Tell us something about your book? When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
RD: Well, the book is right before you and is for you to critique. As D H Lawrence once said,‘Trust the tale, but not the teller.’ All the same, I would like to add one ‘pre-script’ that the book was conceived as an act of homage to the millions who die barbaric deaths in a world becoming increasingly and violently intolerant for various reasons. Appropriately enough, the protagonist of the novel is named Siddhartha. This is the first book of the trilogy, Date with Destiny.
I have not become a writer today. I have been a writer for over two decades. I used to write poems then. In fact, my first poem was published way back in the 1990s in Indian Express, Chandigarh Edition. Since then I published my poems in literary and poetry journals in India and abroad. One of my poems was published in the Journal of English Literary Club, University of Peshawar, Pakistan.
Your first book Orphans of Storm seems to be your personal memoir. Is it a personal memoir or have you taken the incidents from your real life and created a fiction out of it?
RD: It is wrong to read a writer’s life into his/her works, though the tendency persists ever since writing began and works came to be reviewed. I belong to that school of literary criticism, which believes that a work of art is a world unto itself, though not denying its social, political and humanist commitment. Yes, the writer weaves a world out of experiences that (s)he comes across in his/her life as also in the lives of those (s)he comes across, but then (s)he makes them pass through the prism of his/her imagination to create a VIBGYOR effect of his/her making.
In your acknowledgements you have mentioned everybody’s name except your wife? Why so? Don’t you think she played an important part in your success?
RD: Well, to this I can say only one thing: I have been separated from my wife for over a decade.
Would you like to see your book to be made into a movie? If yes who would you want to play the lead roles and why?
RD: I think the book should make a good movie and better still, a TV serial. I would like to see Anupam Kher in the role of Nund Pundit, Ali Fazal as Siddhartha, Sonam Kapoor as Rita and Richa Chaddah as Vineeta. With his robust body build and a highly emotive histrionic capability, Anupam Kher would be able to bring alive the towering character of Nund Pundit. With his pensive looks and sharp features, Ali Fazal would be the ideal choice for Siddhartha’s character. There is a Bengali charm about Sonam Kapoor’s persona which should bring to life the bubbling and seductive character of Rita. The stocky and saucy persona of Richa Chaddah would fit the character of Vineeta.
How long does it take you to write a book? Do you write every day or as and when the inspiration strikes?
RD: It took one year for me to write this book. Writing is a passion. When you create a world, you do not remain detached from it. Rather, you are like an invisible participant in the lives of your characters. At times you drive the story ahead and at times the story drives you ahead. When such an interaction happens, how can the writer not feel inspired. Rather, as you write, you yourself are keen to know what is going to happen next in your characters’ lives. So, you would like to write on on and on. Unfortunately, a writer has to support himself and his family too. So, the economics of mundane existence tears him apart from his work. That’s how it has been with me, writing whenever I could snatch time off my busy schedule.
What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
RD: As I said earlier, this is only the first book of the trilogy that I have planned. This book is like the first of the three movements in an Italian sonata. In this book I wanted to show the process of maturation of the central character, Siddhartha, as to how he emerges out of his schoolboy world of idyllic idealism into the brash and cruel world of adulthood. I feel I have been successful in doing so, going by the response my readers have given me.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
RD: As I have to steal time to be able to write, I do so when I am all alone in my room in the evening and when I am through with all my work, whether for my office or for my family. And then I begin with meditation and prayer, which helps me to centre myself and connect to the mother of language, Silence.
Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
RD: My father, my mother and my elder sister have been fabulous story tellers. As a child, I used to be always anxious to hear a tale, especially the stories of Hatim Tai, Rustam Sohrab, Poshmal, and Nagraj. When I went to school at Nagrota, I was blessed enough to have a wonderful library, which had a treasure trove of books on Greek mythology and British and European fiction. Ever since then, I became an avid reader.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
RD: I must appreciate this question of yours for its incisive thrust. I enjoy playing with language at the lexical as well as the syntactic levels, especially when the situation demands it. Also, I enjoy using hidden allusions to literary works of the past. ‘December is the cruellest month of the year…’ so goes my novel, a variation on Chaucer in The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, and T. S. Eliot in The Wasteland. It helps to place the book in the context of the works by other writers.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
RD: I like to meditate and practice Integral Yoga.
What does your family think of your writing?
RD: They are very supportive and appreciative.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
RD: I got a glimpse of the creative process. All on a sudden, the paradoxical statements of The Gita came alive, like for instance, ‘I am good, I am Evil. But I am neither Good nor Evil.’ As you create protagonists and antagonists from your imagination, they are in a way a part of you. And yet, you are neither the protagonist nor the antagonist, as you transcend both. Also, as you narrate, you often deviate from the intended line of narration as the story creates a logic of its own and characters create destinies of their own, which you cannot deny lest you should seem phoney to your own self. Here you have the puzzle of karma and free will laid bare before you.
Share with us the journey of becoming a published author.
RD: It took me two years to get this book published. Initially, one reputed publishing house considered it. The editor there offered very constructive suggestions. She asked me to revise the ending. Initially, I was apprehensive if that would be right. But, once I got down to doing so, I thoroughly enjoyed the process and felt that the book was richer thanks to her inputs. But, unfortunately, the final publishing decision there got delayed and mired in marketing hassles and I decided to pull back and search once again. Then, Blackbuck happened. One of my students suggested that why not approach them. And I did. And that’s how the book happened to see the light of the day.
Do you believe in self–publishing or do you prefer the traditional method of publishing?
RD: I prefer the traditional method of publishing as self-publishing would be too time consuming and taxing for me.
What are the four important things you take care of while writing a book?
RD: Firstly, I try to keep the canvas small enough so that I can complete it in a reasonable period of time. Secondly, I narrate a story that would weave in themes that are close to my heart. Thirdly, I take care that the story takes precedence over the themes. And finally, even as I narrate the story I marry the metonymic motion of the tale to its metaphorical vision.
What is your favourite genre and why?
RD: My favourite genre is the poetic drama. I am one with T. S. Eliot when he says that the best poetry is dramatic poetry and the best drama is poetic drama. The beauty of poetic drama lies in its ability to marry metonymy with metaphor. While the metonymy is revealed in the action dramatized, the metaphor is revealed in the poetic symbolism of the dialogues. This, I believe, is the key to profound literature like that of Shakespeare and Eliot in the West and Kalidas and the epic-poets in the East.
Your favourite book:
RD: Shakespeare’s King Lear
RD: George Bernard Shaw
RD: Singing Indian and Western soulful numbers
RD: Pure Poison
RD: Kehwa (Kashmiri Green Tea)
RD: None. I am a plain man.
RD: Being hounded by my peers for a natural disability
Person you admire the most:
RD: My father
On a deserted island you would like to be marooned with:
RD: My soul mate
Books are to be just read or digested as well (your opinion on the statement):
RD: Books shape our lives. How can one be so callous as to just read and forget them? They need to be fully digested and integrated into our consciousness.