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My writing is trying to figure out the world for myself: Gurcharan Das

By October 3, 2018No Comments

Source : The Hindu

Gurcharan Das delves deep into the everyday reality, mythology and philosophy that shape his latest book

Amar’s first memory of desire is from when he was four years old. When he woke up one dawn, he felt cold and lonely. He immediately ran to his mother, jumped onto her bed, nestled beside her and fell blissfully asleep. Gurcharan Das, writer and public intellectual, narrates an instance from his book Kama: The Riddle of Desire, the latest from his trilogy which deals with the various facets of the Indian way of life.

In an effort to draw focus on the emotional life of a country Das, in Kama… has woven a fictional memoir of the protagonist Amar, fraught with historical and literary interludes.

“My writing is trying to figure out the world for myself. It’s like making notes for myself,” says Das in a conversation over the phone, describing how he, on returning to India at the turn of the century after completing his studies, realised that poverty was a looming issue. “I wanted to figure out how India could overcome poverty and that thought became India Unbound, my first book based on the concept of artha or material well-being. It turned out to be the first book that predicted the economic rise of India, and India obliged by rising,” laughs the former CEO of Procter & Gamble India, who was a chronicler of the economic reforms of the country for 25 to 30 years, before he turned to writing full time.

The second book in the trilogy required a grand narrative to support the concert — Das, who was disturbed by corruption and the frequency of it, decided to take The Mahabharata and its characters as a framework to understand this concept. The Difficulty of Being Good thus talked about dharma: moral well-being.

“That is when I thought to myself that the emotional life of a country is also very important and this is something that we brush away under the carpet. We talk in political terms and not the richness of emotional life. That’s what led to Kama: The Riddle of Desire,” says Das. He adds that this fictional memoir is supported by insights drawn from different historical and textual sources, which constitute almost 60% of the book.

Das decided to interrogate Kamasutra — which is quite often misunderstood as a text that talks about sexual positions — but needed a story to do the same. In fact, the author observes that the advice given in Kamasutra is modern and relatable even to the present generation, making it a universal book on manners.

“You can’t talk about love and desire without having a narrative, otherwise it becomes an arid philosophical essay,” says Das, who has woven a story where the narrator stops and ask questions; there is a fair amount of philosophical, historical and literary dialogue. “So, what does it say about a civilisation where all creation is essentially from desire? Kama… sort of tries to answer this question. In a way, it’s a meditative novel,” adds Das. References from texts like Othello and works of Kalidasa and Amaru surface often in this narrative, which also keeps throwing questions at the readers.

The writer who has made a shift from The Story of Indian Business Series to dicussing about myriad concepts considers that his books often revolt against accepted societal norms. “I consider myself a chronicler of the Indian way of life. It’s when you leave your country that you begin to think about it. So I started looking at the Indian experience from different perspectives; one from an economical aspect and the other from a moral perspective,” says Das, adding that through his latest book, he is not advocating free love. “Young people should be able to think about it and not be bound by the old rules,” he believes.

Kama: The Riddle of Desire (Penguin), is available on and

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