Sriram Karri

[We recently reviewed Karri‘s novel ‘Autobiography of a Mad Nation’. Here we catch up with him to talk about life and all that.]

Q. Congratulations on your second book! How does it feel, to have your second book published?

It is a wonderful moment – when you hold the published copy of your second book, and first novel, in hand. It makes a long struggle, and effort, worthwhile. No set back or obstacle along the route was worth stopping – this moment makes it just perfect.

Q. Coming to the book itself, how did it happen? And especially considering how different it is from your previous novel.

I have always known that I shall be a writer and write many a book. While I have no justification for the confidence – I always prepared for it in this way – let me write different books. It should never be that I get slotted as someone who writes a genre. In a way, literary fiction is a genre too – but given its serious scope to create diverse works – using history, politics, human nature and condition, potential of the soul – as themes, each work can easily be very different. Also, there would be no fun writing the same thing again and again. Above all, I write for the joy and ecstasy of the process too – and telling a great story each time means absolutely originality and diversity.

Q. Why are you so angry at the nation?

We recently had mother’s day. The strongest bonds between mothers and sons are those which are complex, and so I never felt much difference in the way I bonded with either my mother or my motherland. I have so strong a relationship, I know it is forever. We both feel the love and can take it for granted. And the love allows us to be angry, very angry. The denouncement is not breaking a bond, but to strengthen it. My country right or wrong means my country when it is right, to keep it that way, and when it is wrong, to correct it. Duty not as a burden but a delightful challenge and sense of ownership is part of loving your mother and country.

Q. What motivated you to take up a historical analysis and timeline as the backdrop of the book?

The story grows and the characters mature in the backdrop and canvas of the country. If the country did not have its sense of tragedy and farce, its tales of woes and pain – we would have been different. Emergency, Anti-Sikh riots post Mrs Gandhi’s assassination, wars with Pakistan, nuclear testing, protests against Mandal commission, economic liberalization, Babri masjid demolition, attack on Parliament, Kargil, and finally Godhra – not just the country but we as people would be very different if these events had not unfolded the way they did. Hence, a context and pointer was a must – and an interesting device and tool – to narrate the grand story.

Q. And then, why these particular events?

They changed us, forever. Our guilt, our pain, our shame, our triumph, our doubts, and our desire to establish or mutilate our identities – was permanent. There is no redemption here, but there is hope for a new beginning and a great tomorrow. They choose themselves.

Q. The book grapples with various themes – friendship, political conspiracy, drama, good vs bad etc. But which one is your central focus?

The story. Why did young Vikrant Vaidya frame himself for a murder he did not commit? Why does he write an intellectually mocking and challenging letter to the People’s President rather than send a mercy petition? Who are the people who are playing with Dr Vidyasagar’s investigation, and tampering with it? Why would patriots come together to act against their country? A central threat trying the answers to these questions is the central and only focus.

Q. From being a journalist to a writer, how did that jump happen?

I wrote my first book when I was 10. It was therefore the other way around – became many things in the process of establishing my writing career – and journalist was one. I thought it would help – both write better and get published. Neither is true, at least not for me. I moved on to corporate branding. But I love to write, in all forms. And journalism is fun and addictive.

Q. How different is the process of writing a book, compared to that of writing journalistic articles? How does one experience affect the other?

The flow of adrenaline that begins with the formation of an idea, and creation of a structure, then the research or collection of material, followed by writing the draft, editing it and re-writing it, till it takes a final shape is the same. One is a shorter race, sometimes, even a sprint. A book is a marathon. The preparation and what it takes to last one is very different. The joy is multifold too. In my case, the effect of one on the other was directed by a famed dictum of Victor Hugo – If I write only for tomorrow, let me break my pen. Journalism is seen often, wrongly, as something relevant for a few hours next mooring. It is wrongly argued that it must only capture reality without commentary or analysis. Hence, you have writing and books whose ambition must be to be no more relevant for day after tomorrow than a newspaper. Not only my books, which must outlast me and be read long after I am gone, but even in journalism, I feel one must have the sense of importance of the story being reported.

Q. What is your next project?

A novel on farmer suicides – no, not a dreary clichéd rhetoric on it but an action packed thriller – with unpredictable and powerful characters and great dialogue and scene – and possibly with an impact that won’t leave a reader for long. Heck, have I started marketing a work ahead of its time or what?

Q. And finally, what is writing to you? And what advice would you have for upcoming writers?

Someone invented wings and taught men to fly – as a gift to all others and become immortal in so doing. Writing to me is that holy grail, which transforms my identity and sense of me from lead to gold. Advice – don’t give up. Ever. It can be done.

If you find the book interesting, buy from Amazon or Flipkart here: