notes on his pad or signing autographs, smile is something that doesn't leave the calm and composed Pico Iyer, even for a minute. "I am just having a splendid time here at the festival and it shows, I don't make an effort to smile,' Iyer said.
 
In conversation with William Dalrymple, Iyer described his journey as a writer and said he owes a lot to his stint as a journalist. "More than what I learned reading volumes of Shakespeare, I learnt from being a journalist," said Iyer who has worked with the Time magazine writing on international affairs. He further added, "Journalists write lucidly and objectively. They are all about readers."
 
When asked what is the biggest challenge he faces as a travel writer, Iyer replied, "Keeping the facts right." Elaborating further he said, "That is one of the reasons why you can see me scribbling on my pad always, I try to write all what I observe so that I can capture it when I sit back on my desk to write."
 
Speaking about Dalai Lama, on whom he has written his latest book titled The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama', he shared the bond that he had established with him at a tender age of three. "He gave my father a photograph of himself when he was all of five. I would always keep it on my table while I grew up in Oxford and could relate to him. Without even meeting him I developed a bond with him through that photograph," said Iyer who met Dalai Lama fourteen years after getting his picture.
 
The author candidly admitted that he knows his tricks when it comes to writing about travel or non-fiction, however, fiction tricks him. He shared one such trick while describing how he started when he was to write about China. "I asked myself what is that I'll write that people haven't written about China in the last 300 years? It helped me a lot and I started with writing about a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant that was so popular that people would book a week in advance for a meal."
 
Despite being a travel writer, there are a lot of places that he would like to travel to and has already made a note of them. And what might surprise many is that the prolific writer does not believe much in technology. He still uses snail mail for correspondence and does not even carry a cell phone. "I like to be old fashioned on the technology front," he smiled.
 
His last destination was Varanasi and the travel writer in him was amazed, "The city evokes extreme emotions, I have experienced both the extremes and was swinging like a pendulum. I would some time like to write a book on pilgrims and end it in Varanasi," Iyer said.
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