This award-winning author’s art-speckled studio is endlessly inspiring
A serene oasis, tucked away in the city
My Mumbai studio is bare; there is no paint on the walls; there is a lot of light, the bedroom is chiefly white. My writing space veers between my bed and my desk, on which is a prayer book of Meher Baba and a silver incense holder Vikram Seth gave me. All the art on the walls are gifts, too. There’s a photographic work by Roger Ballen and an edition of Sooni Taraporevala’s iconic photograph, Man In the Sola Hat. In my living room is photographer Farrokh Chothia’s picture of sandals with two birds.
As a writer, I wish I could create early in the morning. Toni Morrison, a personal hero, advocates this. She writes to meet the light, which is to say, before daybreak. The times I do rise early and write, the world has a rarefied clarity—an endless blue-sky quality. I write on the computer, and I don’t like anyone around me; I like the consolation of a solitary room. But oddly enough, the place I do a lot of writing is a long-haul flight.
A photograph by Farrokh Chothia in Shanghvi’s living room
A diary from Penguin Random House to mark the publication of The Rabbit And The Squirrel
One of two living spaces in Shanghvi’s studio
A library of select books forms the back wall of his writing desk
A typewriter gifted to Shanghvi by his best friend’s daughter-in-law
A key portrait of Shanghvi’s father from his show, The House Next Door (2011)
Sketches by the Swedish artist Stina Wirsén, the illustrator of Shanghvi’s new book
Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi at his studio in Juhu, Mumbai, seated on a bench that used to be his grandmother’s swing
I wrote my first book, The Last Song Of Dusk (2004), when I was 22 and sternly disciplined: there were diary notations, writing schedules, hours spent editing. I am less disciplined now. I prefer instead to travel or speak with friends or go to the beach in Goa, where I spend most of my time. I find that the experience of life has become more valuable to me than the artefacts one extracts from it, such as books, music or photographs. In fact, my new book, The Rabbit And The Squirrel was originally a gift for someone; the first draft was a set of cards and photographs.
But one thing hasn’t changed. I continue to read the same authors I have for years: Michael Ondaatje, Edmund White, Edward St Aubyn, and, of course, Morrison. Reading your formative texts again and again is a form of riyaaz. It sends the brain into the zone of writing. It’s like putting on your boxing gloves…you know what must happen next.
The Rabbit And The Squirrel (Penguin Random House) is now on stands.
Photographs: Neville Sukhia
Compiled by: Neville Bhandara