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Raghav Chandra

About Him

Author of 'Scent of a Game’ and 'Kaali’s Daughter’, this former Secretary, Government of India is the President of The Society for Culture and Environment and the Director of Bhopal Literature Festival.

Welcome Raghavto my platform and I would like to ask you the following questions :

  • Deeba: You are an IAS, and holder of Masters from Harvard and Delhi University. You have been Secretary, Government of India and Chairman, National Highways. Please share with us about your literary journey.
    Raghav :I have loved expressing myself. However, I got into serious writing when I started a blog of my own called Scratchmysoul.com in March 2008. I set the target of writing one blog a day. I did that for over a year without a break – whether on a train or a flight, whether in the morning or in the night, in the country or abroad. Suddenly I discovered that I had a writer hidden inside me, bursting with ideas and an improved fluency. I haven’t looked back since.
  • Deeba: Are you a voracious reader as well? What do you read? Who are your favorite authors?
    Raghav : I am mostly a non-fiction reader and scan a lot of journals and periodicals cover-to-cover religiously, especially Time and Economist. I also read select articles from the New York Times.

    A few of my favorite authors are Stephen King, Jeffrey Archer, Ken Follett, Arundhati Roy, RamchandraGuha, and Yuval Noah Harari

  • Deeba: You are also an author. Besides extensively writing on management and infrastructure issues you have also experimented with fiction: ‘Scent of a Game’ (Rupa) & ‘Kali's Daughter’ (forthcoming, Pan Macmillan). Please share with us your writing process.
    Raghav : Writing fiction is, apart from an internal urging, a product of time, space and external stimulus. Both my books have emerged in the course of my civil service career when I have been unexpectedly moved to a less strenuous assignment and I happened to be reading extensively on the subject which then formed the mainstay of the book. So I had all three of the requisitefactor endowments at my disposal. It is in moments of inflexion such as these that one’s imagination and energy conspire and impel one to innovate and create.

    Scent of a Game narrates the history of wildlife hunting in India and touches on the subject of illicit trafficking in endangered species while telling a very human story of a man arrested with a tiger skin near a national park. It is based around 2006, a watershed year in the annals of Indian wildlife when several prestigious and protected tiger reserves were surprisingly found to be bereft of any tigers whatsoever, quite contrary to earlier proclamations in that regard by the Forest Department.

    Kali’s Daughter is about life in the civil services beginning with the selection process, the common training at the Mussoorie Academy of the Indian Administrative Service and the Foreign Serviceofficers and their later life. It describes the subtle prejudices around caste and class that are latent and mostly hidden, but are often difficult to conceal, a perplexing narrative of an Indian society in the midst of churn.

  • Deeba: Having tried both Fiction and Non-fiction, what comes naturally to you and what can the readers expect more from you. Any new writing projects on the cards?
    Raghav : After these two works of fiction I intend writing non-fiction. I have planned a book on the governance issues connected with the tribes of India, who are truly the most vulnerable people, left behind in the race for development. I’ve held jobs connected with that subject. Another book that I plan to do is based around the life and timesof one of the greatest Hindi poets of India whose work has had a tremendous, almost cult-like impact on the sensibilities of a large part of India, bestowing him almost saint like status. There isn’t a modern interpretation of his life, so I hope to fill that void.

    At the moment, I’m not quite sure which one will happen first, because I’m researching.

  • Deeba: You are the President of the Society for Culture and Environment and Director of the Bhopal Literature and Art Festival. Can you share with us some interesting details of Bhopal Literature Festival?
    Raghav : The Bhopal Literature Festival held between 12-14th January 2019 at the prestigious Bharat Bhawan with three parallel sessions each day and a cultural program in the evening attracted about 70 authors, discussants and artists from across India and abroad and hundreds of cognoscenti from Bhopal and its environs, particularly college going students and teachers. BLF was a buzzing cornucopia of Padma Shri and National awardees. While all 56 sessions were curated thoughtfully some of the popular and more notable authors and discussants who attended this literary and artistic extravaganza were: environmentalists PradeepKrishen, BittuSahgal, Pranay Lal and VivekMenon; diplomat/civil servants Pavan Varma, TCA Raghavan, Rajiv Mehrishi, Amitabh Kant, Anthony de Sa, RajniSekhriSibal and SY Quraishi; military, intelligence and diplomacy experts General Ata Hasnain, General MohinderPuri, Shiv KunalVerma and AS Dulat; social commentators KekiDaruwalla, BachiKarkaria, Vinita DawraNangia, Anil Dharker, SeemaGoswami, Vinita Bakshi, AshaliVerma and KoralDasgupta; historians/mythologists ShonaleekaKaul, AshaliVerma, KK Chakravarty, Rima Hooja, Christopher Doyle; researcher/scholars like MadhaviMenon who is an authority on human behavior and sexuality. There were also many book launches and art exhibitions.

    What distinguished this literature and art event from others of this ilk was its unremitting conformity to literature and art. Notably, it discussed cinema without depending on film stars to give it glamour.

  • Deeba: ‘Heartland Stories’ – is a heartwarming caption for Bhopal Literature Festival. What can we expect from the next year’s festival?

    Raghav :We would like to build on the momentum of the Bhopal Literature Festival first edition. More youth should want to get involved with literature for literature’s sake. Unfortunately, I have observed that even in Jaipur, despite their huge turnout from schools and colleges, student participation is mostly of a social nature. I would like to inspire the younger generations to read and expand their minds. Cinema and music is necessary, but it is all served easy, like fast food. Literature makes you think of possibilities in a far more compelling way and has to be encouraged further. It would be gratifying to see active student involvement.

  • Deeba: Share with us your challenges and learning from the festival.

    Raghav : Some of the critical challenges were: Finding sponsors Building a team of capable organizers Getting the right logistics people Dealing with frequent changes in the itinerary of important speakers Getting the panelists right for any session

  • Deeba: How can a new author reach readers / get exposure from festivals?

    Raghav : Attending festivals is important. Authors are human too. Aspiring writers can meet established authors and listen to them, comprehend them – howthey respond to questions, their reactions to situations, their overall body language. Their works are extensions of their personalities and experiences and everybody has a vast gamut of unique personal experiences to build upon. So a lot can be learnt by seeing and listening to others, especially those who have been successful.

  • Deeba: One question I ask all my guests – what is your favourite non-alcoholic drink?

    Raghav : I crave freshly squeezed orange or lemon juice. Yes, I like the tangy, citrus effect.

    • Deeba: Advice to the writers of ‘The Write Scene’ who are looking to get their work published?

      Raghav : Write and write. The more you write, the better you become. That will give you the flow. Also, get the broad conventions of modern writing correct by picking up a book on good writing. Most importantly, look out for topics that you will be comfortable writing about and read a lot about them. Look for unexplored areas. Facets that are not in the common domain. Build a canvas around them in your mind, and then start writing. Get your text in place. Then apply yourself to editing it, because that is as important as the basic content.

      Go for it!

Raghav Chandra