The 365 Page Book Called 2017

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves….its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”

It’s that time of the year again! The winter season signals the year-end and tells us that a new dawn is approaching. This “change of year” symbolism is important for two reasons: first, it allows us to take stock of the year that has gone by and second it provides us with the hope of being able to start afresh and not get weighed down by the past.new-year-quotes-07

I have never been where I am today. I have never been the age I am today, or had the experience I have today. The river of life flows and I find myself in places I have never been before. What an exhilarating moment of truth that is!

Everything is new. It is a starting point. At the same time there is a flow from the past that influences the process of ringing in the new. There are so many dreams and aspirations that one has in a lifetime. These change as we grow older and gather more experiences. Mine have changed too! I have realised that I want more for some of the people in my life, I dream more about what we will be as a society and a country. I see a lot of great people out there contributing in building a India of our dreams. You may not even hear of these contributors in your lifetime, for they focus on their actions. I want to highlight a few of them today for they have genuinely made a difference.

  1. Dreamers Doers started by Manjunath Hebbar is a platform for all those social entrepreneurs who want to showcase their work and collaborate with the like minded to impact social causes positively.
  2. Skip Armour brought to us by Chakradhari Rowe that helps a common man understand what is safety & security for an individual, a society and therefore, a country.
  3. Swayyam that teaches us eco conscious low impact living and how to connect back to the earth for our basic living. Malvikaa Solanki, the brain or rather the heart behind this can teach the young & old a thing or two about the “earthy” choices we make in life.
  4. Bal Utsav that brings life-changing education to children living in poverty. They revitalise government schools, support teachers, facilitate interventions in the space of water, sanitation and hygiene. The founders, Ramesh Balasundaram & Binu Ramesh Verma  are ever ready to facilitate learning for children and parents alike.
  5. Durga India, a project by I’m Every Woman started by Priya Varadarajan and yours truly is focused on creating awareness among the girls & women about their own safety in an increasingly unsafe world. Durga’s effort to create safer public spaces for women, including public transport, gets them to work with Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation & install safety alarms in buses.
  6. The Results Cafe, a self improvement project started by Mandeep Kataria & Prashant Reddy that enables & empowers people to stick to their resolutions and not get waylaid. Powerful, for in the end, we all need that push at some time.

These may seem like drops in the vast ocean…but, remember the old adage. They are doing their bit to create a better, stronger and self sufficient India. An India that is crossing the threshold and moving into a space where the world has to sit up and notice. Which brings me to the point of all the nay sayers out there. You can criticise, negate and shoot down any contribution made by anyone, be it an individual, a community or even the government. The fact is there are people whose purpose is to make a positive difference…even if it is to one individual. Negativity does not deter them. They look at the larger good and spread that goodness around them.

The above mentioned dreamers have influenced my own life in such significant ways that I initially did not even realise it. Who I am on the 1st of Jan 2017, somewhere is a result of that influence. What binds us together is this vision we have for this country of ours, for our society, community and people. We all want the following:

  1. A Swachch Bharat that is eco friendly. A national conscious against littering, spitting,  throwing trash everywhere.
  2. A country where girls and women feel safe and are safe. Both are equally important – the feeling & the being.
  3. An India where basic amenities are available to all citizens, in a manner in which they can afford it. That means no freebies for political gain.
  4. A youth that understands the power of our Constitution, the power of voting and contributing to the electoral process.
  5. Adherence to law and order. No negotiating as far as this is concerned.

I am sure every upright citizen wants the same. So, when there is a collective dream, the only thing we have to do, is follow it.

new-year-quotes-2014-beautiful-cards-to-send-your-wishes-brad-paisleyI picture ourselves and India starting a book called 2017 stretched out to 365 pages before us, beckoning to a future somewhere in different chapters that calls us to drive a positive change. All that we will become lies out there, in those pages. The beauty of starting this book is we all can write a sentence, a paragraph or a chapter. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we write.

We spend December 31st & January 1st walking through our lives, chapter by chapter, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the chapters of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.

Praying that everyone writes beautiful lines in the Book of 2017! Happy New Year!

 

 

 

Understanding An Author…Interview With Raghu Srinivasan

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” ― Charles William Elliot.

My love affair with books started when I was in class 3. I consider them to be truly best friends who teach me, inspire me, enthral me and never ever make me feel lonely.

I had introduced “The Avatari” and it’s author Raghu Srinivasan in this blog a few months ago. I had briefly interacted with Raghu, thanks to a common friend, Sandeep Malik. When I requested Raghu for an interview, I did so with a little reservation…not knowing how that conversation would go. Imagine my surprise when Raghu agreed and said he will run it through Hachette India, his publishers and once they approve, I could have it published on my blog.

Raghu Srinivasan

Raghu Srinivasan

All I can say is thank you Raghu and Hachette India for making my dream come true!

Great writers have always fascinated their readers. We want to know how they create the characters we love or hate, the imaginative settings, and the plots & story lines that have us reading late into the night, wanting to know what happens next.Talking to an author give us an insight into his mind, what motivated him, how does he sustain his writing while there are distractions galore, researching relevant topics and most of all, understanding him as an individual. Ladies & gentlemen, in the words of the man himself…read on!

In conversation with Raghu Srinivasan, author of The Avatari.

Q1.      How did The Avatari happen in your life?At the cost of sounding extremely clichéd, who and what inspired Avatari? How did the combination of a British army officer, a Gurkha, a mathematician interested in history and an archaeologist happen?

Ans.     ‘The Avatari’ owes its origins to a drink I had with an old timer huddled over a stove, in an arctic tent in the shadow of the Karakorum ranges. The old timer had been a mountaineer before he had had a bad fall and had tramped all over the Karakorums, spending much of his time with local porters and guides. It was from them that he who had picked up a story of a group of Germans who had formed an expedition to search for Shambhala, and were never heard of again.

Q2.      This is your first book. What other kind of writing have you done earlier?

Ans.     From as far back as I can remember I wanted to be a story teller. I started off early by the age of eight; telling my younger brother intricate, fantastic fairy tales which would never end, a la ‘The Arabian Nights’. In high school, I was the editor of the school rag, and as is wont in such cases, wrote almost all of the articles – some under a pseudonym. This ‘occasional’ writing continued in the form of short, humorous articles contributed to Army magazines and journals.  I first tried my hand at writing a short story in 1992 when I was twenty seven; I remember it being very dark and cryptic. The few people who read it were kind enough to say that ‘it had had promise’ while in the same breath wondering aloud what it was all about. That was also a time when I read everything that ‘Papa’ Hemingway had written; and I later realized that your first attempt at writing should not imitate the minimalist ‘Men Without Women’. When I was thirty nine I was posted to the Indian Military Advisory Team for two years. Since it was a teaching assignment, I had time to indulge myself in reading everything their library had to offer and dabble in writing again. I wrote three short stories, which received much acclaim from my wife and mother. My aim was to write at least fifteen, so that I could publish a book of my short stories. I began ‘The Avatari’ as my fourth short story in 2005; it was a story which was metamorphose into a rather long novel, evolve from a spiritual journey to an action-adventure theme and occupy my thoughts for the next eight years.

The Avatari

The Avatari

Q3.      What kind of books do you enjoy reading?

Ans.     I am a voracious reader and like just about every genre; but stick to reading stories written in the ‘classical mode’ – so something by let’s say James Joyce or Arundhati Roy is not on my list. Frederick Forsyth, Hemingway, Mitchener, Maugham and Wodehouse would be the authors I like best. My all-time favourite book is ‘ A Farewell to Arms’.

Q4.      I have read the book and reviews online. The common thread is that your writing style is racy enough to keep the readers enthralled and the book has enough substance to keep us all engaged. How did you manage this balance?

Ans.     I think I received a lot of help on this score from my wife, Sumita and my editor from Hachette, Poulomi Chatterjee, who did some great editting. Left to my own devices I should have probably rambled on and ‘The Avatari’ would have gone on for another hundred pages. I tried to make action sequences and descriptive sequencesas ‘believable’ as possible. I am glad it worked out!

Q5.      Please share with us how much of research you had to do to weave in the details of Kublai Khan, Marco Polo and South & East Asian history.

Ans.     As I said before, I am an avid reader, and the one thing I promised myself while writing ‘The Avatari’ was that I should attempt to make no factual errors. I remember reading ‘San Andreas’ by Alistair Maclean’; where one of the characters is a Pakistani, but the story is set during World War II – when there could have been no Pakistanis. So starting with reading the ‘BardoThodol’ (The Tibetan Book of the Dead) and everything that has ever been written about the Shambhala myth, to events as they chronologically happened in history in 1296, 1956, 1963 and 1986 has been researched. I had to do a fair bit of reading on Kublai Khan and Marco Polo as also the Afghan War. These included Kublai Khan’s biography and ‘The Bear Trap’ by Brig Mohd Yusuf, probably the best book written on the Afghan war. Likewise I needed to read up on travelogues of people who had visited the enchanting places which Henry Ashton and his team visit in the book.

Q6.      Ashton, Susan, Peter & Duggy are all larger than life characters in the book. As a reader I’m curious to know if you want to continue using the same protagonists in your next book also…like a Jack Ryan in Tom Clancy novels or the famous Jason Bourne in Robert Ludlum novels.

Answered below!

Q7.      I’m sure all your fans out there want to know when the next book is being published. I’m definitely waiting eagerly

Ans.     It’s too early to say. I am presently working on a book set in China. I am a slow writer – but I hope I can write something faster than ‘The Avatari’ which took seven years!

Q8.      Would you experiment with other genre of writing, besides thrillers?

Ans.     Yes, I would love to be able to write something like ‘Love Story’.

Q9.      A novel such as The Avatari can be made into a great movie. Has anyone approached you for scripting or even offers of making a movie?

Ans.     You’re right – I think the book has a definite cinematographic appeal! The problem is, that given the exotic locales and the swathes of history the novel covers- It would have to be a very big budget! Keeping my fingers crossed!

 

*Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted after the book was published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.