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Home Personality Interviews Timeri N. Murari

Timeri N. Murari

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"I'm not always right, but what the hell!"

Timeri Murari is a journalist by profession and writer by choice. He has authored 14 books including ‘My Temporary Son: an orphan’s journey’ and the bestseller ‘Taj’, which was translated into nine languages. In 2002, he was given the ‘R.K. Narayan Award’ for his work in cinema and theatre. He also wrote and produced the award-winning film, ‘The Square Circle’, voted as ‘one of the ten best films of the year’ by Time Magazine. The film was later adapted to theatre and staged in London to rave reviews. ‘Limping to the Centre of the World’ is his latest book about his trek to Mount Kailas. Here he is in an email interview with Ajinkya Deshmukh:
 

Q. ‘Limping to the Centre of the World’ seems like a very personal travelogue of a potently life-changing journey. How has everyday life changed after your trek to Mount Kailas?
A. The changes have been subtle, not radical, and the change continues. I have grown much calmer, I don’t worry about the minor or even major irritations in daily life; I’ve learned to pace myself and not plan far ahead. I prize every day and wake with anticipation for my work, and for the surprises that can happen. Also, I have grown far more aware of our natural world – everything from the shape of trees, the colour of leaves, the flight of birds and their calls to the changing nature of our sky. My father brought me up to be very aware of our environment and I do believe we have wounded our natural world fatally, as I’ve noted in my book.
Q. You mentioned in the book that you are not a very religious man, and yet the journey seemed pre-ordained. How do you handle agnosticism and destiny as two very different shades of faith?
A. Yes, it is weird that no matter how hard I tried, I could not escape this journey to Kailas. Admittedly, I can’t explain this except that I went there for a child and that could have moved the mountain. Nature is power. We cannot explain the reasons for our existence, why we are born, live and die, and what our role is in this universe. Destiny does not exist; it’s not a faith in any sense. If we did have control of our destiny, individually and collectively, we’d be masters of the universe. Religion has entrapped us in a narrow set of beliefs and superstitions so we’re blinded to the wider implications of our existence on not only this planet but also in an unimaginably vast universe. Religion divides us from our common humanity.  

Q. Has your belief structure undergone a revamp?
A. No, I have not, like a Paul on his way to Damascus, undergone a blinding change in belief. The trek to the mount Kailas only reinforced a belief in our natural world and its awesome power. Once man worshipped nature, now he worships himself as god. We’re helpless when nature unleashes its forces – a tsunami, an earthquake, rising sea levels, vanishing species… The dinosaurs lived longer than mankind, and yet have only left their bones and footprints, as memorials of their existence.

Q. Your works span many genres: fiction, non-fiction, theatre and cinema. Which medium of communication are you most at home with?
A. I enjoy stretching the envelope in whichever medium. It’s a challenge to always try to do something new and renew myself at the same time. In a novel the characters can internalize their thoughts and feelings while in a film we must see this happening and on the stage, hear it. An idea sometimes suggests itself as a novel, sometimes as a film and I try to follow my instincts.
I’m not always right, but what the hell!

Q. ‘The Square Circle’ won you many accolades. What is the theme of the work (film and play)?
A. I had always meant the film 'The Square Circle' (‘Daayra’) to be a love story between two people trapped in opposite identities.  It’s an intriguing essay on the nature of real and assumed gender identities and cultural proscriptions. It’s also an exploration of sexual identity in an Indian context where love has nothing to do with marriage and sex has little to do with love. As I was unhappy with the film director’s interpretation, I re-worked it as a stage play which I directed at the Leicester Haymarket theatre. The main leads were Parminder Nagra and Rahul Bose. The theme remained the same, though not the ending. In the play, I returned to my original ending.

Q. Your travels have taken you the world over. Apart from established names, do you think India fails to provide an equal platform to budding writers and playwrights?
A. The answer is a big YES. Certainly new writers are having their works published but are given very little support by their publishers, while Indian playwrights are expected to write free of charge for amateur dramatic companies, at least in the English medium. In the West, writers and journalists are given a great deal of respect, while in India they’re looked down upon as inferior professionals.

Q. How would you comment on Indian writing in English? Any favourites?
A. I can’t claim to have any favourite but there is a lot of very good writing coming out of India, but also some very bad writing. Editors and reviewers appear to have problems in distinguishing between utter drivel and true talent.

Q. Departing from literature, having been a journalist, do you think Indian media, especially electronic, has steeped much into yellow journalism and sensationalizing?
A. Viewing our Indian news channels leaves me fuming and worse, uninformed. It is a very depressing experience. There’s very little hard news, no serious investigative journalism while many hours are squandered on murders, rapes, scams, movies and excessive sports. No doubt they’re of interest but India needs to be better served by this ‘new’ medium.

Q. The last few years have seen you professionally very productive. Anything new in the pipeline?
A. I’m stretching the envelope again. This time I’ve written a young adult work of fiction which will be published by Scholastic later this year. We’re still working on the title and it will appear under a pseudonym. I will also start a bi-monthly column for the New Sunday Express from November.

Q. Through a cultural perspective, what do you think lacks in the Indian psyche?
A. I wish we Indians had a better sense of humour. I don’t mean slapstick or the crude adolescent humour in cinema. I mean a sense of wit. We take ourselves and, even worse, our politicians, too seriously. After all, nature has a wicked sense of humour!
The author can be visited at www.timerimurari.com
Related Story: Book Review of "Limping to the Centre of the World"

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