Kevin Peter of Moterwriter.com caught up with author M C Raj and got him to talk a little about his novel Madderakka. This is what transpired in the tête-à-tête with the author.
Kevin Peter: What’s a typical day in the life of M C Raj like?
M C Raj: Get up at 7 in the morning. Go to the computer for two hours and do serious writing. Have bath and breakfast. Go to office and see that all office works are in place. Read some books in kindle whenever there is a gap in work. Reach back home at 5 or 6 in the evening. Relax a bit with pets at home. Have serious discussions with wife on the work the next day. Go to computer again and write. This writing of books, social media and emails go on normally till one in the morning. Sometimes it extends till 2.30 in the morning.
KP: Tell us a little about your background?
MCR: Am a student of philosophy and love reading mostly books of philosophy. I also had a training on faith and justice in Thailand for four months. Am an atheist though I grew up in a conservative Christian family. Born of totally illiterate parents I was helped my Catholic European missionaries in my studies. My father worked in their leprosy hospital. Most of my time as a young boy was among the lepers. I was a voracious reader of books from very early stages of my life. After marrying Jyothi I have been fully into rural work. But I combine my activism with a rare intellectualism and global campaigning. I travel to many countries in the world.
KP: How did you become a writer, and have you always wanted to write?
MCR: Already as a student of philosophy I started writing articles. I always dreamed about being a big writer one day and give life to my thoughts in philosophy. It was a challenge for one born of illiterate parents. Am happy that I am a writer in many ways.
KP: How would you describe your writing process?
MCR: For along time I imagined that I could write only serious matters of philosophy. This is what I did. I used to write big volumes of 800 pages, 1100 pages. Though I am an atheist I find myself seriously interested in spirituality and humanism. I gave expression to these in my writings. But I always envied people who wrote fiction and longed to be like them. One of my friends in the Netherlands told me that I should write an autobiography. I am by nature a shy person. Therefore, I did not like to make ‘I’ sentences. I decided to write my story as a novel. From then on it was a non-stop fiction writing. I began to admire at my character creation. I am glad two of my novels have become best sellers, whatever that means.
KP: Just as your writing will inspire others, who are the writers that have inspired you?
MCR: Foucault and Chomsky. I still love reading Foucault but not so much of Chomsky.
KP: What do you think is the best way to influence others, through your actions and your deeds or through your words?
MCR: There has to be a harmony among all these that you are mentioning. One should never try to influence others. One should only live his/her life. It is for others to get inspired or influenced. There is no one way to happiness and freedom. But being ideologically grounded I like to write and campaign for an ideology through my writing.
KP: What’s the ground reality in India like regarding the interaction between Adijan people and the rest of the community? And is there a difference in this relationship as we travel from rural to urban centres?
MCR: The urban centres have developed more sophisticated forms of discrimination of Adijans. They are very crude in rural areas. My wife and I had to personally deal with many such crude forms. Yes, we are happy about the changes that have come about in Karnataka but the leadership of the Adijans still believes in empty rhetoric. The congruence between the emotive side and the cognitive side of leadership is very important for the people. In my book Dyche I have proposed many healing mechanisms both for the oppressed and for the oppressors at the psychological level.
KP: What’s ‘Madderakka’ all about?
MCR: You know it better now than I do. I fall in love with nature and I love women. It was only natural that I gave words to this love and admiration in me for whatever I have seen as amazing in this world. I also strongly believe that Adijan people have something very special to offer to the world in their culture. They have a beautiful culture of offering unlimited space for all people. This is their wealth and capital. Human dignity is possible in the world if nature is admired, if women come to the forefront of governance and if Adijan (indigenous) people all over the world share their spiritual wealth. I am by nature very romantic despite being a philosopher, a romantic philosopher. All these have played a crucial role in the making of Madderakka.
KP: What attracted you to Veeran & Ramona and why did you decide to tell their story?
MCR: Both of them are my creation. They have no resemblance at all to anyone whom I have met. May be these are characters that I long for in the world. When I wrote that part about Veeran and Ramona merging in each other, the very thought of the death of Veeran disturbed me endlessly. For three full days I could not eat and sleep properly. That they are two young lovers is more than anything else.
KP: What are the qualities in your lead protagonists that can be described as worth emulating?
MCR: If you take Ramona it is her grit and determination. If you take Veeran it is his humility in life. If you take Deepti it is her anger against injustice. If you take Madderakka it is her systematic planning and execution of her mission. These are only some qualities that come to my mind immediately. I am sure there are many more that will appeal to each reader.
KP: How much of research was involved to get the historical facts and cultural intricacies of both communities right?
MCR: I did a lot of research on the Sami culture and their struggles. I visited their places by air, by road. I also did a lot of literary scanning on the Sami people. I did also a lifetime research on the Adijan people in India. I did it as an insider. I myself have suffered much of discrimination associated with unseeability. It is a natural vibe in me.
KP: How have the members of the Sami & Adijan community reacted to your story?
MCR: You have seen that the Sami Parliament has written the Introduction to the novel. Some members of the Sami Parliament visited my place when the novel was still a manuscript. About the Adijans in India it has not yet come to light. But one of my friends who is the wife of an IAS officer has sent me a SMS highly appreciating the novel. We must wait and see how India will accept this novel. I am sure with the dynamics of Notionpress things will start moving well.
KP: What are you expecting readers to take away from this book?
MCR: Whatever they like. As an author it is not my role to even imagine what the readers should take. It is my duty as an author to serve a spread on the table for people with multiple tastes. However, my fictions tend to be ideology loaded. I need to learn to be less ideological.
KP: Would you like to say something about CERI & REDS, to enlighten first-timers what these organisations stand for?
MCR: CERI is the Campaign for Electoral Reforms in India. I started it after researches on the Proportional Representation system of many countries. 89 democracies in the world today follow the PR system while only 60 democracies follow the British system of First Past the Post. My point is that FPTP of the British legacy is unfit for a multiparty, multicultural, multi-linguistic and multi-religious country like India. PR system on the other hand was specifically designed for such countries with coalition politics. I dream of an India where all people will have their legitimate space in governance.
REDS stands for Rural Education for Development, Society. We work for the liberation of the Adijan people through the Jungian approach of identifying the latent strength of these communities and making it as capital for their development. This will avoid crying foul at other caste people in India and promote a negotiator-y and harmonious path. REDS works in more than 1000 villages in Karnataka with this model and has succeeded enormously. For example through REDS it has been possible for us to reclaim 11,399.24 acres of lost land for the poor of all castes. This is an organization with a unique approach and my wife and I started this organization in 1984.
KP: Reading anything at the moment?
MCR: I never read one book at a time. I am reading three novels now: Fury From Hell by Rochelle Campell, In the Nick of Time by Tiana Laveen and Tangled Web by Candy Rayne.
KP: And lastly, thank you for parting with your valuable time M C Raj and all the very best for your book.
MCR: Thank you for your beautiful review. I admire you capacity.