An Interview with Rajesh Talwar Author of the Book “How to Kill Everyone on the Planet”

TLT: I would like to begin by congratulating you on the publication of “How to Kill Everyone on the Planet.” How has the response to the book been so far?

Rajesh Talwar: Hi Akhila, thank you! Overall, the response to the book has been satisfying. Of course, the book is not a best seller, but to be honest, I never expected it to one. The good thing is that there is a far greater readership for plays these days, as compared with earlier times, although it is still significantly lower than that for novels or general non-fiction. I’m pleased to see so many more people reading plays, and my play too has been read and purchased by many. One of my Iranian friends who lives and works for the United Nations in Montreal liked it so much that she recommended it to all her friends which included a few diplomats including one serving in Delhi. I met this European diplomat for coffee a few days ago, and he really liked the concept, especially the efforts to make the tale contemporary by including scenes about the ensuing conflict and situation in Ukraine. So, the book has travelled. I do hope however that it can raise awareness at a more general level, especially among students, because the issues it raises are pressing and urgent ones.

TLT: What led to the idea of writing “How to Kill Everyone on The Planet”? Were there any events that inspired the work?

Rajesh Talwar: The idea had been brewing in my mind for many years, and I had prepared a draft. The war in Ukraine provoked me into finishing that work. You know, the West has come round to the idea of respecting nature and all forms of life relatively late. We, in the East, had this realisation much earlier. Buddhism and Jainism, which were given birth to in India, particularly spoke of the right of all living beings to exist as co-equals to the human being. It is another matter that these days, many Indians, which include some of the more avowedly religious ones, have lost touch with our ancient teachings. Anyhow, I wanted to write about what we, the human race, are doing to our beautiful blue planet from an Eastern perspective. Nations can be referred to as male and female; you have Fatherland in Germany and Motherland in India and other places. However, in practically all cultures in the world, Planet Earth is feminine. It is Mother Earth, no matter which nation, which culture. Why? Because she has given birth to us. Father Earth would only provoke hilarity. Now, India is one of the few places in the world that continues to worship the sacred feminine. The earth is our mother, but just stop to think how terribly we treat it! It is for this reason too that I have chosen the term ‘nuclear matricide’ in the subtitle to the book, instead of ‘holocaust,’ which has, unfortunately, now become a tired and cliched expression.

TLT:  How easy or difficult was it for you to write on a subject that held relevance for all and remain objective about them in “How to Kill Everyone on The Planet”?

Rajesh Talwar: Thank you for picking up on that, Akhila! All of us carry prejudices inside but it is the calling of the writer to write the truth without any prejudice, or with as little prejudice as possible. So, I believe when you write a book such as the present one, you have to write with a high degree of self-awareness and objectivity, and this is, of course, not always easy. In the scenes on Pakistan, for instance, I had to tell the truth about the possibility of Islamic terrorists trying to influence the Pakistani government to launch a nuclear attack, and not soft-pedal it. At the same time, I had to speak of the well-intentioned and sensible Pakistanis.

TLT:  What are your views about present-day writing? Do you think it does complete justice in depicting human nature in the light of “How to Kill Everyone on the Planet”?

Rajesh Talwar: Alas, I don’t think we have so many great writers writing these days although we have many more people writing. Part of the reason for this I think is the lack of patronage and encouragement. It would not be fair for me to comment on whether contemporary authors are depicting human nature with justice, but I can say this much. There is a wealth of talent out there, and governments and private institutions need to encourage and foster such talent by introducing multiple awards and fellowships that are genuine and merit based. I don’t say that this should be done only for writers, but for artists, painters, playwrights, sculptors, cartoonists, and all such creative people. As a matter of fact, there should even be awards for the best literary magazine of the year! Not just a single award but a few, so that the awards too have to compete with each other. They too will be judged for their integrity and fairness. That should stir things up a bit! Its excellent that we now have schemes for the poor, and underprivileged, but let’s look after our creative artists too. We should realise that this is part of India’s soft power build-up that can have huge, beneficial consequences in the future.

TLT:How to Kill Everyone on the Planet” shows the uniqueness of your style of writing. Are there any authors that you enjoy reading or any books which are your favourites?

Rajesh Talwar: There are many authors I love, such as Proust, Maupassant, Oscar Wilde, Kafka, George Orwell, Dostoevsky, Tagore, Manto, and Prem Chand. Within the spiritual genre, my all-time favourite books are Tagore’s Gitanjali and Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet. In political fiction it would be Animal Farm. Other favourites include Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, and Wilde’s The Portrait of Dorian Gray.

TLT: How would you categorize “How to Kill Everyone on the Planet” as its appeal seems to be to a broad audience?

Rajesh Talwar:  Yes, I believe it does appeal to a broad audience across different genres. For instance, it can interest sci-fi addicts, but also appeal to those interested in geopolitics and war. It may appeal for animal lovers and rights advocates. It may also interest spiritual people, if not religious people. Since it defies classification but must nevertheless be classified, I suppose you could best describe it as cross-genre, or multi-genre.

TLT: “How to Kill Everyone on the Planet” has given a powerful introduction to your potential as a writer. Can the readers expect more from you in the future? Would you please share about your future projects?

Rajesh Talwar: I’m sort of addicted to writing, Akhila. There is hardly a day in my life that goes by when I don’t write something. Sometimes I have to tell myself, ‘No writing today, just relax!’ But that doesn’t happen so often because I guess writing is itself a kind of relaxation for me, which allows me to vent out my thoughts and feelings. So, you can definitely expect more! In a month or so I have two short novellas coming out with the title: ‘How I Became a Taliban Assassin & The Murder that Wasn’t,’ which I hope you will be kind enough to review in your journal. That will be my last book for this year. In the pipeline is a collection of short stories, a genre that I have not attempted before. There is also a book on Gandhi nearing completion, that may offer a fresh perspective on his life and thought.

TLT: What is the story behind the title of your work, “How to Kill Everyone on the Planet”?

Rajesh Talwar: I spend a lot of time thinking over a title, Akhila, and I urge all fellow writers to do the same. I have two writer friends, each of whom wrote an excellent book, but unfortunately, they chose terrible titles. As a consequence, their books were little discussed or noticed. They both deserved much more media attention and coverage. Of course, publishers must help with the titles, but at the end of the day, it’s your own book. Every author needs to consider all aspects, including incidentally the cover. After all that effort you make in writing a book, you need to think hard about a title that fits the subject matter but also has the potential to draw the reader in. For this particular title, I spent about ten days thinking of various options, of which three days were sleepless. I also spent two days agonizing over whether it should be ‘How to Kill Everyone on Our Planet’ or ‘How to Kill Everyone on the Planet’ before finally deciding on the latter as more suitable. When this title came to my mind, I thought what a great and relevant title, but surely it must already have been taken. After all we have been doing everything possible to destroy our planet! To my very great surprise and relief no one had taken this title.

TLT: How easy or difficult was it for you to write about your observations without hampering the readers’ perception in “How to Kill Everyone on the Planet”?

Rajesh Talwar: I do believe that you need to write engagingly and while writing fiction you need to be careful not to smother the narrative with too many facts. What was helpful for me was that in the story itself, as you know, there are these aliens speaking, and I could put some of my own observations into their mouth, without it appearing odd to the reader. Yes, a reader could tell himself, of course aliens would see it this way!

TLT: In the present time, situations in “How to Kill Everyone on the Planet” do not find much mention. What, according to you, could be the possible reason for that?

Rajesh Talwar: Unfortunately, we humans possess a great capacity for self-deception. It is far easier indulge in a blame game. We are good, we are kind; it’s the others who are evil and cruel. We need to look at ourselves more dispassionately, and judge our own actions more carefully, and only then will we start to discuss more intelligently those situations which are creating a collective danger for the planet, and as a consequence for humankind and all beings that live here.

TLT: If you were to describe your book “How to Kill Everyone on the Planet” in a few words without giving any spoilers, what would those words be?

Rajesh Talwar: Intricately plotted, multi-genre fiction describing human endeavors at various levels across the globe to try and end all life on the planet!

TLT: “How to Kill Everyone on the Planet” is a work that is one of its kind. How do you think this work will be instrumental in shaping the perceptions of not just the present generation but also the ones to follow?

Rajesh Talwar: I do hope that the book can shape the perceptions of the present generation, because otherwise there may be no future generation left to influence! As Albert Einstein said, the fourth World War will be fought with bows and arrows.

TLT: Thank you very much for sparing your time. I look forward to reading more books from you in the future. All the best.

Rajesh Talwar:

Thank you, Akhila for your interesting and incisive questions which I enjoyed responding to. And all good wishes for The Literature Today!

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