Know your Author

-“Over the course of my lifetime, something had been changing in India to turn it into the kind of place where reinventions became possible.”

Anand GiridharadasWhat are Papa and I doing here?” Anand Giridharadas got this text message from his mother when his sister was considering moving to India from California. Giridharadas was already working in India. His parents were at their home outside Washington, D.C.

Giridharadas’ parents immigrated to the United States in the 1970s, part of the great Indian brain drain. Giridharadas says he never thought he’d follow the reverse route back to India. “My childhood behavior was wanting to keep India at bay,” he says. “The first thing I learned about India was that my parents had chosen to leave it.” India, for him, meant family trips with suitcases stuffed with gifts—Gap khakis and Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky. In some ways, India was defined by the things one could not get.

“But over the course of my lifetime, something had been changing in India to turn it into the kind of place where reinventions became possible,” says Giridharadas. His book, India Calling, is about that transformation. “It was not just me as a young man going East and reinventing myself. The more important part of the story is that a lot of other people, including Indians themselves, were finding in their country opportunities to reinvent themselves.”

Giridharadas came to India to work for McKinsey & Company. He stayed on to write for the International Herald Tribune and The New York Times. That allowed him to have a ringside view of this changing India.

He sees many reasons for this transformation. “A lot of people overplay the singular role that capitalism has played,” Giridharadas says. He sees a subtler but more profound cultural shift. “A lot of Indians are acquiring an idea of self and selfhood, that they matter against the claims of the family, against the claims of their caste, against the claims of the state.”

Some of that has happened through an unlikely medium—television. Giridharadas says in small town India, television “arrives actually as a force of uplift.” It does not just advertise cars and detergents. A young man named Ravindra told him if you saw a man catching an anaconda on the Discovery Channel, you knew that he was probably the best person in the world at catching an anaconda. “In a very small town, the idea of seeing the best person in the world at doing anything is such a revelation,” marvels Giridharadas.

Ravindra, son of farm hands, raised in a small town in the middle of nowhere, came from a world that accepted things as they were. But he pulled himself up by enrolling in a slew of coaching academies for conversational English and computer classes. Now he owns his own English language academy and a roller skating rink. When Giridharadas met him, he was conducting a Mr. and Miss Umred Personality Contest for his town of Umred, population 50,000, in Maharashtra. “He has become the ambassador of escape for a young generation craving it,” says Giridharadas.

In that process, the Ravindras of India are becoming more comfortable in their own skin. They eat out at fancy restaurants but are unabashed about preferring ghar ka khana or home-cooked food. At one time, men like Giridharadas’ grandfather held the reins of power. His tweed coats, pucca English and membership in the right clubs all spoke to that. “The old guard is still holding on,” says Giridharadas. “But there is a clear shift away from their rule toward one that looks and feels much more Indian, much more rooted in the soil.”

Its patron saint is perhaps industrial tycoon Mukesh Ambani. Ravindra wants Giridharadas to show him every photograph he has of Ambani on his laptop. Ambani takes business colleagues to the temple, and hankers for real food after a designer meal at Nobu, the exclusive Japanese restaurant in New York.

But ambition and a can-do spirit alone cannot propel millions up the economic ladder. “You have an abundance of workers who cannot find jobs and an abundance of jobs who cannot find workers,” says Giridharadas. “What needs to happen is to develop an educational system to align the two.”

Giridharadas will be watching to see if that happens. He’s back in the United States now, finishing his Ph.D. He says America gave him self-confidence but India gave him “a sense of community.” He hopes to write more books, and not just about India. “But I know that India will be a permanent part of my life,” he says. “I will live there again.”

(Sandip Roy, currently in Kolkata, is an editor with New America Media. Article reprinted from SPAN magazine, May/June 2011 issue.)

You Can win…these three words just flash in my mind every time I hear Shiv Khera’s name. And I am sure this is common to most of us as well. Khera is the author of 12 books including International Best Seller “YOU CAN WIN”, which has sold over 2 million copies in 16 languages. Shiv Khera A book is a condensed capsule of knowledge,” isn’t it a great thought to kickstart, asks Shiv Khera, and I agree, as an avid reader. Khera needs no introduction. Be it as a motivational book author, educator, business consultant or a successful entrepreneur. Besides, he is a much sought-after speaker… internationally. He inspires and informs people, helping them to realize their true potential. His 30 years of research, understanding and experience has helped people on the path of personal growth and fulfilment.

He has been recognised as a ‘Louis Marchesi Fellow’ by the Round Table Foundation, an award given to, among others, Mother Teresa. Lions Club International has honoured Khera with ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ for the cause of ‘Humanitarian Service to Society’. Rotary Club has honoured him with the ‘Centennial Vocational Award for Excellence.’ He has also appeared on numerous radio and television shows.

In a thought provoking conversation with the man himself, Smita Dwivedi (SD) of AABP unravels the myriad shades of his personality while experiencing a never before positivity. Excerpts.

SD: When and how did you start writing?

Shiv Khera: Well I think this goes back to almost 35 years ago, when I left India. That was the time I went through a programme by Dr Norman Vincent Peale, who has written a book The Power of Positive Thinking. He’s a wonderful man and his words had made great impact on my conscience. It was then that I decided to write a book and it would be international bestseller. For many years I researched and collected information before I actually started writing book in 1992. My first book – You Can Win – got published in 1997 in Singapore.

SD: How has been your journey as an author?

Shiv Khera: In all my 35 years, which I spent in North America, I met many influential as well as ordinary people. I feel they all have contributed to my life, especially Mr Peale, who had transformed my overall thought process. Surprisingly, before this I had never read a comic but afterwards I became an avid reader, started reading almost 40-50 books a year, which totally changed my life. And since then I have been busy reading and writing.

SD: What inspires you to be active with your writing?

Shiv Khera: The one and only motivation was that if somebody has contributed to my life, which changed my life personally, professionally and socially…so it is my time to pay back to society. If they had not contributed, I would not be there where I am. So I just want to give it back to the community and next generation. And when I realised that, it was almost 23 years ago in late eighties. It was at that time I started volunteering my time in maximum security prison in United States. I went there to conduct attitude and self esteem programs and I saw maximum behavioural change in inmates. Maximum security prison inmates are real hard core criminals. The experiences I had in the Jail of US years ago still motivate and inspires me.

One more interesting experience I would love to share. One day as I was leaving out of the session from the jail, I was stopped by an inmate, so I asked him ‘What have you learnt in the past few weeks’ and he replied…I feel good and also started reading my Bible. At that moment I felt that when I would leave the jail I would be a contributing member to the society and that was the biggest clarification of my mission. As a volunteer, I was not being paid but such experiences were the biggest pay off.

And I saw lives changing; I decided to go to the corporate world as well. And it was really big transition for me and my career.

SD: How and when did the idea to author You Can Win actually emerged?

Shiv Khera: The big question was ‘why one more book’ when there were a number of motivational books available. Why would anybody buy my book? And my answer was that my book would be different. You Can Win addresses life with a very positive perspective. It is very down to earth, written at fifth grade level and filled with real life experiences, so people can easily relate to it and the obvious reaction while reading goes like ‘Oh that happened to me’ or ‘I went through that’ or ‘I heard that’. The book appeals both to the head and to the heart…it has both logic and feelings. So that is why when people buy it, they say yes it makes sense and their lives change.

SD: How did you decide the title?

Shiv Khera: I was in Singapore with a person who was in part editing with me. While we were brain storming, the first thing that came to our mind was the title. And we both were of same opinion that this is a book for winners. And so we came straight to You Can Win. If a person could be a winner after reading a book… so, the title was apt.

SD: Who are amongst your favourite authors and what books have you read?

Shiv Khera: At a given time...I read 8-10 books simultaneously...I read 5-10 pages of one book then start reading the other and so keep on reading simultaneously. I certainly read what I want to at a moment. I love to read non-fiction books but don’t like fiction. These books basically give another perspective and keep me motivated as well. Napoleon Hill - Think And Grow Rich; Dr Thomas A Harris - I’m OK - You’re OK; and Norman Vincent Peale - The Power of Positive Thinking are amongst my most favourites.

SD: Are there any challenges you face as an author?

Shiv Khera: The biggest challenge and concern in India is piracy. There are not many authors whose books have sold over 2 million copies. I am being paid royalty for that but the numbers could be much more, if we put a check on piracy.

SD: What are your favourite activities besides writing?

Shiv Khera: Whatever little bit time I get, I love to spend it with my family. I am very fond of dogs. I have four Rottweiler, all are huge, and I love playing with them. I have two grandsons; I just love their company and have fun with them.

SD: What can our readers expect next from you?

Shiv Khera: I am ready with my next book on positive parenting. I never thought earlier that parenting is such a big issue, but today all around the world, the biggest concern is positive parenting. Now parents are more concerned about their children values and principles. And what I found is that the problem is not with the child but is with the parents. So, it is definitely going to help people.

SD: Any message you want to share?

Shiv Khera: The only thing I want to say is that there’s no substitute to good reading. A good book gives you the wisdom of ages in a capsule format. I feel if behaviour has not changed learning has not taken place. I would like to end with Henry Ford’s quote: “Whether You Believe You Can, Or You Can’t, You Are Right.”

told Dr Raghunath Mashelkar, the eminent scientist and recipient of Padma Shri (1991) and Padma Bhushan (2000) awards in recognition of his contribution to nation building. But this interview has nothing to do with his achievements as a scientist and achiever but as an author whose latest book on Gandhi has made him part of an Indian’s everyday conversation. Excerpts. Dr Raghunath Mashelkar Dr Raghunath Mashelkar’s Timeless Inspirator – Reliving Gandhi has been creating waves across the country. Ritu Goyal (RG) caught up with Dr Mashelkar (Dr M) at his office on a sunny afternoon where he spoke about what Gandhi meant to him, how the book originated in his mind and where he sees the book heading.

Bejan Daruwalla – the laughing Buddha!
Bejan Daruwalla needs no introduction. Being acknowledged as one of the hundred great astrologers in the last 1000 years in the Millennium Book of Prophecy, published by Harper Collins, USA, Bejan is also one of Asia’s most read and largest selling authors. We bring you a detailed account of the life of this man of wisdom, who besides being a successful astrologer is also a professor, poet, writer, thinker, critic…and above all a foreteller of goodness, in a tête-à-tête with Smita Dwivedi.

Bejan Daruwalla is the world’s most famous astrologer, and a regular on television shows worldwide. Besides, he is also a best-selling author and columnist. He has been a professor in English and currently his articles are published in various newspapers like The Sunday Times of India (Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata), Telegraph (Kolkata), Navhind Times (Goa), Dell Annual Horoscope 1998 (New York), News India (New York), and Berkeley Communications (London) to name a few. He had been a guest on BBC - Hard Talk India, London; ABC and NBC, USA; Star News, Zee TV, Sony, etc. He was invited to America, the Philippines, London and Pakistan, in fact the only Indian astrologer invited to Pakistan What’s more! On July 16, 2000,

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then prime minster of India, invited him to predict the future of the country.

Q: When and how did you start writing?

Bejan: I was 25 when Asia Publishing House published my first book of poetry called Wheel of Fire. Being a professor of English, expressions came naturally to me. It was in year 1958-59 that this book gave me instant fame as a poet. After sometime, there was a terrific crossroads in my life. I completed a book on short stories and signed a contract with some publishers. But then my publishing company went bankrupt. And so in 1969, I went to Philippines as an astrologer.

Q: What inspires you to be active with your writings even at 80?

Bejan: My favorite word is love…it’s my nature to love and this inspires me to write poems even today. I write poems on Lord Shiva, Ganesha and even a 25-year-old girl. I would have been a painter; I would have painted this whole world with love. Oh! I love to have such a vast canvas.

My faith in Lord Ganesha instills me with all the positive energy. So, there’s always a vibe in me that keeps me on. I spend time on writing regular features and columns, besides working on poetry and astrology books.

Q: How has been your journey as an author?

Bejan: I have written around 200 books, which include three collections of poetry and 150 books on astrology. My satisfaction comes not from writing books but from the fact communicating with the people. This year, my annual forecast book is also translated in Russian. It’s been quite sometime since I started writing forecast books.

I have many books on astrology and so it’s difficult to mention all titles. But one book worth a mention is I am the sky, which won the first prize for Paperback Publishing at the Delhi Book Fair.

I feel lucky to have worked with the finest publishers from all over, which include Orion Publishing, Paperback Publishing, Times Group Books, Hind Pocket Books, Lovdev Publishers, Avon, Ranvir Books – Mumbai, etc.

Q: What can our readers expect next from you?

Bejan: As of now, I am very excited about my latest book 2012 – Will the World End, which is all set to hit the bookshelves. And I am sure it is going to be a wonderful book. I researched and researched a lot before writing this book. I studied science, technology, galaxies, black holes, astronomy, astrology, and so on. And I found out that technology and humanity will marry each other and stay together. To sum up, I would say ‘I care and I dare’. This would definitely be one of my finest books.

I have a great affection for kids. I laugh with them and cry for them. They are world’s most beautiful creation. Even when this whole world will come to an end, the only thing that would remain will be a child. Even the most barbarous God doesn’t have heart to kill a child. I have also completed a book on short stories for children, which is still pending with the publisher

Q: Which was the first book that you read?

Bejan: Oh! That’s Shakespearean literature for sure. I have read a lot of it.

Q: Who are amongst your favourite author/writer?

Bejan: Well, to start with… I like Kamala Suraiyya aka Kamala Das, an Indian writer who wrote in English and Malayalam; Keshav Malik, an Indian poet, critic, arts scholar, and curator; Pritish Nandy, a Indian poet, painter, journalist, politician, media and television personality, animal activist and film producer, to name a few. And my latest favourite is Chetan Bhagat, an Indian author who has written Five Point Someone, One Night @ the Call Center, The 3 Mistakes of My Life and 2 States: The Story of My Marriage.

Q: What else keeps you busy besides astrology and writing – be it hobbies, likes and dislikes?

Bejan: I am fond of listening to music of great classical maestros like Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Zubin Mehta, Bismillah Khan, etc. I do listen to contemporary music as well. I love to play with children, and like to observe them for hours. I love to laugh…oh! It’s my favourite one…Hahaha.

Q: What message would you want to give to our readers?

Bejan: Yes, I want to give a Mantra for success and it goes “Observe and Hard Work”. If any one sticks to these two virtues…he/she will get success for sure. And always remember brighter side of a story…no matter how tragic the end was. See good, do good. Om Shri Ganeshaya Namah!

KRA Narasiah, a prolific writer, turned his pastime – writing – into a passion. A marine engineer by profession, he took note of whatever happened when he sailed to near and far off places, which later became inspiration for his books. Here, this sailor-turned author shares his journey of sailing and writing with D Ramalingam of AABP.

KRA NarasiahKavoon Ramalingam Appala Narasiah (KRA), now in his 70s, started his life as a marine engineer. He sailed for 10 years in naval vessels (1953 to 1963). In 1960, he was deputed to world famous Harthand & Wolff in Belfast, North Ireland, to assist in the construction of INS Vikrant, the first Indian naval aircraft carrier, where he became first Indian chief of Flight Deck. Later, he joined Visakhapatinam Port as marine engineer and retired as its chief mechanical engineer in 1991. Post retirement, he was appointed by the Indian Port Association, to bring out a Compendium of Major Ports. He was also told to make a study of Kandla, Calcutta and Madras Ports for privatization, improvements in mechanical and marine engineering respectively. He was also invited by World Bank to join the emergency rehabilitation programme in Cambodia from 1994 to 1996.

Books that brought Halchal (change) in his life…

When he was sailing, his pastime was reading. However, the books of reference published by the Admiralty Publications attracted his attention. Sinking of the Bismarck and the Battle of the River Plate were two monographs that riveted his attention to story telling. “I never found such books in any Indian languages and thought if I can put my experiences in writing,” expressed Narasiah. “Similarly, the books by Nicholos Monsora on sea and sailing, especially The Cruel Sea impressed me a lot. But what really touched my heart was Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea,” he added.

The writing bug…

KRA started writing for a daily that was published on board INS Vikrant. When he left the Navy and joined the Merchant Marine, the uncontrollable urge in him to write made him to attempt a short story in Tamil. “The story was inspired from real life. When I was in Cambodia, one of my co-sailors, an Indian, opened his heart over a drink and told me about his troubled family life. That formed the concept for my maiden attempt in Tamil story writing,” told Narasiah. He sent the story to Ananda Vikatan, a popular Tamil weekly, published from Madras (Chennai). After a few weeks, he received a letter from the editor that the story was not only accepted but also published as the award-winning story under the Vikatan ‘Seal Marked’ stories. Same thing happened to his second story as well and then there was no looking back. However, since he could not write much on board, he just wrote a couple of stories in a year. But as all his stories were published, he was greatly encouraged to write.

The writer gets due recognition…

It was at this time that Lakshmi Krishnamurthy, daughter of freedom fighter Satyamurthy, started a publishing house called Book Venture to publish choice books. She asked Narasiah to write the experiences of his sailing in Tamil. When published, Kadalodi (seafarer), as it was titled, became a hit and was reproduced in abridged form in Manjari, a digest in Tamil. The book was catalogued with the United States Library of Congress. So far, many editions of this book have been produced.

Narasiah’s short stories, numbering over 120, have been published in three volumes. Volume I of Tamil short stories was published in 1996-97 by Narmada Padhipagam on request from Madura College, Madurai who prescribed a few stories from it as non-detailed study for its undergraduate students. Volume II of Tamil short stories was published in 2000-01 by Alamel Mangai, a publisher from Nevedita group. It fetched two awards, one from SBI Cultural Wing and another from Tirupur Tamil Sangam. Volume III of Tamil short stories was published by Palaniappa Brothers in 2006. It also fetched the Tamil Nadu State Award.

Narasiah was also conferred with the Tamil Nadu State Awards in 2007 for a treatise in Tamil on sea trade, Kadal Vazhi Vanikam, published by Palaniappa Brothers and then again in 2008 for the book on history of Madras in Tamil, Madarasapattinam, also published by Palaniappa Brothers. This book also won the AV Meiyappan Memorial Award. As per Narasiah, “History evoked keen interest in me as I sailed with Sardar Panikkar when he was researching for his book. It was further sharpened as I was asked to join a mission of emergency rehabilitation of Cambodia in 1994 by the World Bank. Thus I spent good time in researching and penned two books, one on the history of Madras and the other on history of Madurai. I also wrote a book in English titled Maritime History of India which has also been received well.” His English writing also include chapters in the Four Hundred History of Madras and Overcoming Challenges, the story of Port of Chennai during its 125th year. He has also co-authored Madras Rediscovered with S Muthiah, who is a chronicler of Madras and is an authority on History of Madras. This book was published in the year 2008 by New Horizon Media in their ‘Oxygen books’ series.

The transformation of a marine engineer to a writer was complete, both in English and Tamil. “I won the success to my sea experience,” concluded Narasiah.