When did you come to India for the first time and what was it
that held you back ?
I visited India in
1969 with a friend of mine whose father was the last French
Governor of Pondicherry. Although India was just another
stopover in my journey around the world at that time, but it
turned out to be the final destination for me. In Pondicherry I
came to know about the Aurobindo Ashram where I got to learn a
lot through Sri Aurobindo’s writings. Slowly I found myself so
besotted with Indian culture and its pioneering philosophies on
spiritualism that I decided to make this country my home.
What were your
early experiences in the Aurobindo Ashram like?
When I first went
there I discovered an entirely new approach of looking at life.
It was as if I had sudden awakened from deep slumber. And later
when I met Mother personally, I was left with an ethereal
sensation of existence. Her gaze transfixed me and it didn’t
take me long to realise that there was more to life than a
wholehearted participation in the blind race for material gains.
At what stage of
your life did writing begin to interest you?
Prior to coming to
India I used to write for a national daily based in Paris.
Thereafter after living for a few years in the ashram at
Pondicherry, I resumed writing for various national and
international papers but this time about Indian affairs.
for various newspapers pay enough for you to be able to support
It is rather
difficult to make one’s ends meet merely through freelancing.
The payments made by our various national dailies to such
writers are rather nominal, no matter how well they write. I
was, however, fortunate enough to write columns for various
newspapers based in the West, which fetched me enough to keep
Some people say
that your writings are political, while others feel that you
also blend spiritualism into them. In what category would you
place yourself as a columnist?
Both politics and
spiritualism are inherent parts of our lives. There is actually
no distinction between the two. In ancient India it was a rishi
who advised the king on the political and other affairs of
the country. I only try to combine relevant topics in my
columns, be it politics, literature, spirituality, economics or
any other subject of significance.
You are quite
critical of Gandhi’s policies in your writings and also accuse
him of precipitating the process of Partition.
Leaving aside his
saintliness, I believe his extreme and somewhat rigid
romanticism did enormous harm to India. Right from the beginning
he adopted a policy of appeasement towards the Muslim
fundamentalists in the hope of making them see light. It,
however, never really worked. On the contrary, it led to further
demands from them until finally they asked for the partition of
the country. History has shown time and again that the policy of
appeasement has never worked against bullies. Another classic
example of this is Nehru’s policy of pacifism towards China.
Did it ever work?
What does India
need to do to make all-round development possible?
I believe for that
our government needs to drastically revamp its systems.
non-fiction, do you also plan to write a novel or short stories?
I have just
finished a novel in French. It is at present with a prominent
publisher in France awaiting publication at the earliest. I hope
to provide its English translation within a year or so.
Is the story
If the French
title is translated into English it will read The Last
Caravan to India. It is the story of a Westerner who comes
to India and of his impressions of Indian life. It is not
strictly autobiographical, although I have, like all novelists,
liberally drawn material from my own experiences.
What do you think
about the many Indian fiction writers winning laurels outside
Its nice to see
Indian fiction writers making their presence feel in
international circles. Judging from their style and command over
the language, they are evidently quite talented, but
content-wise, I think they have little to offer. Most of them
end up in catering to western tastes. Unfortunately, many of
them have drawn a very dismal and backward picture of India in
their stories, which is exactly what the West likes to read.
and writing, what other interests occupy you?
I am quite
interested in sports and play basketball and go swimming. I also
practice yoga regularly. Other than that I enjoy my teaching
assignment in a school of journalism at Bangalore where I am a
visiting faculty member.
You donated the
entire Nachiketa prize money.
Yes I gave away
the award money to FACT (Foundation Against Continuing
Terrorism). Its an organisation which is genuinely involved in
helping and highlighting the plight of the Kashmiri Pundits who
have ironically become homeless in their own country.