Raghavan Srinivasan is a graduate in Chemical Engineering from Madras University and a post-graduate in MBA from McMaster University, Canada. At present, he is a professional consultant in the social development area. He lives in New Delhi.
As a consultant he has written and edited a number of documents. He has also been editing a magazine called Ghadar Jari Hai for several years now. It started as a print publication and is now an online magazine. He has written several cover stories, articles and travelogues for print and online newspapers. Raghavan is passionately interested in Indian literature, philosophy and history. He believes that the past of our sub-continent has many clues to help us find our way in these confusing times. ‘Yugantra’ is his debut novel published by Leadstart publishing.
TBE: Tell us about your book, can you share with us something about the book that isn’t in the blurb?
Raghavan Srinivasan: Yugantar is not just a historical fiction. It deals with several philosophical trends popular at the time of the rise of the Mauryan Empire in the north, north-west and south of the subcontinent. It also weaves in an assessment of the political, scientific and technological advancements being made at that time.
TBE: What brought about the idea for Yugantar and why did you want to write it?
Raghavan Srinivasan: The idea is that though the Indian subcontinent was divided into republics and kingdoms, a fabric of popularly accepted philosophies and cultures has always held it together. Whenever fanaticism and obscurantism raised their head, the subcontinent became vulnerable to internal dissensions and external aggression. Material and spiritual deterioration set in. I took up writing this novel because today the subcontinent is witnessing such a sandhi, a block to its progress. The past can provide clues to solve the current crisis.
TBE: According to you What is important in shaping the society of the world today or in the future?
Raghavan Srinivasan: A society has to settle scores with its past conscience in order to remain relevant today and in the future. Which means that it should respect the rich heritage of the past, but not just live in the past. It has to identify the best vignettes of its past and render them modern. Moreover, this has to be led by the productive forces of society who are shaping today’s world.
TBE: Do you think, for both children and adults, understanding the history associated with one’s culture is important? Why?
Raghavan Srinivasan: A sense of belonging comes only when we have understood our history, culture and politics. Ignorance of our history and culture would lead us to believe that our culture is backward and some other culture is more advanced.
TBE: Does Indian history, if interpreted without any bias, teach people to be more accepting of other cultures?
Raghavan Srinivasan: The history of India is a history of assimilating different philosophies and cultures, encouraging debates, and not only tolerating but respecting different points of view. So, if Indian history is presented factually and fully, then it will be possible for old and young generations to come to their own conclusions and appreciate diverse schools of thought and socio-cultural aspects.
TBE: What was your writing process for this book? And How long did it take you to write this book?
Raghavan Srinivasan: Over the years I had been reading books on the period. But when I started writing it required a lot of effort to understand how people lived and thought during that period. I spent a lot of time to understand the context of that period, 2300 years ago, before I attempted the chapterisation. It took about 4 months to arrive at a decent manuscript.
TBE: During your journey from the idea of this book to the publication, what was the most difficult thing you faced? Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Raghavan Srinivasan: What was most challenging was to connect socio-political, philosophical and cultural trends across the Indian subcontinent and get under the skin of people living in that period. While history books, fiction and non-fiction, deal with a particular geographical location or an empire, this novel required an understanding of contemporary processes across a huge cultural, political and geographical landscape. The novel is layered into several sub-stories of characters belonging to totally different regions and sub-cultures. It was challenging to keep alternating while sticking to an overall plot.
TBE: What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
Raghavan Srinivasan: I hope the readers would appreciate the concept and entity called bharatavarsha with all its diversities. When writing the novel, I have also made some far-reaching historical interpretations and deductions about bharatavarsha, which I hope the readers would appreciate.
TBE: Do you read much and if so, which are your favorite books and authors?
Raghavan Srinivasan: I read a lot, sometimes 3 or 4 books at the same time to relieve any monotony. Reading across genres provides new perspectives. My favourite books are historical fiction and non-fiction, philosophy, mystery, mythology, short stories and adventure. I like Anand Neelakantan, Amitav Ghosh, William Dalrymple, George Martin, Shashi Tharoor, Vikram Chandra, Kalki Krishnamurthy, etc and, of course, the western classical authors.
TBE: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Raghavan Srinivasan: I am a social activist and a political commentator. I participate in actions and debates related to human rights, democracy, etc. Besides I like to travel to places of historical and cultural interest. I listen to music too and play a bit of keyboard.
TBE: What was one of the most surprising things you learned during creation of your book?
Raghavan Srinivasan: That I could write a story located in a society I have never seen. Also, that I could appreciate the different writing styles of authors and genres. Writing the novel never weighed on me as a burden or a responsibility to be completed. I really enjoyed the work like a sculptor slowly seeing his creation taking shape.
TBE: Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
Raghavan Srinivasan: I have completed a manuscript of a historical non-fiction on Rajaraja Chola, the emperor of South India, who laid the foundations of the longest Indian empire. It would be the first comprehensive book in English on the emperor and the social, political milieu at that time. The treatment is not academic and the book would provide fresh and interesting perspectives on life in those times.