Futureverse Podcast
Ep. 6: Janice Pariat. Nature, Indigenous Perspectives, and Climate Hope

Ep. 6: Janice Pariat. Nature, Indigenous Perspectives, and Climate Hope

Molly and Ramanan speak with Janice Pariat, the author of Everything the Light Touches.

In the latest episode of Futureverse, Molly Wood and Ramanan Raghavendran interview poet and author Janice Pariat. They chat about her latest novel, "Everything the Light Touches," and how her passion for nature and the environment has influenced her writing.

The conversation explores how resistance and the unpredictable nature of the universe are depicted in her novels and how indigenous cultures provide different perspectives on living in the world. Pariat reflects on the power of storytelling and hope in addressing climate change and emphasizes the importance of love, care, and taking a long-term approach to tackling the ecological crisis.

Time stamps and the full transcript are below. This episode is also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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Show Notes

[02:10] Janice's Relationship with Nature and How it Influenced Her Writing 

[10:35] The Need for Love and Care in Conversations about Climate Change 

[13:48] Resistance and Arbitrary Orders 

[15:07] Janice's Personal Experience of Belonging and Identity 

[19:00] Janice’s Perspective on Climate Change and Deep Time 

[23:37] Craft of Prose and Different Viewpoints When Writing

[34:57] Writing as an Act of Hope, Resilience, and Transformation 

[37:39] Importance of Indigenous Stories and Their Wisdom 

[39:33] Janice’s Book Recommendations 

Janice [00:00] Are we being good ancestors? What are we leaving behind? And without asking that question, I think it becomes very difficult to imagine solutions that are sustainable and long-term so that they benefit not just our children or our children's children, but our most distant descendants.

Molly [00:23] Welcome back to Futureverse, a podcast centered around climate fiction and how it helps us imagine our way forward through climate uncertainty. I'm Molly Wood, and I'm joined, as always, by my co-host, Ramanan Raghavendran. We invest in technology companies with a climate focus, but we also love to read a lot.

Ramanan [00:44] We especially love climate fiction or fiction that is somehow inflected with climate, which we both think helps us imagine a way forward in the face of the challenges we face.

Molly [00:54] In this episode, it's a little bit different. We're talking with poet and author Janice Pariat about her latest novel, Everything the Light Touches. The novel is set in India and Europe across different centuries and personalities, and among other things, it explores the impact of climate change on the natural world and human relationships. Janice is a beautifully gifted writer who has a deep understanding of the natural world, and a powerful storyteller who can weave together multiple perspectives and time periods to create a truly immersive experience.

Molly [01:23]  And she's won many awards for her novels, including most recently, the AutHer Awards in 2022 for this book, we'll be talking about today, Everything the Light Touches.

Ramanan [01:33] And I'll add another award in the making. The book was just long-listed for the JCV Prize, one of India's most prestigious. It's a newer prize, but it's one of India's most prestigious literary prizes. We're super excited to talk to Janice about her novel, her writing process, and our hopes for the future. Thank you for joining us on Futureverse, Janice.

Janice [01:52] I'm very, very happy to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Molly [01:56] I really want to start by asking you about this passion for nature and the environment that's so evident in this book. And I wonder where it came from. What gave you this kind of deep relationship and love for all things the natural world?

Janice [02:10] Well, I wish I could say that it's a sustained and long relationship, one that had been nurtured in my childhood and one that stayed throughout and emerged passionately in a book like this.

But honestly, perhaps like all relationships, it's one that's been slightly contentious, slightly filled with friction. Sometimes nature, the natural world hasn't quite featured in my life in any meaningful or powerful way. Honestly, I lived in big cities, New Delhi, London, and you get taken up by all the things that you need to do to survive in a big city like that.

So even though I did grow up in the wilds of Assam, here in northeast India, where I was quite the solitary child, and I was sort of left on my own to roam around the orchard and feed the ducks and go off on little walks and climb trees… Life happened and cities happened and university happened and all of that. And I think very slowly, ever so slowly, the natural world, nature made her presence felt again, perhaps much, much later in life. I think it began when I had a seed of an idea for this novel, when a botanist, the character of a botanist, took shape in my head. And I thought, well, if she's interested in botany, then so must I be interested in botany.

If she loves plants, so must I. And somehow the years peeled back and somehow I returned in some way to the forests and the wilderness of my childhood. But to be very, very honest, I think it was the Lockdown years, as we call them now, I think the COVID years that brought the natural world back into my life in a very powerful way. And not because I was locked away or locked down in a beautiful space like this, like Shillong.

I was actually in my little flat in Delhi, but I was very lucky to have a little garden out front. Very, very lucky, very privileged to have that, because there was not much to do apart from write at the back in my study and then step out for a cup of tea in this little patch of green. There began this almost umbilical connection between the writing and this little green space, and one sort of fed into the other in very meaningful ways.

And I realized that because the gardener couldn't come in and I had to take over and look after these living beings, these green living beings, I began to pay much more attention to what they needed. Did they wish for more light or for more shade? Did they need more water or less? Did they require to be moved or shifted in any way? And I realized that in that stillness and in that constriction, I suppose that we all felt — plants, which are immobile, they don't tend to move vast distances.

I realized that in their stillness there was a connection to seasons, to the light, to rain, to wind. There was a connection to the universe. You didn't have to move all the time to be connected to the world. You could be in one place and still be transformed. So I think all of that fed into my life and, of course, consequently, into my writing of this book.

Ramanan [06:27]  Got it. That was beautifully said. And I want to pick on one thing we touched on at the beginning, and I just want to come back to it. You're in Shillong, where you grew up. It's the hometown of one of the main characters in the book, Shai, but you've also worked and written in a multitude of places, from the UK to South Korea, you know, these are places you've lived. How does this inform your writing? And that's a very broad question. So you can take it in any direction you wish. How does it all feed into prose on a page or poetry on a page in your case?

Janice [07:05] Well, for this book in particular, of course, the idea at the heart of the novel is one of entanglement and connection. And so I think having led a rather nomadic life — yes, I grew up in Shillong, in India's northeast, tended to live in many places and moved around a lot for work, for studies, for further studies and all of that.

But I think having those experiences that sort of opening up to the world in that way because you can't travel, at least for me, I can't travel meaningfully and remain closed and remain inward. In some way, a part of you needs to open up to where you are for it to be a place that allows you into its stories, that allows you to find meaning.

So having, I think, had to move around a lot and having had to live in many places has reinforced that idea of entanglement that in some way, and as cliched as this may sound, everything really is connected in the strangest, most unpredictable, sometimes even inexplicable ways. So in the book, for example, you’re very right, you know one of the characters is from Shillong, from India's northeast. She encounters and lives with an indigenous community here who is fighting off attempts to mine their land for uranium. 

In the same space of the book, you have the story of Linnaeus in 1732 setting off on an expedition to Lapland. And you wonder what on earth connects these stories? And I hope, of course, that the book gently offers you some answers to that and some insight into that. But they are connected. Linnaeus’ way of seeing the world connects to Kongspilati, the face of anti-uranium mining in northeast India, in our very present here and now.

And so I think having to move and having to travel and having to shift and constantly negotiate newness and unfamiliarity has perhaps helped me try and find connection more than ever, try and find stories, how stories have these vast trajectories, even if they feel seemingly removed in time and geographical space.

Molly [10:00] I want to ask you, you know, Everything the Light Touches is not explicitly about climate change but as you pointed out it is about this profound and enduring and generational relationship with nature and with each other. I for one can easily get a little bit technocratic sometimes living in the Bay Area and doing, in the tech industry, in the heart of it. But you're reminding us about this sense of love. And I wonder if we need more of this sort of sense of love and care in our conversations about climate change.

Janice [10:35] I think we do, because where else do we begin to heal ourselves and the world if not from care and love?

Molly, I think you mentioned that you were reading Braiding Sweetgrass and Robin Kimmerer says this in one of her essays one of her chapters there, that we need to realize that in healing the Earth, we heal ourselves and also the other way around.

If we perhaps don't feel that love, then what are we motivated by? If we don't feel that care, what space are we moving from? And how does our campaign, our project, how is it sustained, then, if not through this deep care and love that we feel towards the only home that we have and a home that is generous and bountiful and abundant and beautiful? And truly not only offers us everything that we need to thrive, to survive, and to live in but also offers us ways of learning how to live on this planet.

Kimmerer also says that we are the youngest, us humans, we're the youngest of all our brothers, of all of creation, and we are the ones who need to learn and journey the most because we've appeared on the Earth so much later than other species. And I suppose that's where this sense of love and care for a greater family, I think for me at least, comes in. When I walk into a forest, the connection is ancestral. For me, I feel as though I've walked into a family gathering of elders and I'm very young and I walk in there rather ignorant, and I have so much to learn. And I think in that willingness and that wish and that desire to learn, to ask of this world, what may you teach us? Is the love and care that we need to find long-term solutions?

Ramanan [13:12] Thank you for sharing that. That was beautiful. I must confess, I feel a burning need to immediately go to a forest, but I'll resist that for the moment. And on the topic of resisting, the book, in some ways felt to me it was a resistance novel. And there are various forms of resistance in it, but one of them, which is an abiding thread, is resisting the imposition of an arbitrary order. And the tension between Linnaeus and Goethe is the most significant of those. And it's just really interesting, you know, modern India is a composition of arbitrarily imposed orders of various kinds. You know, the caste system as we know it.

[13:48] How much of this was in your mind as you were writing the book? And do you see this pushback against the ordering of the universe, the order of things, as it were? Do you see that as being a thread? In future?

Janice [14:18] Thank you so much for bringing that up, Ramanan. It's something that's very close to my heart, and maybe I can try and explain why. So while I come from Shillong, and I grew up in Shillong, it begins from a deeply personal space. So while I grew up in Shillong, and I'm from Shillong, in some ways I'm also not. I'm quite ethnically well, unusually ethnically mixed. My mum's side of the family has Portuguese and indigenous Khasi heritage, and my father's side has mixed British and Khasi heritage. So I'm from here, but in some ways, I'm also from everywhere.

[15:07] And I think I've spent a lot of my life trying to understand where do I fit in and where do I belong and who really am I?

And even when I'm home, in Shillong, I'm often asked are you Khasi? When I'm in Delhi or Mumbai or Bangalore, I'm often asked, are you Indian? When I'm abroad, people just ask me, “where are you from?” because they can't quite place me, they can't quite categorize me. And I think because I've spent so much of my life trying to negotiate that and deal with that, it's become in some way so deeply embedded in me, in myself, in my body.

And I only realize this now, it has made its way or permeated my fiction throughout my writing life. So even though I've written four books, I think yes, four, and they've all been wildly different from each other. One was a book of short stories set in and around Shillong. One was a retelling of a Greek myth. One was a fictional biography told through love. And Everything the Light Touches, of course, is an exploration of these tussles between our different ways of seeing and being in the world.

Although each of them have been very different, they've all, in some way or the other tried to dismantle or question or resist categories or our propensity to categorize into these immutable boxes the world around us, people around us, animals, plants, lives, knowledge. And of course, Everything The Light Touches is the most blatant, the most obvious, the most impassioned denouncement of that propensity to box and to label. So I think it's always been there, and perhaps in some way it will always be, because it's always a part of my life. And what we write is an extension of ourselves. Can't really get away from that.

Molly [17:32] This is actually thrilling for us because we have wanted from the outset of this podcast to have a truly global set of voices. And you are coming to us from Shillong, your hometown. Are you living there now? Are you visiting? What's the relationship right now with Shillong?

Ramanan [17:50] What's the story here, Janice?

Janice [17:54] It's complicated, as they say. But no, I'm here for the summer, for most of the summer at least. And I will be in Delhi, in New Delhi soon-ish because I teach there, I work there, so I'm fashionably in between two places. For now.

Molly [18:15] I want to ask you about, we were talking a little bit about this weaving together. You were talking about the different ways of being in the world and experiencing the world. And we've touched on kind of the tension between this arguably technocratic or logical or need-to-organize-and-dominate approach. But there's also this question of time and Everything the Light Touches shifts between time and incorporates climate into all of those times and timelines. And so I wonder, tell me how you think about the relationship we've always had with climate, with, of course, the acknowledgment that we've heated things up much more quickly.

Janice [19:00] Yeah, much more quickly presently. Well, to be very honest, it's a book that of course includes and embraces climate change, the ecological crisis that we're facing at the moment, here and now.

But I'd like to think that the book tries to historicize what seems to us to be a very contemporary concern. It's trying to place this ecological crisis, the climate change crisis, within a vast, deep geological time. So, yes, there are four timelines that move within the space of the novel, but I would like to think, or at least I hope it works that way, that Shai offers us the vaster trajectory, the deep geological time that I'm trying to place all of these stories within.

I know that even the term “crisis” seems to carry such a present urgency to it. It feels as though we're tussling with climate change now and we have to deal with the ecological crisis now. But I think working on this book, working on Everything the Light Touches, helped me inculcate a long perspective. And within this long perspective, I could sense that the roots of what we're facing now began a very, very long time ago, in the passion and fury of the European Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries. So it didn't just begin in the last few decades, the last hundred years, even.

It began much, much before that. So the long perspective gives us this, it gives us the ability to look back in deep time, to look back at longer, deeper roots. It encourages us to seek wider context and wider understanding so that we may be able to look into the deep future and try and work out more sustainable solutions. And I don't think that would be possible without acknowledging this kind of fracture that something like the Enlightenment engendered in us.

So the long perspective, it's a bit like the Greek god, it's a bit like Janus. It allows us to look back, but it also allows us to look into the future in some way and to hold that vast trajectory of time, to cradle that vast trajectory of time, because we are part of it. We are a very small part of a very long history. And without acknowledging that, I think most of our attempts to deal with climate change and the ecological crisis without those paradigm shifts internally, I think they might all be futile, they might all be unsustainable.

Because I think the long perspective, especially when we look into the future, allows us to ask one very, very important question. It allows us to ask, are we being good ancestors? What are we leaving behind? And without asking that question, I think it becomes very difficult to imagine solutions that are sustainable and long-term, so that they benefit not just our children or our children's children, but our most distant descendants.

Ramanan [23:10] That was a great phrase, and I think I'm going to use it shamelessly elsewhere. Are we being good ancestors? I'm going to ask a couple of questions here, Janice, about the craft of prose. If you like.

[23:37] You know the book, it shifts between various viewpoints at different times and in different styles, and it's a bit of a highwire act as an author, right? First of all, you've got these incredibly different protagonists.

There's Shai. There's Evie, there's Goethe. There's Linnaeus. And then in the middle, when we get to Linnaeus, there's this almost experimental way in which you approach how you portray that character because it's written in poetry. What do you think this does? Do you think it helps to showcase I mean, was there an intentionality behind it? You know, the idea that this diversity mimics the diversity we see in real life, or is it something else? And if so, tell us all about it.

Janice [24:12] Absolutely, Ramanan. I mean, writing is intentional always. And I would hope that the lyric narrative at the very heart of the book, the spine of the book, the stem of the book, I hope that it surprises and startles the reader and forces them to perhaps ask themselves, is this a novel? And what does it mean for a novel to be a novel? What form does a novel have to be to be called so? Because a book that's attempting to dislodge our certainties when it comes to categories is also making you hopefully urging you to ask, what is a novel?

And as a literary form, if it carries an entire section of poetry, lyric verse at its very heart, at its very center. So that's one thing that I'm trying to do. To be very honest, it was very difficult to work with Linnaeus and his texts because at the beginning, I wasn't quite sure what to do with this material. I was trying to make my way through Systema Natura, philosophy of Botanica, all of these texts that I felt that no one else in the world was reading anymore.

But I soldiered through them. And if you've come across any of Linnaeus's texts, you'll notice that they're written, of course, in the form of lists, because he was an obsessive list maker, as so many of us are. But he really took it to another level. He made lists on list makers, who should be making lists. So he was that obsessive. And looking at these lists on the page, what I noticed was that they read like poetry. They looked like poetry in some ways because they sat on the page in this particular form. And because they're lists, they also read like instruction poetry. Do this, do that, and then this, and then that. And it felt quite appropriate because Linnaeus was a man who definitely liked telling others what to do.

And I thought, well, why don't I try and you know, make something of this, use this form, in a way. And what I did end up doing was actually employ a technique, a form of poetry called erasure, which, as you know, is a form of poetry that actually grew from prisoners in jails writing letters to their loved ones in the world. And a lot of these letters were censored. So there were lines, there were words that were blacked out, and erasure poetry grew from there or took shape from there. And erasure can entail different types of intervention.

There's blackout poetry, which literally involves blacking out words on a page. And then there's the gentler form of erasure poetry, where you take the words of the poet and you dance with them and you entangle them with your own. And in some ways, that's what I did with Linnaeus's text. I worked with a pre-existing text, which is what erasure poetry always does.

And I worked with his tour of Lapland, the translation of his travel memoir Tour of Lapland, and used his journal entries to write these new poems. But these new poems, as with all of erasure poetry, these new poems are always haunted by the pre-existing text. And I thought that was most appropriate for a world that is still very much haunted by a Linnaean way of seeing, by this very Linnaean heritage that we still function within.

And so his words and my words dance on the page, and they tussle and they converse and they argue, and new works are born from that. But in some ways, the old words, his original texts, constantly haunt the pages as well.

Ramanan [29:00] And I'd just say, as a random aside, you know for me as a reader, it was a moment of cognitive dissonance, because you associate Lennaeas with order and bullet points and Latin species names with two words and so on and so forth, and now he's being presented as a versifier. I want to switch gears here, Janice, a little bit, and just pay homage, if you will, to the fact that you're sitting in India and a part of India that many people in the West are not familiar with.

Let's talk about India as a whole, because there are various portions of India that show up in the book. It is this incredibly vibrant and diverse setting. Was it evident to you that you could have set this book elsewhere, and as someone who is sort of a global citizen, you could do so with power and facility, and you did that right in some ways with Evie and before she got to India and so on. Was India always going to be the place this unfolds?

Janice [30:07] Such a good question, because I think that this novel has been through many, many different versions, not so much as a complete manuscript, but as a chronology of ideas. It began always with a botanist, a woman botanist from Edwardian, late Victorian England traveling to India — that was always a constant, if only because we obviously share this kind of fraught colonial history.

And while I think it was at a little garden outside London somewhere where I wandered into this little exhibition on Victorian and Edwardian women botanists, and I stood there thinking, gosh, they led these incredible, unruly lives and they were doing things that women were not supposed to do at that time. And that's when the character of Evie the botanist took shape in my head.

And I knew from that moment, I don't know how that she was taking a ship, she was taking a long journey to India. And it could be that, of course, I was also immersed within that historical space that spoke about the number of plant hunters and botanists that were traveling across the empire. But because my life has been mostly spent here within the boundaries, contentious as they are of this country, that was the space that appealed to me, that spoke to me, that sang to me in some way.

So I knew that she traveled to India. That much I knew right from the beginning, even though there were many, many other stories that flitted around her, beginning to think about the novel that remained a constant. And then at some point, as these strange things often do happen, I had a conversation with a friend who was studying at a tiny little college in England in Totnes called Schumacher College. And they were studying Goethean science.

And I asked, much like Evie does in the book, what is Goethean science? And he attempted to explain, and I was fascinated. And so I read as much as I could around Goethe's ideas on botany and science, and I realized there is some connection here between Evie, my botanist, and Goethe the botanist. And so the book took shape in that way. And it travels far and wide, of course, to Lapland. But only at the very end did I imagine Shai, that her story and her experience of returning home in some way would form the outer shell of the book.

And I think it echoed my own journey as well, because at the end of the pandemic, towards the end of the pandemic, as I think a lot of people were doing, I was asking myself, where do I really want to be? Who are the people who are most important to me? Where do I want to spend my time? And in so many ways, it was Shillong.

And so Shai's journey and mine echo and resonate in that way because it was a homecoming, not just for her, but for me. And I could only write Shai's story after I returned. And I spent some time in Shillong in a way that I hadn't for a long while because we flit in and out of home. We visit.

We come for Christmas and birthdays, and then we leave again and we go back to wherever it is that calls us because of work or love or anything else. But I returned, and it was a very conscious decision to do that at the end of the pandemic, and only because I experienced the margin in Shillong, in the forests here and the landscape here could I write Shai.

Molly [34:57] One last question about the novel before we turn to some fun things and then eventually let you go. The novel, I would argue, unquestionably, has an underlying thread of hope and that persists through these generations, even when discussing climate change, uranium mining, and ecological damage. Can you talk about that? Do you feel that same sense of hope? Is that something you want people to take away from the book?

Janice [35:29] I think, for me, writing is an act of hope. I don't think that I could possibly write if I didn't think that it meant that I was in some way offering myself and the world some amount of hope against all of the odds that we have created mostly for ourselves. So for me, just picking up a pen and putting it to paper is an act of resilience and hope.

And I'm so happy to hear that you found that there was a thread of this hope that weaves its way through the novel because it very much is a story about transformation, about movement, about learning, about shifting internally, shifting our internal landscapes as much as we move through varying landscapes around us.

And in that shift and in that transformation, for me, lies hope in that questioning, in that spirit of inquiry, in that wish to know better, to know more, to understand better, to understand more, therein lies hope. And it's, I think, consolidated, at least for me, in the most apparent manner in the book, in Shai's story.

So while Goethe, Evie, and Linnaeus offer us different kinds of hope of ways of being in the world, it's Shai's story that I return to most of all for the kind of hope that I think would help us tackle climate change or the ecological sort of damage that we've done to the planet. Because it is, at heart, a story about indigeneity.

[37:39] It's a story about how indigenous cultures act from a space of collaboration and community, how they act from a space of gratitude and humility.

And I think these perhaps are the lessons that we need to learn and relearn. Perhaps we've known them before and we've forgotten them. But there are so many stories, and articles written exactly about how indigenous cultures in India, and around the world perhaps offer us the antithesis to capitalism and neoliberalism and this kind of extractive relationship that we've inculcated with the natural world.

They offer us ways of being that are gentler and less intrusive and function from a space of respect and gratitude and humility in remembering who we are and how small we are and how tiny we are in this very, very grand scheme of things. So I think there's hope in all sorts of ways making their way through the novel. But I think it's with Shai's story where we have the most tangible form of it coming through.

Ramanan [39:10] Janice we're going to wrap ourselves up with a couple of fun questions and then close out. The first fun question is kind of a question that involves…

Janice [39:19] They’ve all been fun, Ramanan.

Ramanan [39:23] I don't know about that. But in addition to being a writer, you're also a reviewer and you teach. And so the question for you is and it's a trick question, which I'll explain in a second.

[39:33] The question is, what books would you recommend to readers and perhaps people you teach or engage in discourse with, to learn more about this intersection between nature with a capital N and humanity?

And the trick element of this is we always ask our interviewees, whom we should interview next, with the qualifying criterion that there has to be some vague connection with climate. So, the question in two parts. What should we go read now about nature and humanity? And second, whom should we interview next?

Janice [40:14] Wonderful. Well, in answer to your trick question, I would actually begin by saying I think we need to listen to more indigenous stories. I know that in our very, very script-centric, text-centric world, we focus on reading and how reading expands our minds and transforms us and inspires us. And of course, reading does all of that. But I would suggest that we go out and listen to more stories by storytellers from indigenous communities, and I think that they might have a lot of wisdom and a lot of wonderfully, engaging stories that tackle exactly this, that bring together the human, the natural, the wise, the irreverent. So I would definitely suggest we do that. I would oh, gosh, there are so many books now. I was going to say Braiding Sweetgrass, but I think Molly is already reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Kimra.

Molly [41:29] It's okay. Ramanan needs to read it next. I’m going to send it to him.

Ramanan [41:33] Janice did call it out in her acknowledgments, so I was already thinking about it.

Molly [41:40] Oh, it's wonderful.

Janice [41:41] It is just so beautiful. You know, for me, it was the spirit of the book that infused everything that I was writing for this novel. There's also Underland by Robert McFarlane, that, of course, is the story of the world beneath our feet, of our subterranean world. But it's a book about time and deep history and all the life that sort of burgeons in a place where we don't imagine there is much life in some ways.

So definitely Underland. And there's also a text by a favorite, favorite Indian author named Pranay Lal, who's written Indica, a deep, natural history of the Indian subcontinent. And it is just the most wildly fun and deeply sort of illuminating book because it transformed me. And I hope it might transform you, but it allowed me to see the world as a story.

Ramanan [42:51] Do you know this person?

Janice [42:52] Yes, I do. And may I please put you in touch?

Ramanan [42:56] Words cannot express sufficiently my excitement.

Janice [43:02]  He's fantastic. He's an artist and a writer and of course, a scientist, but in just the most fun, engaging, wonderful storyteller way.

Ramanan [43:14] I mean, no one's going to be as fun to interview as you, but if Pranay is close, this is super helpful. Molly, should we ask the cat a question?

Molly [43:27] I can't let you go without asking this question because every online bio of you references the fact that you live in New Delhi with a cat of many names and I'm just hopeful that we could hear a couple of the names.

Janice [43:43] He has many names and he refuses to respond to any unless he's in the mood. Of course, he's officially called Vincent because he has a little bit of a scrunched up ear from when he was a kitten and living in a dumpster somewhere before he was rescued. So he may not have an artistic bone in his little furry body, but he is called Vincent. And in homage to his North Indian roots, he's also called Papu.

And in homage to the matrilineal system in Shillong amongst the Khasis that take the surname from their mother, he's called Pariat. So he's Vincent, Papu, Pariat and he responds to none of those names, mostly, but he's a very important part of my life because he honestly helps keep everything in perspective. Now, he's been thrown out of the room for now, so he can't sort of interrupt us, but I will convey your regards when he's in the room.

Ramanan [45:05] I have a dog who doesn't respond to her single name, so I can only imagine what this is about.

Janice Pariat [45:11] There you go.

Ramanan [45:14] We're going to wrap us up here and I just want to say it's been an incredible pleasure having you on the show. You speak as you write in fully formed paragraphs and sentences. So Molly and I are going to engage in some remedial training to improve how we articulate. And more seriously, I think it's just incredible to see in your case, how literature can capture the essence of our times and help us reflect on our relationship to our world.

Janice [45:46] Thank you for your wonderful questions and your truly sensitive reading of my novel. I'm so grateful and I'm so appreciative. Thank you so, so much.

Molly [45:58] Thank you. This is so wonderful. And that wraps up this episode of Futureverse. We are so grateful to Janice Pariat for joining us. The power of fiction, of course, to reflect and challenge and inspire is what we do and try to explore in this series. If you would like to connect with Janice further, please keep an eye out for her writings and engagements at janiceperiat.com or on Twitter, which I am still calling it, @janicepariat.

Thank you for tuning in. We'll be back soon with another episode of Futureverse where we delve into the nexus of climate culture and speculative fiction. Safe journeys. Until then, everyone. 

Thank you for listening. Please email us your suggestions or ideas at futureverse@substack.com and visit futureverse.earth for the full transcript of this podcast and other information.

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