An award-winning writer, a passionate photographer, a curator with a keen eye, Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi’s artistry explores various fragments of his being. Both his writing and photography is real and has feeling. Out with his deep, dark, honest and heartfelt memoir, ‘Loss’, his most personal work till date, Siddharth revisits the death of the three most important beings that have been and continue to be a part of his life. A Beautiful book, that liberates you, saddens you, makes you smile and tears you up at times. Loss is life, as he knows it...
You have written award winning fiction, you have authored a picture book and you have written umpteen articles on varied subjects so what inspired your thoughts to take such a personal turn in your memoir, Loss?
In 2018 my father passed away, I was orphaned. Death, Toni Morrison wrote, might be the meaning of life (and language its measure). I don’t consider my own death morbidly, or flippantly, but as one of life’s more central questions: How do I want to die? Of course, there’s no choice in how one dies, but I can consider ideas around it. The three key deaths in my life, of my mother, father, my pet, Bruschetta. What did I learn from their death? That we go on, but there’s a certain kind of fun you had only with one person and with the loss of that person dies that great, specific and deep joy you could enjoy only with them. That’s the real loss: how you took pleasure in each other and no one else can replicate that. I was thinking about these things, which turned into essays.
You relive three extremely deep bereavements of your life through the three essays – was the process painful or liberating?
Earlier this year, I woke up one morning in early January, I decided I was going to be a very different kind of writer than from the one that I have been all my life. I meant it stylistically; I veer toward minimalism and abstractionism now, thanks to seven years of curatorial practice. But more importantly, I decided to be a serious writer, which is to say I would write seriously, with all my hours, to the exclusion of most social contact. I was going to do this like a student. All my life I wrote books for friends and lovers, as gifts; they were objects of love. Now, I was going to do it for myself, as an object from my life. After the loss of my parents something changed – I was no longer a child; and after writing about their deaths, as I did in Loss, I changed again: I was now, irrevocably, an adult. Writing Loss was painful but liberating – it also released me into the writer I needed to be right now.
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Text Shruti Kapur Malhotra