Karachi has more stories than New York: HM Naqvi

Amidst the relentless din of media attention, speed of rising fame and whirlwind city-hopping tours to promote his debut novel Home Boy, Pakistani author H M Naqvi is a composed man.

Thirty six-year-old, Naqvi’s book has won the DSC Prize 2011 for South Asian Literature and he is naturally caught up in the flurry of activity that follows award-winning authors. But the author is at an unhurried pace of life, relishing every bit of the success, in slow motion.

Home Boy traces the story of three young Pakistani men in New York City, who embark on a road trip after 9/11 in search of a compatriot, who has disappeared into thin air, in an America that is changed and charged after the attacks.

Naqvi, who lived in New York for two years and also taught creative writing at Boston University, while working on his book, however, is hesitant to share his geographical coordinates at the time the attack happened, when asked if his book was heavily inspired from his personal experiences in America, at the time.

“Home Boy is a book of fiction, though the characters do draw from my personal and experiences. But there’s a lot of research that went into the book, besides that. I ate, slept, and lived the life of a cab driver in New York, to flesh out one of the characters in the book,” he offers.

The self-confessed, “recluse”, Naqvi says he led a nocturnal life, where he would write through the night, every day for almost three years like a “robot” to churn out Home Boy.

“I love to inhabit what I am writing and writing is also the only thing that I love,” he smiles. Besides, being a wordsmith of honour, Naqvi has also had an eight-year stint at the World Bank, a job that helped him make ends meet in New York. “It made a man out of me. Working in the real world gives you minute insights into life,” he confesses.

Among his other accolades are the Phelam Prize for poetry, IWP residency at the University of Iowa (renowned as a hotspot of creative writing) a smattering of appearances at book and literature events at Brooklyn, Dubai, Jaipur and others.

Nursing a flourishing writing career now, backed by a cool US $50,000 from the prize money for Home Boy, Naqvi is already on to his second book, which has his hometown Karachi as the backdrop. He’s also devoid of any mounting pressure, even though his debut book has the world’s attention now.

“There’s already so much on New York that it doesn’t excite me as much. On the other hand, Karachi is pulsating, but has never been as much written about, so I think I have more to explore there,” he explains. Truly a Home Boy, we say.


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