On 6 October 2015, the Caravan and Penguin India launched Anjum Hasan’s fourth novel, The Cosmopolitans at the Oxford Bookstore in Connaught Place, Delhi. Journalist Samanth Subramanian was in conversation with the author. Subramanian opened the session with a discussion on the protagonist, Qayenaat, and the art world that she inhabits.
The two writers also discussed Hasan’s ideas and motivation for writing about this character. Hasan shared with the audience her experience of writing about the world of contemporary art, to which she considers herself an “outsider” and that of writing about a small town in India, in the second half of the book. Both Subramanian and Hasan discussed the idea of a novel focussed on “plot” as opposed to “ideas,” and how the two concepts can co-exist.
They also discussed contemporary Indian fiction’s affinity for writing about art as a metaphor for identity, as well as the central concern of the book: “It’s hard work being a modern Indian.”