The ability to believe in lies is one of the most important foundations on which human civilisation is living. Come on, after all 80 percent of people around the globe believe in God and they have drawn strength from it!
Krishna is currently working as an academician in Delhi-NCR. He hails from Bhopal, and is very rooted to his family. Krishna believes in simple living and has an immense lust for reaching an intellectual level which he says would bring him true satisfaction. The ultimate goal of his life is to have a dedicated cult of readers who really admire what he writes. He left a high paying corporate job and opted for higher education in order to shift to academics, where he gets time for reading and writing. He believes that your passion should by no means be your means of earning. Grey Talks is happy to have Krishna as its second random person, as he represents that sect of today’s youth who do not dwell in materialism only but are looking for an intellectual satisfaction. Krishna, who has labelled himself as an ‘introvert yet socially acceptable’, through this conversation exposes his fears, insecurities, goals and also shares some utterly interesting experiences he has had in his life.
Since we are here, let’s start with joy! We feel joy is about awareness…what do you say?
Very difficult to answer! I don’t know why but I have this contrary idea. Sometimes, perhaps joy is in not knowing, like as sometimes they say, ‘ignorance is bliss’. For me, right now, joy is simpler things, something like this, sitting with friends and talking, smaller things, non-complicated things. Things which are not in pursuit of anything are joy for me.
Sounds Interesting! So that means you don’t believe in ‘pursuit of happiness’?
Isn’t the concept of happiness very elusive! If you define concrete things like car, house, etc. as ‘happiness’, in that case, pursuit of happiness is fine. But the problem with human nature is that when you get these things, your definition of happiness changes again and you desire more. Therefore pursuing happiness will always be there. If I always keep pursuing happiness in definite terms, then I might not be able to achieve it ever; but I, would like to achieve it! So I will rather not define my happiness in pursuit of anything.
So do you think joy has nothing to do with awareness? We mean, wouldn’t you try doing different things in your life to discover yourself?
My idea is rather than pursuing happiness, pursue something which is not of changeable nature; for me joy is to be able to reach a place in my mind, where I am satisfied. Joy is to achieve things which you plan to ‘do’ rather than those which you plan to ‘get’.
Ok, so we get the idea that living in abstract works better for you?
I think so. That’s the crux!
Usually living in abstract reduces lust for concrete things in life. So, materialistic things don’t fascinate you much?
I have experienced already in my life that at times I wanted one cell phone, then another, then something else. I realized that it is nonstop. It’s like a vicious circle. So while I certainly need and would like to have basic necessities of material nature, rather than focusing on these things too much, I would like to focus on reaching an intellectual stage, which would ultimately bring me satisfaction. I would like to attain a mental level, of which by no means have I achieved even 10 % by now. This is one pursuit which takes time.
Is there any image which you have in your mind justifying your reach to the desired mental level?
I am not sure, if it would work out like this; but I want to publish a lot of books by the time I die.
I don’t know. But mostly fiction rather than non-fiction.
That means you are fonder of reading fiction?
On the contrary, non-fiction appeals me more while reading! But I want to express what I have learned from non-fiction in a fictional backdrop. I need the leg space which fiction provides. This is the problem with non-fiction. Nonfiction is very topic specific. The beauty of fiction is that it can jump from one topic to another in a connecting way.
Have you given any input to your writing skills?
Yes, but nothing has been published.
What sort of things do you write?
Write now there are skeletons, two-three different themes. But I would not like to discuss about them in detail.
Any specific genres?
It would definitely have an element of thrill. I know I can’t be pedantic about my writing if I expect people to read it. That is why I want to write fiction.
So it’s thrill, which gives you goose-bumps; does that mean you don’t like authors such as PG Wodehouse, or comedy writings much?
Comedy is something which binds people, it is one of the most difficult genres, be it in writing or acting out. But I don’t think, that I have a great sense of humour. I can’t make people laugh. There are phases in which I can be funny but comedy cannot be my dominant genre of expression. I have read this amazing book, ‘The Catcher in the Rye. Although it is also not predominantly a comedy book, it’s like transcendental humour. I don’t think that I will reach to that level in comedy.
Have you ever shown your work to someone?
Have discussed it but not shown it to anyone.
I don’t know, the problem is that I start writing something and then I realise that my knowledge is incomplete to write on it and then in the attempt of finding things which will complete my knowledge, I find more interesting things… so I just keep on reading and reading and writing takes a backseat, always!
It seems that you have entered in to a never ending vicious circle, do you think there is an end to this?
I know, it’s a vicious circle that I have entered in to. But I will come out of it eventually. But not till the time I am satisfied that I have attained a certain degree of intellectual level. Perhaps, the projects which I take are too ambitious; that is another problem. I had these ideas to take some less ambitious projects, complete them and then shift to bigger things, but something inside me always tells me to focus on bigger things. I am too ambitious in terms of writing. I want to write something which is path breaking, earth shattering and I don’t know what all, and in that pursuit, I have spent many years. But I am still building it. I have to shoot for the sky, I will do it once for all; if I hit it, great! Else…
It seems that you are really shaping up something with immense love and labour…. Are you an optimistic person?
Yes! Everyone who is living in this world is somewhere optimistic. People can think at their conscious levels that they are not optimistic and all, but certainly if they have not committed suicide yet, deep down they are hopeful and optimistic about their future.
So true, but optimism is often diluted by insecurities and fears in this world. So let’s talk about fears. Do you fear something?
My dad! I have these images in my head, when I was 2 and a half feet tall, he was towering over me and shouting at me. Those images I can never wash off from my mind even today, even-though, I know that I am taller than him. The fear is, he shouting at me. I don’t know what it leads to but the mere visualisation of my father shouting at me is scary.
Is it plain fear, or fear of disappointing him?
Perhaps… though I have not thought about it. Second thing that I am scared of is ghosts, badly!
Scared of ghosts! That’s interesting, so any experiences?
Oh my god! There is this one experience, which is like in a limbo. I was very small, I don’t know whether, what I am going to tell you had happened in reality or was it a fragment of my imagination. I was this tiny little kid and I went to my nani’s place, which is a small village in Madhya Pradesh (India). I was like 3 years old, and my cousin sister was getting married. There was a balcony, where ladies were sitting. Since I was just 3 years old I had the liberty to sit in ladies area with my mom and sisters. So I was there and from the balcony, I could see the ground down and on the ground there was a ‘Barat’, eating arrangement, stage etc. I saw down from the balcony and I saw my dad sitting down, on the ground, who came with the marriage ‘Barat’. I got excited and told my mom that I am going downstairs to meet my dad and I ran off. The path from that balcony to downstairs is very elaborate, it involves crossing of lots of verandas and other similar structures, old architecture you know. I ran downstairs and kept running towards the ground; the more I kept running the lesser people were there. In the end, there was this last exit after which I would emerge out on the ground. Because the path leading to the exit was at an angle, you can’t actually see the ground until you have finally crossed that exit. I was running in great excitement to meet my dad and I cross that last exit and… No one was there! It was completely empty! I was taken aback! So, I looked up on my left towards the balcony from where I was earlier peering down, where all those people were supposed to be sitting. Empty! No one was there! Before I could start making sense of what was happening, I saw this one guy wearing grey trousers rolled up to his knees, a creamy shirt and was carrying one steel bucket of water walking towards me in a weird, almost menacing way! He had brown coloured hair and weird eyes. That’s it, I ran back towards the balcony and the moment I reached back, everyone was exactly where they earlier were. I very well remember the image of that guy till now, it’s crystal clear in my mind. It is really weird. I have more experiences, but it’s never been that I have seen ghosts; they are all just unexplainable experiences, coincidences.
This sounds really unusual….. So, are you still scared about this incidence?
Not that I am scared, but the whole image seems still fresh in my mind. The image of father sitting downstairs is so vivid, and yet when I reached where I had seen him, he was not there.
Haha. Strange enough. Now moving from the surreal to more real, we hear you talking about your father and mother. Since you are staying away from your family right now, do you miss staying with your family? When do you primarily miss your family?
I miss discipline. I miss routine, doing daily chores. When you are staying away, the routine is only followed during office hours. But when you live with your family, there is a set schedule and routine which I miss. Another thing I regret about staying away from my family is that I am unable to be with my parents and take care of them. Like, every time when I go back to home, there is some or the other work which is pending; like this last time, it was going to the nursery with mom and getting some plants for my home.
There is nothing like family and time spent with them…… Do you think Childhood was better or this time?
Childhood was way better!
Living with parents, sisters, big family, and small houses. My father is quite a disciplinarian, but I had my share of fun even then. I sneaked it out under his nose. It was good. The memories are very disparate; most of my childhood was spent in different-different places, because my dad had a transferrable job. I have three sisters, my god, and they were all like big bullies back then (laughs). Different small little memories….
So you liked moving out and going to different places, as you mentioned that your dad had a transferrable job.
Not actually, but I later realised it was good. New people, new friends. Eventually I ended up making lots of friends in the process. I have lived in remote parts of Chhattisgarh, about which most people do not have any idea. People there were all very nice. Simple people, simpler time, simpler life. I have experienced that in the past 10-15 years, Indian society has seen this bad phase of transition. All of a sudden, things have become so complicated. Perhaps I feel so because I have moved to the urban centers. I like rural places. My nani’s place is my favourite place which has less than 5000 people. The place itself is totally different; it’s like there is a house, then acres of fields, then a school which does not look like a school at all as it is one of those ‘sarkari’ schools. There are acres of vast open fields, tree and a lot of desi mango plantations. Indeed there was a time when I used to have buckets of mangoes solely at my discretion and I literally used to hog on to them, like crazy. These small little things, I miss them.
It seems you feel nostalgic about these places. Since you have mentioned about the ‘bad transition’ which India is going through, what are your thoughts on urbanisation?
It’s a necessary evil for our country, if you look at America, its vastly urbanised, but they do not have excessive population only in one or two urban centers. In India we have hogged on to just 2-3 urban centers; we can actually count them on our fingers, like NCR Greater Mumbai etc. Now a days, there is altogether a different terminology which is colloquially used for such urban centers: ‘Megalopolitan city’. This kind of excessive unplanned urbanisation is a big problem. But it stems from overpopulation, which America does not suffer from. Like look at Gurgaon, there are towering malls on one side, but you step out of them and walk for 10 metres and you would have bathed in dust and dirt.
So although you have had to ‘travel’ a lot in the sense of having moved from one place to another, what is your idea about travelling otherwise…? Do you love travelling?
I am among those few boring people who are not fond of travelling much. I have always ended up spending way too much while travelling that I would rather spend on other things. I have travelled to a few places like in Europe, and in India – Goa, Massourie, Vaishno Devi. My trip to Vaishno Devi was particularly disastrous.
Is it because of religious reasons?
No! I got robbed off of stuff worth rupees 40,000 and more. I went to this trip all alone. In 2011, I was working in Gurgaon, I took a train from New Delhi to Jammu and from Jammu, I took a bus to Katra and in Katra, I checked in to a hotel and the same day at 7 P.M, I decided to trek up till the temple. At around quarter to three at night, I reached up to the temple and I realised that there was long queue to enter the temple, and no leather items were allowed there. I was carrying my camera and phone along with belt and purse, which were leather. Together, all of this was worth around Rs. 40,000. There was a separate queue for luggage counter, which was almost as big as the main queue. I was really tired and started looking for alternatives for keeping my stuff. I found a guy; they are called ‘pitthoos’ employed to get people and stuff up and down the hill. He offered to safe keep my luggage. Initially I was skeptical, but then he showed me luggage of around 10 other people with him, and he showed me his Identity Card. I noted down his number. I was convinced. I left back my luggage and joined the queue for the temple. Being an extended weekend, the queue was really long. I was in the queue for around 5 hours and it hardly moved, so I decided to go have a look at my luggage. So I went, and I saw that this person, with all 10-11 bags, was not there. For a couple of seconds, I thought that I may be missing the exact location, so I started looking here and there, kept on running with no idea where to go and what to do, whom to ask and what to ask. Then I saw that there were other people around me who were as puzzled as I was. I went to them and asked ‘are you looking for the guy, who kept your luggage?’ and they were like ‘yesss!’(Laughs). They were like 5-6 families. We all went to the police, which was not very cooperative. I told them that I have that guy’s ID, they saw the ID, went to the record and said that no person with this ID exists. Clearly, the cops were trying to fool us! The police fellow gave us an address where all these ‘pitthoos’ go and rest. We went there but nobody was there. We spent like 3 hours in search of that particular guy but in my mind I had given up. I had no shoes and only Rs. 500 in my pocket, I was in a place where pre-paid mobiles don’t work. I went to a store, spent Rs.60 on a ‘chappal’ and started walking back to the hotel which I took in ‘Katra’. By 5:30 in the evening, I had reached. I started calling people from a PCO booth. My phone, wallet, credit card, debit card and also the key to the room in which I was staying, everything was stolen. I got people to block my cards. The hotel guy asked for 600, rupees to give me the spare room key in which my rest of the luggage was kept. He had no empathy for my tragedy! Haha. I called my friend and asked him to do a wire transfer in the hotel owner’s account. The owner got convinced and finally gave me the key of the room. I came out, and spent 20 rupees on food to get Rajma Chawal; and for another 20 Rupees, I got a bus back to Jammu, and from there I took a bus to Amritsar, where my brother was staying.
Sounds really crazy! So you remembered all the phone numbers, of your brother, and the other friends you called?
Haha. This is another story. I actually remembered only 2 numbers; one my friend’s and one my Girl-friend’s. Thankfully these two people had all the relevant numbers that I needed. I didn’t even do darshan at Vaishno Devi. I went there, got looted and just came back. I had a fancy mobile phone. I had been just back from London, where I went for some official work and had got this phone which was not even launched in India then. It was just the beginning of this smartphone craziness and a new phone was a buzz in the office! And it got stolen by that pitthoos! Someone clearly jinxed it.
Wow! Your office sent you to London and these places……
Haha. I have left that job, I wanted to get in to academics.
That’s strange, but why?
Because, I wanted to get in to reading and writing. In my previous job, I was working for longer hours and the work was slightly repetitive. But that’s fine. Eventually, I have realised that you should not work for your passion. Your work should be the means of earning, and apart from that you should have ample of time to fulfil your passion.
Sounds practical and realistic….Can writing be the means of earning for you?
I read somewhere that you should not bank on writing as a full time career, unless you have 2-3 successful books or unless you are J.K Rowling or something. I think it will remain my night time job.
J.K Rowling got the idea of writing Harry Potter during a train journey, do you also get ideas to write randomly?
Ya, I have also had ideas. But unlike J.K Rowling’s ideas, they are not blockbusters till now.
Probably that’s because you have not made them public till now.
That’s the whole hope on which I am living!
Let’s talk about our own Indian Bestseller, ‘Chetan Bhagat’, What do you think about him ?
I think he is the Shah Rukh Khan of writing. He started as somebody who had talent and guts to write something which no one had written before him and then he ended up creating a demand for which he kept on writing again and again. His first book was good, his style of expression was good but as time progressed it became worse and just a mass production of literature. Perhaps, more than Chetan Bhagat’s fault, it’s the consumer’s fault for creating demand for such literature.
Well said! What’s your take on ‘art’?
I don’t have much knowledge about conventional arts, say Roman art, Greek art, etc. But, I would love to know the meaning of art and the reason behind its existence. Behind the science of thinking processes which lead us to call something art and appreciate it.
It seems that you hunt for scientific reasons behind the art…Do you think that science has all the answers?
Oh Yes! I do believe that Science has all the answers within it. I think it’s not always possible for our brain to break everything down into 0s and 1s, but I believe everything can be broken down in that manner, and we should keep trying to do that. For instance, I saw this beautiful TED talk, in which the speaker talked about the meaning of beauty. It was a very simple, perhaps, even simplistic approach towards defining the concept of beauty, but it had a grain of truth in it. It said that the correct perspective of looking into the concept of beauty is evolutionary in nature. Beautification is a result of long evolutionary processes that have made our brain consider certain things as beautiful. In that Ted Talk he explained in detail that those places, where predators were unable to find and attack humans, are perceived to be more beautiful by us. It’s just a small example, but many interesting scientific reasons behind the logic of what seems to be beautiful to us were discussed in that TED talk.
So, do you believe in theory of Darwin, survival of the fittest?
Yes. I was reading this book, in which one very famous scientist said that nothing in biology makes sense if it is not seen in light of Darwin’s theory.
Ok. We have seen that you have a bent of mind focusing on science. But we would like to explore more of your emotional side. On this, has there been a moment of ultimate despair in your life?
Yes. I was in Singapore and had to come back to India after completing my education. The night that I was travelling back to India, was my worst night. I had spent so much on my Masters education and I was returning back home without any job in India. The uncertainty was really scary. It was a very bad phase.
What is success for you?
It lies in satisfaction. For me success would be, when I am 55 or 60, having a dedicated cult of readers, who really like what I write.
Does it involve recognition of your work?
Let’s for a moment consider that you are writing as a ghost writer. I mean even then, your work is recognized, but it comes without fame? Would you want that?
Very difficult to answer. I have not given a thought to it. Perhaps, not. I would like to have my name on my book and personal recognition with it. But at the same time I don’t want to be Big Boss sort of famous. I should be able to justify my fame to myself.
Usually fame brings criticism and judgements…other’s opinion matter to you?
Yes. I take others opinion in to consideration, but while weighing them whether they are suiting me or not (laughs). I conveniently accept the opinions which suit me and reject those which don’t, while telling myself that these are wrong opinions. I think this is one of the worst thing I am going to say in this conversation, but the ability to believe in lies that suit oneself is one of the most important foundations on which human civilisation is living on. Come on, after all 80 percent of people around the globe believe in God and they have drawn strength from it!
In fact, this is one of the most interesting things I have ever heard. Talk about how human civilization works, one of its main features is social life. Do you feel that you are a social person?
I am certainly comfortable with certain groups of people, but most of the time I like to be alone. I don’t like proactively meeting people.
Is your likeness towards staying alone acquired or natural?
No, it is natural. On the contrary, meeting people and getting along with them is acquired (Laughs). I am very introvert, but I have learned to be socially acceptable.
Coffee or Tea: Coffee
Low paying academic job or high paying corporate job: Low paying academic job
Publishing a book or getting married to your loved one: Publishing a book
Morals or Money: Mostly, Morals
Last embarrassing situation, you ended up in: We were having a booze party at my friend’s place, and her mother came unannounced. So, I, along with my six guy friends were found in her bathroom, in a (failed) attempt to hide from her Mother (laughs). I hope none of my students read this.
Book you read last and had an effect on you: In search of Schrodinger’s Cat
Roadies or Saas-Bahu Series: Roadies.
Have you ever slapped someone in a fight: I have punched someone in a fight.
Have you read the following books?
Great Gatsby: No
Atlas Shrugged: Still reading it.
What Young India Wants: No, I have not read Chetan Bhagat after I read his ‘Three mistakes of my life.’
Cuckoo’s Calling: Yes.
Worst Book, you have ever read: Tell Me Your Dreams, by Sydney Sheldon
Name few elderly women which you find utterly sexy: Drew Barrymore, Priety Zinta (She is quite old now) and Hema Malini.