Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Interview given by Abhay K. to Bookwag Literary Journal

07/09/2009


What kind of a writer would you describe yourself keeping in mind the varied writing you have already done?

I am a spontaneous writer as I write what comes to my mind or what I am passionate about. I find magic in poetry, memoirs as well as in fiction and fantasy.

Autobiography and Memoir writing has been one of the strengths of Indian literature as shown in the works of Fakir Mohan Senapati, Nirad C. Chaudhary, Aubrey Menen or Pankaj Misra and my first book reflects on my own life with the prevailing conditions in the surroundings I grew up.

Poetry came naturally to me after coming to Russia. My poetry books ‘Enigmatic Love’, ‘Fallen Leaves of Autumn’ and ‘Candling the Light’ were all written during my stay in Moscow from 2005-2007. They express tremendous beauty and inner light I experienced in this new city.

Spiritual questions have always excited me since the early days of my life and I have co authored ’10 Questions of Soul’ with a Yoga teacher in St. Petersburg.

The unity of life and the beauty of a small blue planet silently going round the Sun has always inspired me. I have been inspired by writers, poets and philosophers such as Kant and Tennyson who dreamed of a ‘Parliament of Man’ some day in future. My book ‘United Earth’ is about this dream with an Earth Anthem composed by me and my paintings dedicated to Earth along with the path to democratic global governance.

In a few lines, can you describe the journey you undertook to write your books?

Well, my first book 'River Valley to Silicon Valley' is autobiographical memoir and draws a sketch of my last 25 years. What’s in the book is how I travelled the journey of life so far, my innocent observations of the surroundings I was grew in, the social, economic, political and spiritual forces prevailing in that surrounding that shaped me into what I am today. I did not have to carry any research for the book; it was all inside me and was the story of lived experience. I relived my last 25 year while writing this book.

It is not only my or my family’s story but India’s story as well as India suddenly found itself leading information revolution and our generation found a new dimension of life in call centres and software parks. This was indeed great because we had missed the Industrial revolution and had to leap forward from the River Valley Civilization to Silicon Valley Civilization.

My second book ‘Enigmatic Love’ is a collection of love poems I wrote in Moscow. I scarcely wrote poems in my life before coming to Russia. I came in touch with a new civilization, when I arrived in Moscow in 2005, with grand and magnificent architecture, beautiful people clad in latest fashion with deep interest in art and literature, incessant, almost divine, snowfall during long Russian winters and so on… and that I believe transformed me into a poet and words started flowing out of me, in the street, in metro, in garden or wherever I was. Out of that came three books of poetry, ‘Enigmatic Love’, ‘Fallen Leaves of Autumn’ and ‘Candling the Light’. The other two books are on their way to publication.

How do you balance the life of a diplomat and a writer?

Writing comes to me naturally and I write to relax, enjoy and to fulfil my responsibilities as a world citizen. I am a diplomat from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday to Friday. After working hours and on weekends I regularly read, write, paint and contemplate. I feel that art and literature have essential place in the scheme of a full and balanced life. I cannot do without them.

Diplomats draft letters, make reports and meet people and move to another foreign land on a regular basis. This gives us opportunity to learn continuously. Thus my work as a diplomat compliments my writing and other creative endeavours.

Who is the audience for your books and how have they received your works so far?

My books have been received well not only in India but internationally though they are not bestsellers or commercial successes. This I can make out from the comments I receive from the readers (available at www.rivervalleytosiliconvalley.blogspot.com,www.enigmaticlovebook.com).

My greatest moment of glory as a writer and poet is when I get to know from unexpected places and from unexpected people who by chance have read my book and have been inspired by my story or my particular poem has made their day.

As a writer and poet I try to spread hope and inspiration. My books are real and positive. My first book ‘River Valley to Silicon Valley’ is a positive commentary on India’s democratic experiments and economic reforms in which the protagonist (i.e. I) and his brother achieve their goals with hard work, dedication and right means unlike in 'Adiga’s White Tiger' in which the protagonist, a poor boy from the River Valley of Bihar, achieves success in the Silicon Valley of Bangalore after murder and deceit. Adiga’s book portrays India negatively. My protagonist and Adiga’s protagonists come from similar background, from a non-descript village in Bihar but make very different choices in life. While Adiga has written fiction which is being perceived in West as reality of Indian life, I have written the Indian story as it is. The irony is that negative stories about India gain popularity and become commercial successes and win literary awards but positive and inspirational stories do not find a place in the market.

What books are you working on in the future?

I am working on three books at the moment A). ‘United Earth’- the book outlines the colossal changes that have taken place in the last few decades and explores the possibilities of democratic global governance. B). ‘Colours of Soul’- is about my adventures in the art life of St. Petersburg. I did not know the abc of art when I came to Russia in 2005 but since then I have done more than 50 paintings, visited hundred of exhibitions and got to know and understand the lives of leading artists of St. Petersburg and C). ‘My Seven Wishes & How are they are coming true’ – is about seven wishes that came to my mind in 2004. They are building a primary school at my birthplace, a high school at the place I grew, SAARC University at Nalanda, Flood-free Bihar, South Asian Union, United Earth-successor of United Nation and last to put the seeds of life in deep space. Quite challenging but things are happening in these directions.

Which other authors, books or literary characters have been your inspiration or are your favourites? Not necessarily for this book, but also for your life in general.

Kalidas, Kabir, Premchand, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Haribansh Rai Bacchan, Ramchandra Shukla, Upmanyu Chaterjee, Shakespeare, Chinua Achebe, J.M. Kotzee, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gogol, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Kiran Desai, Kant, Khalil Gibran, Robert Fulghum, Paulo Coelho, Ayn Rand, Mikhail Bulgakov, Orhan Pamuk, John Darwin, Emery Reeves etc.

Ramayana, Mahabharata, A brief history of time, Glimpses of World History, Ignited Minds, My Experiments with truth, Things Fall Apart, Disgrace, One Hundred Years of Solitude, All I need to know I learned in the Kindergarten, Love Story, Perpetual Peace, Alchemist, Master and Margarita, A Teardrop on Cheek of Time, Snow, After Tamer lane, Anatomy of Peace etc.

Can you recommend five books everyone should read with a one line reason why?

1.‘A brief history of time’ - Stephan Hawking because it takes one on a journey to the beginning of time.
2.‘Short stories of Premchand’ as they are so humane and interesting that everybody will find them interesting.
3.‘The Fountainhead’ by Ayn Rand because it exposes the hypocrisy of the society and shakes us out from self serving truths or lies.
4.‘Old Man and the Sea’ by Ernst Hemingway because it explores relations between man and nature and man and man.
5.‘Vincent by himself’ by Bruce Bernard because the book is full of wisdom and paintings that can transform a person.

What would you say to other first-time aspiring authors?

I would say that write what you want, you must, you cannot do without writing, without caring for awards, recognition, commercial success or even promise of publication. The reward of writing is in writing itself. Rest is not under one’s control and one should not think too much about them.

Which is your favourite place to read books?

I like to read books at home lying in the bed or sofa before going to sleep and on weekends.

What are you currently reading and looking forward to read?

I am reading Picador Book of Modern Indian Literature edited by Amit Chaudhury and looking forward to read Art of India edited by Fredic Asher, Imagining India by Nandan Nikelani and Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie.

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