Desi Talk - page 6

6
May 8, 2015
COVER STORY
Continued from page 4
Mumbai or Delhi or seeking
guidance was difficult. These
problems basically still remain.
What has changed is maybe the
syllabus, the UPSC structure has
somewhat changed, more candi-
dates are participating. In our
times there were about maybe 150
to 200 thousand, now there are
500,000 plus. Competition is
more, the population is bigger, the
awareness is bigger now. A lot of
books are available; many guid-
ance centers have been set up,
even at district level. But even
then the struggle remains.
There’s an entirely new breed of
younger generation which has for
the first time heard about the civil
services through my books. Most
of the civil service training centers
in Maharashtra have made this
book compulsory reading, or at
least they read extracts from this
book regularly to inspire their stu-
dents. So that’s why it has
remained relevant.
And as I said, while the journey
might be older, the essence of the
journey for many in the rural
areas primarily, or semi-rural, or
small towns, remains the same.
And as a result, every year I
keep on getting lots of letters
requesting for guidance, request-
ing for a way out of a particular
problem, and I’m happy to help
because I know that my journey
would have been slightly more
easier had I had similar people
that time – there was nobody
around.
The book has become an
anthem for the youth of today’s
generation? Did you perceive it to
be that popular with the youth?
I thought it would be useful,
but I never thought it would be
received so well. In fact, while I
have been always writing, this
book made me a writer in the
public eye.
Why did you choose the genre of
autobiographical fiction?
I wanted an element of truth in
it and I also wanted readability.
[The book has] a number of
episodes – like when I leave the
village, the things that happen
inside the village, the things that
happen in the school, in college,
including interactions with the
professors, the principal, friends,
including girlfriends, some love
affair during the college days – so
all this I thought becomes true if
you really are the protagonist
yourself.
When you make it fictional,
people read it as a fiction, and I
wasn’t comfortable with it. I want-
ed people to believe in the story,
and not think that it is fictional. So
the best way was to use various
methods like stream of conscious-
ness, storytelling, bit of poetic lan-
guage, and also make it readable
to all the generations.
Another reason for writing it in
this particular way is because
there’s been a motto in my life -
that whatever I write, my mother
should be able to understand it if
anybody reads it to her. So it
should be so simple. Even a sub-
ject like diplomacy, if someone
reads it to her, she should be able
to understand what her son is
doing.
So that was the primary
motive. Similarly there are a lot of
my classmates from primary
school who have settled in my vil-
lage – they can read – but if I use
some bombastic, difficult lan-
guage, even within Marathi, it will
be boring for them. They should
find readability – which is ease of
language and interest.
How is “Maati, Pankh Ani Aakash”
different from “Nokarshahiche
Rang” – the autobiography you
wrote in 2009? What parts of your
life does it cover?
The two are totally different.
“Maati, Pankh Ani Aakash” is
about an individual’s growth, his
appearance on the stage of the
Foreign Service.While the second
one – “Nokarshahiche Rang” – is
about the craft.
After reading the first book, a
lot of people were curious about
my work, so I thought I should
write a book dedicated to just
that.
Therefore I took one part – my
stay of three years in Russia and
Japan – and my work in both
these places.What kind of people
come and meet you, what do you
do as a diplomat, what are the
various structures in the con-
sulates, embassies or high com-
missions.
Because this is also public
diplomacy – if you want to involve
the public in government affairs
constructively, you have to con-
tinue to empower them, to engage
them through information.
And that has also been a
common theme running
in all my works, not so
much in poetry, but
almost in entire prose.
The fact that I am out-
side of my country, my lan-
guage environment, my
family, friends and relatives
network that need not cut
me off from them.
But I’ll get cut off if I do
not have a link with which a
large number of people can
simultaneously relate to – and
writing becomes that instrument.
The title of the book signifies a lot
of hope – but also indicates that
one needs to be grounded – is that
something you believe in and fol-
low in your life?
True. But in terms of symbol-
ism used in the book and its link
with the title – Maati really is the
phase of my life in Maharashtra
basically, in Laat my village, in
Kolhapur, my district, where I was
educated, till 1979, when I com-
pleted my college – where I was
rooted.
Pankh is symbolic of education
– wings – without those wings you
cannot reach the sky. However,
the bird constantly has to come to
the nest, then only the relation-
ship between the sky, and the
earth becomes relevant.
So while I soar high, if I do not
know the strength on which I
have come, and the reason which
I am flying in that sky, then the
purpose is lost. I become irrele-
vant; my being in the sky becomes
absolutely irrelevant.
And I was also very keen on not
focusing so much on the pain of
the journey, but on the joy of the
journey despite the difficulties.
That’s also a common theme –
I do not mourn anywhere. And
even when there are moments of
disappointment, I get up again,
try to gather myself and move for-
ward. I wanted to reflect the posi-
tive approach in the title itself.
How do you think people will
relate to the book here?
I think the Indian-Americans
can relate to the book better
because say in the last 50 years,
each one of them has undertaken
a journey to get here.
They have had their own
agony, pangs for their mother-
land, their family and close net-
work of friends. Many people
who have come from relative-
ly less privileged back-
grounds will perhaps take a
new kind of joy in relating –
it’ll be like a déjà vu for
them.
The book covers inter-
esting facets of life, some-
thing everyone can relate
to. The book will also
uncover some aspects of
my life that people here might not
know.
People will definitely find the
book interesting.
How has the socio economic
scene in Maharashtra changed
since you wrote the book? Do you
tackle issues of communalism,
fundamentalism, casteism in the
book?
When you grow as a child, your
mind is very innocent. Yet during
that growth itself you come across
various issues of socio-economic
and cultural inequities and those
all have been touched in the book.
For example, the book has how
the caste system played out in my
village, but has been written as
part of the journey.
The commentaries on these
issues are not commentaries, but
observation from the child’s point
of view. It all comes in a very
organic manner. How the classes
treated each other, howmy family
dealt with people of the lower
class, etc., is all touched upon in
the book.
Within Maharashtra there are
huge changes.
There are phone lines now,
WiFi, television – so the distance
has reduced, communication has
increased. Education has
improved. Same is with infra-
structure – that is improving too.
And with that even aspirations are
increasing. And these growing
aspirations – among rural and
small town youths – will dramati-
cally change how India will shape
up.
Have you thought about a sequel
to the book?
I will have to write it but I will
perhaps write it now after I retire
in three-four years. I am taking
notes, and it’s important that I
encapsulate the entire holistic
experience.
Because one of the reasons I
wrote earlier, is because your
impressions also change.
As you mature in life you have
a more evolved view of life. But I
also wanted it to capture the mid-
point – because things look some-
what different. Now I have a
slightly longer experience, and I
am exploring other ideas too. I
have not done fiction yet – so
that’s something I want to explore.
Inspiring Generations
– that’s all you need to know
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