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Tête-à-tête with Gurcharan Das

Writer, columnist and public speaker Gurcharan Das speaks to Aditi Caroli about his books, literary festivals, Indian authors and much more.

books Updated: Mar 05, 2011 12:08 IST

Writer, columnist and public speaker Gurcharan Das has a charismatic personality that you will notice the moment you meet him. It came as a surprise to many when Gurcharan Das took an early retirement from his well paying corporate job to pursue his passion for writing.

So how has the journey as a writer been? "It has been a good journey. I was the MD when I had quit. Then an editor of a leading newspaper asked me 'why don't you go around the country on our expense and tell us how India has changed after the reforms.' So I went on a bharat darshan, which resulted in a book called India Unbound. And that went on to become an international bestseller and got published in 17 languages and was filmed by BBC. That's how my journey began," recollects the author.

His second book, Difficulty Of Being Good, which will soon be releasing in Hindi as Achayi Ki Kathanayi, introspects on moral failures in our society. The author explains, "It's on Mahabharata and it looks at the moral conventions of our life. Its subtitle is subtle art of dharma. Dharma, which is a very frustrating word, means doing the right thing, which is not easy. It's about dharma sankat, the conflicts we face in our daily lives."

"As I tell the story of the Mahabharata, I relate it to the failures in our present society, modern India. My first chapter is about envy. We had a celebrated fight between two brothers, India's most famous business family, the Ambanis. Everybody said it's about greed. But it's not greed but envy. Anil wants the world to believe that he is as good as his elder brother. Even between nations, India and Pakistan, Pakistan thinks that if we give them Kashmir, the dispute will be over. But Pakistan will remain envious at how well India is doing and they can't tolerate it. Just like the case between Pandavas and Kauravas in Mahabharata," enlightens the writer.

India's literary culture has been booming. "It's wonderful that thousands of flowers are blooming everywhere and in all languages even in English. English has become an Indian language now. We are done away with the old hang-ups we had. Anti-English traits have become decolonised. Literary culture is a reflection of decolonised mind. Literary festivals are like a mela. People discover writers and writers want to be discovered. It's good to know people are not just interested in Bollywood and cricket but books as well," says the author happily.

Did he get inspiration from any writer? "I think writer who probably influenced me and gave me confidence is Salman Rushdie. He dared to write and very cleverly. I think he is brilliant and I could have never written like that. What an imagination, like a magician especially in his Midnight's Children, which I love. Also RK Narayan, his take on gentle village life with little disturbances," states the writer.

Here's what we can look forward to from the author. "A book on collection from my journalistic writings, probably titled India Grows At Night When Government Sleeps. A book on my plays will be republished. I have written on artha (India Unbound), on dharma (Difficulty Of Being Good) and now I plan to write on kama (desire)," informs the author.

You can't be a writer without passion. "It begins with passion. You can't just have a desire one morning and say I'm going to be a writer. It requires a lot of hard work and you have to be alone for a long period. If you don't have the passion, then you should not be a writer. There are probably a lot of easier things in life," concludes the writer.