Kishore Thukral is a multitalented person. An author, mountaineer, photographer, and an investment consultant, he has been in the lime light recently because of his much acclaimed book, The Chronicler’s Daughter. In conversation with him, we find that he is an extremely interesting person. Read more to find out yourself.
VP: Sir, you’re an author of two English books, an investment consultant and a member of a Trust that aims at rejuvenating the Spiti Valley, and also a father of two children. How does it feel to be such a multi-talented person?
K.Thukral: I don’t if that means one is multi-talented, but it certainly means that one is multi-interested. One has different interests in life and they become passions over time, and you go about doing things the way you think you should.
VP: Sir, when did you start writing?
KT: I first imagined that I would be writing when maybe I was 20 years old. But I put that on hold till I could really stabilize myself in a profession. Then I began to write seriously at about the age of 35 which was about 12-13 years ago. And I did write a book initially which I didn’t sent in for publication because I wasn’t happy with it myself. And finally I did write, and sent it for publication and it was accepted and that’s how it all began.
VP: When reading a book, what do you look for; suspense, romance, humour or anything else?
KT: I am not really keen to looking for suspense romance or humour. What I really like is a good story. I enjoy a message that is subtle. I enjoy good language a lot.
VP: Good language in the sense, the simple language or the metaphoric-poetic language?
KT: It really depends on what the author is trying to convey. Everything cannot be conveyed in the same language. So there are certain topics, certain subjects that are best conveyed in simple language, some that are best conveyed in metaphoric language. So it all depends on what the author is trying to convey.
VP: Your favourite book would be?
KT: One of my favourite books would be Angela’s Ashes. Another one of my favourites is the Diaries of Angeamole. These are some of my favourite books.
VP: And what are you most passionate about?
K.T: Very difficult to say. It’s like having many children and saying which one you like the most. I am very passionate about traveling in the mountains. I am very passionate about writing. I am very passionate about Photography. I am very passionate about Tibetan-Buddhist iconography. These all the things I am very passionate about.
VP: How do you take criticism?
KT: Constructive-I enjoy it. Well, you really don’t enjoy criticism that leaves you with no alternative. But it’s really nice to know that people have read you and are thinking about it.
VP: Do you think a writer has any responsibility except to write what he feels?
KT: No, certainly a writer has immense responsibility. As we all know about the Might of the Pen. If you want write something you strongly feel about, it would be really nice that you write it in a manner that other people understand it and agree to it and maybe act on it.
VP: What is your comment on India’s Youth?
KT: They are far more focused than we were at that time and at the same time, far more competitive. I think it’s their focus that makes them extremely competitive. And one thing that really distresses me and that is not true about just the Indian youth, but youth all over, is their enslavement to the screen. Whether it’s the cell phone or the computer or the television or something that is bearing down on their senses, the I-pod. And it leaves very little time to think, introspect if at all. You have something deep down in your senses, some sound, some sight, and some visual. Otherwise, they are far more focused, they have far more exposure, and they understand things quicker than we did. And far brighter.
VP: Many people are seen saying that the youth must come out and change the system.. Your views?
KT: I first want ask those who say this, did they ever think of making a change when they were young? It’s all very well to say that the youth must come up and change. All of us have been young in our times, but how many of us have gone out to make any change. How many of us are doing it now in middle age and old age?
We must realize that when you are at our age, you are in a greater sphere of influence. You reside in a greater sphere of influence than what you inhabited when you were say 20 or 21. In the sense that you are in a better decision making position, whether it be at your home, your workplace or an institution; in a society, the community that you live in or a resident welfare association that you are a part of. Because at 20, people don’t take you so seriously. So if you are saying that the youth must bring about a change, what kind of change are you asking them to bring?
The only way the youth can bring about change, as I see it, is through violence. So what are you trying to say? What about the Ajmal Kasab’s of the world? They are the youth; would you say they were trying to bring about a change? So is that the change we want? Do you want the youth to bring about a change at an academic-intellectual level? Then I think you are being unfair. Because at age 20, your minds are not so academically and mentally trained, as your minds would be at age 40, since you have experienced a lot. So to say that only youth will bring about change, is absolutely unfair. This is responsibility shrugging.
VP: So the entire society must come together and and shoulder the responsibility of bringing about the change?
VP: Your advice to us, budding writers, would be?
KT: Just read, read, read, read, read a lot. You would end up writing much better than you did previously.
VP: What inspires you the most?
KT: Life itself. And one more thing, you must always take a stand, no matter about what. You don’t need to be vocal about it, but in your mind, you must know what you think is right and what you think is wrong; what you are going to support and what you are not going to support. Because if you are a fence sitter, you can never be a good writer.
VP: Tell us something about your experience in The Western Himalayas and The Spiti Valley.
KT: Spiti Valley was a calling. I have trekked and mountaineered in the Western Himalayas a lot. Spiti is a place that I discovered by accident, fell in love with and then decided to write a book on it. Today, I can say that in the 60 odd villages, I have stayed and visited almost 56 of them, and I have covered almost every corner of Spiti on foot. This is how I could write a book on their legends and folktales, which hadn’t been documented before.
My romance with Spiti began 10 years ago and it is still on. I am working on a project there which will help restore the Dhankar Monestary. Estimates vary, whether it was 500 or 700 years old. I was able to move an application to the World Monuments Fund and then it got listed in the World’s Endangered Monuments List. We are looking for Funding, but all of it hasn’t come in as yet. We have a team in place and are looking at the first part of the restoration. It is a very basic part of the project, the conditional assessment. It is a very academic exercise and for that, funding is very difficult to come by. We have already got the funding for the major part of the project that is the actual work and material, but unless we do a condition assessment and make a scientific assessment, we cannot be sure of how to go about the entire restoration. We hope that by the beginning of the next summer we would have something going.
VP: I hope that too. When should we expect your next book and what can we expect in it?
KT: I hope to be doing something completely different from what I have done till now. My next book should be out in the next 2-3 years. It is a complete research based book.
It’s different in the sense that I began as a student of History, switched over to Law and Commerce, and now History has come back into my life. Now I am working on interpreting Dhankars, which are Tibetan-Buddhist scroll paintings. I am working with some senior Lamas and referring to some books, and I hope to write a book on Tibetan Art, on how to recognize Tibetan-Buddhist Deities.
It would make recognizing Tibetan-Buddhist iconography easy for someone like me, a lay man. When I go to a monestary and I see all that beautiful art and the Dhankars, I have absolutely no idea of what that Dhankar is conveying to me. So I am working on book which you can use when you go to a monastery and derive the larger meaning of the Dhankar. It’s a guide, a handbook.