The World According to H M Naqvi

Award winning author and former slam venue entrepreneur H M Naqvil slaps down his world of travel

7 mins

Mountain/desert/jungle/ocean which are you?

I would think I am more like a swamp.

First travel experience?

I was nine months old when I travelled to Algiers, a picturesque city set on the Mediterranean but effectively governed by a dictator called Boumediene. I was four before I left, before I understood that the world was larger than Algiers.

Favourite journey?

I enjoy travelling within Pakistan, a vast and topographically varied country, from Kund Malir, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, to the mountains and lakes in the north. If I am feeling adventurous next year – I wouldn’t put money on it – I might venture to the legendary K2 base camp.

Top five places worldwide?

Karachi, Kisangani, Caracas, Papua New Guinea, Strasbourg. I should note that I have only been only to Karachi and Strasbourg.

Special place to stay?

I am, generally speaking, a reluctant traveller. I am always happiest at home.

Three items you always pack?

Books that I never read; a pair of black swimming trunks with red trim that I almost never use; and a hair clipper.

Passport stamp you're proudest of?

Damascus, perhaps. It’s a fascinating place, said to be the oldest inhabited city in the world. I would be curious if it’s still inhabited after the present turmoil.

Passport stamp you'd most like to have?

Papua New Guinea.

Guilty travel pleasure?

Washington DC, for some reason, commands a special place in my imagination. Some of my fondest memories reside in its streets. Of course, when I was there the crack epidemic swept the place, and transvestites patrolled the night.

Window or aisle?

Aisle, always aisle.

Who is your ideal travelling companion?

An attractive, well-read, well-travelled woman.

Best meal on the road? Worst?

Best meal might be soupy tripe in a restaurant in Rome and the worst would be tafelspitz or boiled beef, a Viennese delicacy.

Most surprising place? Most disappointing?

Strasbourg was unexpectedly charming. Prague was rather unremarkable.

Where do you NOT want to go?

I like to avoid certain swaths of Western Europe – Belgium and Austria, for instance – places that rely on their past, places that don’t inform the present in any meaningful way. I also don’t care for the cold. Consequently, Canada, Scandinavia, or Siberia won’t do.

Who/what inspired you to travel? Any travel heroes?

One has been weaned on a diet of Sinbad, one of the heroes that populates A Thousand and One Nights; and when I was ten, I read a racy novel about Marco Polo, which stirred the imagination. Recently, however, there’s Anthony Bourdain, a culinary tourist par excellence, and there’s this other fellow on British TV, Bruce Barry, who ventures into far flung forests to live with tribes.

What do you listen to on the road? Any song take you back to a particular time or place?

I usually hum.

What do you read?

As I mentioned, I always travel with books – I have missed flights because I don’t feel I have enough and am often overweight because of them – but I rarely read anything on flights save glossy fashion magazines like Hello! that are offered gratis by the staff.

What's the most impressive / useful phrase you know in a foreign language?

Foul language is always useful.

Snowbound in a tent in Antarctica, how would you entertain your companions?

Halfway through Home Boy, my back gave way. I didn’t have any money then and certainly not any health insurance. After six months or so of over-the-counter remedies, mostly Bufferin, I began doing push-ups. I can do hundred on a good day. That should be entertaining.

When and where in your travels have you been happiest?

I was in Colombo some years ago. I drank for eight days, ate like a king, and misbehaved a lot. I recommend it.

Given a choice, which era would you travel in?

A millennium ago or a millennium later.

DSC South Asian Literature Festival H M Naqvi will be appearing at the DSC South Asian Literature Festival at 2pm on 23 October at the Chelsea Theatre. His debut novel, Home Boy (Hamish Hamilton) won the 2011 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. H M Naqvi will also be attending the shortlist announcement for this year’s prize at Shakespeare’s Globe on the 24 October.

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