Tasnima Yasmin: Congratulations on the publication of your book “On The Banks of Connolly Canal”. We would like to know why did you choose the name Connolly Canal?
PJ Thobias: Connolly Canal is a canal dug during the British Times by an enterprising British civil servant by name Henry Valentine Connolly to connect the many water ways on the west coast of Kerala to render navigation possible from the north to south of Kerala. The story takes place in the fictional village of Korattur on the banks of this canal where I happen to live now.
Tasnima Yasmin: Are your characters based on real people?
PJ Thobias: Not really. But I cannot entirely rule out some similarities with people who lived some decades back of whom I have heard of and have acquainted with. But such similarities are sometimes exaggerated or under played to make the book more readable and to knit the story together. It cannot be said that the characters are based on people who really lived in this part of the world, they are more like fictional characters.
Tasnima Yasmin: From where do you draw the inspiration for your writing?
PJ Thobias: My first book was written at the instance of my friends and children who seem to enjoy my conversations with them. These conversations often drew from my past experiences. The first book ‘Corporate Comedy’ is a satire describing the torturous journey of a young man through the corridors of Indian Public Sector Undertakings. I immensely enjoyed writing this book. Often it was like being transported into another world and, I must say, it lit up my retirement years. Coupled with my own experience and the feed backs I received, there was no reason not to attempt another book.
Tasnima Yasmin: What made you want to write a book about rustic characters?
PJ Thobias: All my childhood days I lived in a village and I had my school education in the village schools. It was after I entered corporate life, I moved into big cities and spent the better part of my life in the hustle and bustle of metros like Bombay and Delhi. But memories of my younger days in those serene and invigorating environs lingered on and I felt compelled to transfer my thoughts into a book
Tasnima Yasmin: Do you think that the setting is another character of the text?
PJ Thobias: Well. Connolly Canal meandered through the paddy fields of Korattur bearing in its depths the many untold stories of the folks who lived on its banks. The canal lends the story a sense of permanence and serenity.
Tasnima Yasmin: How often do you write?
PJ Thobias: I have written only two books. As I said before writing often lifts me to a state of ecstasy and I feel new windows opening in my mind looking over hitherto unseen vistas. I experience my retirement years being lit up by this activity. So, I don’t see any reason not to continue writing, granting God bless me with good health and a cheerful disposition.
Tasnima Yasmin: Which contemporary Indian writers in English inspire you?
PJ Thobias: Among the Indian authors writing in English, I particularly enjoy the writings of R.K.Narayan, especially his first novel (I am not sure) Swamy and his friends. Another author I follow is Arundhati Roy. I regularly read the books of Salman Rushdie.
Tasnima Yasmin: What was the idea behind the book cover of this book?
PJ Thobias: If you have read the book you would readily identify it as a scene where Cherry and his friends were having fun in the canal and Cherry standing on the railings of the foot bridge poised for a dive.
Tasnima Yasmin: What are your upcoming books?
PJ Thobias: Well, I have no idea at the moment. May be one of these days another idea will take possession of my mind and I will be inspired to write another book.
Tasnima Yasmin: What is your favourite genre of literature?
PJ Thobias: Satire is my forte. But I often shy off from satires for fear of readers probable indifference to my brand of fun.