What comes to your mind when you think of writing? Well, to me writing is not some mystic art. It is more of a practical skill. And writers are fascinating. Writers are adventurers, they are the travellers of knowledge, embarking upon journeys into the unknown. Writers write to taste life twice; once they live in the moment and then they relive in these moments through their writings.
We had a short conversation with Dr. Raj Rao about his upcoming book ‘ Crocodile Tears’. And it is universally stated that one must be thorough with ones research and cannot afford missing out on minute details while approaching a writer. Dr. Raj Rao is a writer, poet and a teacher of literature. He is recognised widely with his extensive work as one of India’s leading gay rights activists. His 2003 novel THE BOYFRIEND is one of the first gay novel’s to come from India.
Through our entire conversation with Dr. Rao, we noticed that his writing has definitely given his ideas exceptional form and discipline. A few questions that we felt would help us understand his work closely are stated below.
Can you please tell us how did you come up with the idea of this book ‘ Crocodile tears’?
He said, “ Earlier, I had a book of short stories called ‘ One Day I Locked My Flat In Soul City’ which appeared long back in 1995 and then the enlarged and revived edition appeared in 2001. This book was later translated into Italian as well and one of the short stories appeared in the London Magazine. As this book received a huge response from readers, I continued to write short stories after that. But these stories weren’t enough for a full stretch book. Now after writing novels, theories and other interesting stuff I thought of switching back to these short frames and compiling them in the form of a book. I have clubbed my favourite stories in my recent book.”
Why have you given yourself a pen name ‘Raja Rao Junior’?
“ Ohh, that is an interesting story. Raja Rao was a famous novelist. He was born in 1908. He lived in India and then moved to USA. He died at the age of 98. Now my name R Raj Rao of course happens to be quite similar to his name. But we aren’t the same eventually. Still people mistake me to be Raja Rao and it goes to ridiculous levels as they walk upto me with his novels and ask me to autograph those. It used to annoy me earlier but then I look through this thing as people have the tendency to mess up with names and I wonder why this happens to them. So now I sportingly call myself as ‘Raja Rao Junior’ because as far as my fiction is concerned what’s the harm in addressing myself as his junior!”
How would you describe writing? Is story writing a difficult task?
“ I write to make sense of the world. I try to wrestle my innermost thoughts into some kind of coherent order, that adds up.
The act of writing is a process. It’s one of the self-discovery and moving towards understanding. Writing is incredibly powerful and like anything powerful, requires a lifetime of practice to master. Put the effort in, however, and the rewards will be ample.
I strongly feel that a story is not something you create. It is something that you pull out of yourself. The story is already there inside you. Words draw the story to the surface and bring it into the light.
Stories are formed from the experiences you encounter. The books you read, the links you traverse, everything you experience…All of this slowly, but surely takes form, crystallising, inside you.
As a writer you reach inside yourself to pull this material out; you wrestle and you fight to give it a form”.
How has your journey with Vishwakarma Publications been?
“They are extremely helpful. During the entire publishing journey they have been very co – operative”.
Dr. Raj Rao recently addressed the audience at TEDX talk, VIT Pune . His talk was on LGBTQ community in India, in the wake of the recent section 377 act judgement. (Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code dating back to 1861, criminalises sexual activities “against the order of nature”, arguably including homosexual acts’)