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The many faces of Crasta

He is naughty and he is philosophical. That's Robert Crasta for you

ON A DIFFERENT PLANE Richard Crasta: `Truth is more important than perception' PHOTO: MURALI KUMAR K.

Richard Crasta made news with his novel, The Revised Kamasutra, and then the books, Impressing the Whites, Beauty Queens, Children and the Death of Sex, and Eaten by the Japanese. After a six-year hiatus, he is out with two other books. What We All Need, entirely his own, and Fathers, Rebels and Dreamers, compiled with two of his Mangalore friends: Arunachalam Kumar, conservationist, and Ralph Nazareth, poet and professor.

Crasta, who launched the books at Oxford Bookstore here last week is interested in the world around him. Interested in the world as microcosm and macrocosm and everything in and in-between these cosms. He communicates angst when speaking about it — serious, philosophical, thoughtful, humble, not at all egotistic and sincerely believing in everything that he does — and irreverence when writing — there's enough wit and naughty stuff that has come in for appreciation. The Catholic (anti-Catholic?) from Mangalore, who has been in the United States for long, and is now travelling Asia is looking for a place that would be his.

Excerpts from an interview:

You have something to say about everything — from love to colonialism to terrorism. Who then is Richard Crasta?

A seeker of truth, fighter for justice, somebody who celebrates joy and laughter in human existence, free expression, openness, somebody who doesn't hide pain and shame. In terms of values, I take from Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Zen... I also have elements of rationalism. I am in a flux. But yes, when it comes to courage and freedom, there is no change there. I try to maintain them.

What is your philosophical axis? Where are you coming from?

Sometimes my work is described as anti-Christian, but my deep principles are actually Christian. Charity, forgiveness, redemption — all these have stayed with me though I'm no church-goer. I like this essence of Christianity that is not there in George Bush. I like the truth in Buddhism. And I like Hinduism for its abstract call, its belief in the oneness of life, its glorious myths and stories. But I can't accept Karma. If somebody is suffering, it will be said it is because of bad deeds in the previous life. There is no compassion there.

What do people make of Richard Crasta? What would you want people to make of Richard Crasta?

It is not for me to be saying that. Truth is more important than perception. Perception is political — you can manage people's perceptions. I'm not into that. I have to be true and authentic all the time. What you believe about yourself is more important than what others believe you are.

So you've never been afraid of stating what you had to state?

Of course I'm afraid all the time. I'm very much part of society. Society is inside me. I have to fear all the time, but I also have to fight that fear. It took me a lot of courage to write and publish. I had friends here today who picked Fathers, Rebels and Dreamers and only one picked What We All Need. They seemed embarrassed to carry it around. I think my friends are liberated, but are constrained by society. They have an internal world of their own. It takes courage to say this is the most important thing in the world. No one was going to call me and say I'd be getting a lot of money. I could also get into physical trouble. I am afraid, but I am not a coward. That makes existence miserable. Part of the slowness and the five years it has taken me is because of the struggle between the repressed Richard and the child Richard looking to be free.

Repression and freedom largely seem to inform your worldview...

You maybe right. Not an unfair thing to say...

So what does it mean when sexual jokes evoke more laughter? Like today?

That's true. If there is more repression, greater is the release. That's what laughter means. A European writer who read the manuscript of my book What We All Need couldn't laugh. I told him sex was a natural thing in his country, sex was easy, and I also told him his country anyway didn't laugh much. But an Indian who read it burst out laughing. When you write you bring in humour. When you speak you are philosophical. Are you the person in the book or the person speaking?

I think of laughter as an act of redemption. To give laughter is an act of grace. It comes to me naturally. I don't make an attempt to be funny. I am the first audience and if I think something's too heavy, I rethink heaviness and lighten it. But we live in contradiction. It is only human to have both laughter and sadness.

Why do you write?

I write because I have something to say, because I have to save my soul. It is not a choice. It is my element.

Where are you heading with your writing?

I don't know...We are always in motion, not necessarily in straight lines though, sometimes in circles too!

Are you a writer?

Any single word is a reductive label, but with that limitation, being a writer is one of my identities. But I am not only a writer, man or nation. I am many things... father, son, friend. I am passionate, I am sincere, I am serious, but not pompous.

Why the panties on your book cover?

It's not that I suggested or asked for it to be there... It's a provocative and subversive book, so a provocative and subversive jacket. Whatever the jacket, the contents of the book have to be good.


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