What was the Women’s Economic Forum and what was your role in that?
Women’s Economic Forum or we call it WEF is a global conference to foster empowering conversations and connections among women committed to bringing constructive changes in their lives. This is a philanthropic and non-profit collaboration. I expressed my belief about the requirement of women leadership. I have found India to be an optimistic place where people listen carefully and are eager to work on good deeds.
You are involved in many jobs from a writer to an actor. How often do you work for social change?
Yes, right, but all my work is related to bringing peace to humanity whether it is in my writing or singing. My record label ‘IndieGo Records’ works for enlightenment and encouragement for those people who are living at the edge of society, who are stressed and frazzled. A couple of months ago, I went to the ‘1000 Goddess Gathering’ programme held at Washington DC, USA. This was an event to rejuvenate the divine feminine through combined energies. We believe that the planet will shift from one of fear to compassion. It was a huge gathering out there. I believe that every action has some effect. My songs and my lectures will put out some positive energy to bring women into the mainstream. Wherever I go, I believe that women should come forward, they should not hesitate from fighting for their rights. The world is one; men and women are equal. Disparities are made by humans, not by nature. We should not create differences between men and women.
Can you explain a little about your philanthropist approach? What have you done and are doing today?
See, I have done more than 300 charity concerts across the globe. I am associated with the Hunger Project Canada. Whatever I earn from live concerts it goes to the Hunger Project. People who can’t buy bread get some help through this effort. Also, I spread awareness among women about their rights and roles. When people tell me that they are stressed, I suggest to them to start meditation or yoga. I try to empower their inner souls so that they can empower themselves. I can say that despite a beautiful world we are destroying it ourselves. I try to deliver heart opening performances and talks. If we talk about India, I have learned about a deep contrast in society. I know that there is a big gap between the upper strata and the lower strata of society. I would like to work for those people who are on the margin. If any opportunity comes my way, I would like to work for sure.
Well, you said that India has transformed you. Why do you say that?
India changed my life completely. I was not what I am today. I was not this much calm and composed. About 15 years ago, I started learning meditation from my Guru Swami Eknath. Initially it was difficult, but you won’t believe it, I never missed my class for the following seven years. Every Sunday, I used to go to the meditation class. It was very much the first impact of India on me when I learned meditation, yoga and Sanskrit Shlokas.
What do you know about issues in India and what are you planning for the future?
I know India has one of the biggest slums in the world. There is so much poverty and hunger but everything can’t be changed overnight. It will take time to bring everything to a corrective pattern. I will come back in the next few months; I have met many people in this short trip and learned a lot. There are people who are working for social change. Problems should be listened to locally and globally if required. My efforts to bring change are always there with those people who are working hardcore on the ground.
So how was your experience overall in India?
I can’t express it in a few words. If I am a sufi, it is because of India; if I am calm, it is because of India. It was like home coming for me. It took me out of my comfort zone that I was living in15 years ago. But yes, I have experienced something unique on Indian roads, the madness that I won’t forget. People come from everywhere in front of your car, you can’t stop them; they don’t get hurt and even don’t hurt anyone else. People love this madness and I love these people
Nobody Killed Her. It is ‘inspired’ by the fictional court room drama following the Benazir Bhutto assassination. She was recently in New Delhi for the worldwide release of her book. We caught up with her and tried to find out more about her and her writing. Here are the excerpts of the interview.
Which is the real Sabyn Javeri? Is she a writer, teacher, mother, or something the world does not know about? All three and counting! How has your fame and success affected you and other people’s view of you? I’m still the same in my eyes and that in the eyes of others. Describe your typical writing day for our readers. It is anything but typical.
I can’t afford the luxury of routines for my life is far too unpredictable. I write mostly in my head. So I can be writing while cooking or sleeping, and then when the idea has been fully fermented and I just download it from my mind and onto the screen. How do you find time for writing with kids and family responsibilities?
I don’t. I make time. I don’t look for long windows but snatches of time, a moment here, a few moments there and that’s how I get it done. How important is discipline in your writing? The only discipline I have is to be true to myself.
Sabyn on her books
How easy or difficult was it for you to break the glass ceiling and become a published woman author? Not very. The difficulty was not the gender but the subject matter. Did the fallout or reaction to your book ‘Nobody Killed her’ which is based on a volatile subject, worry you? If you start worrying about reactions you would never be able to write.
You narrated in your interview with DAWN newspaper how your book was first accepted and then shelved. How difficult was it to deal with such an experience? It was difficult but like all things devastating, I came out stronger. Was Benazir Bhutto assignation the inspiration or catalyst for your book? Both and none. How did you research for this book? I didn’t.
I researched for my Ph.D. about women in power in patriarchal societies, combined that with an overactive imagination, and the result was Nobody Killed Her. Was it a difficult or an enjoyable book? Definitely FUN. What is your next project? It’s called Hijabistan. It is a collection of short stories about the theme of the veil. Not as a garment but as a mentality. Did the award you won for your short stories inspire you to attempt your first novel? It gave me the encouragement.
Sabyn on Books and Writers
Which authors and books have influenced you and your writing? That’s like asking why you love someone or how. It’s hard to pinpoint which of the many beautiful or terrible books shaped your creativity. All I can say is, they did. How do you relate to writers like Saadat Hasan Manto and Ismat Chughtai? I feel like I come from a long tradition of South Asian writers who have broken boundaries, stepped on toes, written about subjects considered taboo, even been put on trial for their creativity.
I feel privileged that I belong to a tradition of South Asian literature, where women like Chugtai and Rashid Jehan were writing about feminism even before the word was coined. You interviewed Shobha De when she visited Pakistan. How influenced are you with her and her use of the bold and no-apology approach to female sexuality in her books? I think she is a fiery writer and a very interesting person.
I read her columns but have not had a chance to read her fiction. What is important for a writer; to write mainstream fiction like Mohsin Hamid, ChetanBhagat or Shobha De, or to write literary fiction like Vikram Seth or Amitav Gosh? That is for a writer to decide himself or herself.
I don’t believe in boxes nor do I tick them. Harry Potter books had their fans line up outside bookstores for hours before their release. Likewise, closer home, it is said that Chandrakanta book series’ fans learned Hindi and lined up outside the printing press. How do you view this: marketing, mass hysteria or magical pen of the writers? I think anything that gets people reading is good.
Sabyn on the art of writing
Do you plan and structure your characters, arc of the story or do you let your characters’ run away with the story? I don’t like to lose control. If I’m in charge the characters better listen. Do you have dreams/visions of your characters? And do they appear before you, as they did before Charles Dickens? Not anymore.
I think the more you write the more you are able to create rather than conjure. Do you use real people and their mannerism in your books? Anything interesting to share in this regard? Of course, we all seek inspiration from our surroundings. The character of Soldier Rahim is based on someone I know.
ADITYA ON WRITING Tell our readers about your latest book The CEO Who Lost His Head. It’s a satirical look at the Indian media in the guise of a murder mystery. It is also a modest tribute to the city of Mumbai. It’s set in a newspaper office where the CEO is murdered, and the police investigation is focussed in the office itself, as the usual jealousies and miseries of the workplace translate into murder motives. It has a kickass protagonist in the form of sub-inspector Mona Ramteke. How easy or difficult is it for you to write fiction after a series of non-fiction books? It is not that easy since non-fiction is basically an extension of the work I have done for 30 years, namely journalism. Non-fiction is just long-long-form writing. Also, non-fiction looks at the world through a prism of a certain discipline. Fiction is an entire universe in which a whole-picture view is necessary to maintain at the back of your head. You’re not necessarily trying to be a poet in non-fiction, but you have to be poetic in fiction to capture the essence or the entirety of things.
Each of your books is different from the other; is that a conscious effort on your part?
A colleague once accused me of having no discipline because I read all types of books. I like to think that I am trying to be a renaissance man. Writing the same thing might get boring. There is so much in life to discover, and the years are slipping by, so why stick to one thing? Of all the books you have written, which book have you enjoyed the most in writing and which was the most difficult and why?
Every writing assignment is something I enjoy, because that’s the only way I’ll complete it! The most difficult I would have to say is currently in progress. That’s all I can reveal. Are you a disciplined author, with fix hours alloted to writing or a moody author who writes as per his inspiration?
A bit of both. I am a man of disciplined routines, so I write in the mornings; never in the evenings except for the rare editing work. I’m moody at times, so there are days where I don’t feel like writing and find some excuse to avoid it, mainly through chores. How do you plan your day and your writing?
I just plan to write, and get going. I don’t have trouble getting started, because I just pick up where I previously left off, and I don’t try to keep it in control, for that I leave to the rewriting and editing stages. Rewriting happens constantly. How easy or difficult is it to cooperate with co-authors while writing a book?
Depends on who you’re cooperating with. With former RAW chief AS Dulat, with whom I did Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years, even though I knew him for over two decades, it was tough going at first because Mr. Dulat was so cagey, and so I tried to wriggle out of the project. But once he saw the logic in being open he cooperated, all credit to him. I’ve met lots in the intelligence community, and they mostly have sticks up their asses. Mr. Dulat that way is a gem of a person. Is it true that the man wielding the pen influences the final shape of the book more than the man who is narrating his life story through that book?
Many former officials write books and they are as boring as constipated feces. The Dulat book, however, is engaging; senior politician Farooq Abdullah told me he loved the flow of the book and read it in two sittings. Mr. Dulat at a book launch complimented me on the “artistry” with which the book was written. He had the final say on the editing, so some juicy stuff got cut out of the final book, which to my mind was totally his prerogative.
ADITYA ON KASHMIR You have reported and written extensively on Kashmir; do you think the situation is any worse today than it has been in the past few decades?
It definitely reminds me of the early 1990s, when many of us journalists thought that Kashmir had slipped out of India’s hands, what with the daily mass protests in the streets. The big difference, of course, is that armed militancy was much more organised and lethal back then, with lots of gunmen everywhere and groups operating all over the Valley. The current movement appears to have learned its lesson from too much armed violence. The current sentiment is as anti-India as it has ever been. Some critics allege that you have been accommodating and are biased towards Dr. Farooq Abdullah in your past two books, namely Farooq Abdullah: The Prodigal Son and Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years. Your comment?
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha… Can there be a solution to Kashmir without Farooq Aubhallh? Is he becoming irrelevant with advancing age and shrinking mass base?
Didn’t he just win an election? What shrinking mass base? In fact, with advancing age, he’s the most relevant Muslim politician in India today.
ADITYA ON AUTHORS AND PUBLISHING Lord V.S. Naipaul famously said that the novel is dead; how do you view his comment and his writing?
Naipaul’s writings are great meditations. He’s like a wandering philosopher, with some very deep thinking. His process is marvellous. As for his comment, I disagree. People say things like this, but I don’t know why. Novels, books, journalism… everything undergoes evolution and change. Do you think journalist turn author bring their own ‘reporting style’ to their books? And is that an advantage or handicap?
An advantage, always. The thing with any kind of writing is that a writer is always trying to find “their voice”. When that happens, they’re finally ready to write, and what they write will ring true and authentic. “Reporting style” to my mind is just a variation of finding one’s “voice”. Is it possible to make a living just by writing books?
No, unless you are one of the lucky few who make it big. And even then, most of those high-earners are more businessmen than writers. Is the publishing world biased towards ‘established’ journalists and authors, and gives them an undue advantage at the cost of other more talent but unknown authors?
Well, how do you know if an unknown has more talent? There is a bias, but if true talent exists, publishing will find it. Most people who complain are delusional about their own abilities. Is English press and books given disproportionate respect, importance at the cost of vernacular press or publishing?
What respect is it given? Nowadays intellectuals are badmouthed by all sorts of louts. At the same time, vernacular publishing is held back, but because of its own problems, politics and pettiness. Why do you think that the books can compete and survive the other mass and free mediums of entertainment like TV and the internet?
Competing and surviving are two different things. I don’t think books should compete; I think reading, even newspapers, has mostly been a niche activity, and that the mass circulation of broadsheets in the past three decades was an aberration. TV is a mass medium, and the internet is a most democratic and immediate medium, whereas books have a longer gestation period, so they are incomparable. UPA government years were covered by Sanjaya Baru, P.C. Parakh, and Vinod Rai. Do you support this trend or there should be a gestation period before such books on or by government servants are written?
Most books by government servants err on the side of caution, so to my mind it makes no difference if there’s a “cooling down” period or not. Ninety per cent of such books are going to be biased, boring, trash anyway.
ADITYA ON LIFE AND JOURNALISM What are the remaining items on your bucket list?
I have several books that I need to write and I worry that I might pop off before the list is done. I would like to visit Iceland and the South Pole and also South Korea and Switzerland. I want to visit Space. Which authors and genres you enjoy reading the most?
I enjoy anything that is good, cutting across genres. When I was a young man then Gabriel Garcia Marquez changed my life, Leo Tolstoy was an inspiration, Joseph Heller was an idol, AJP Taylor was a role model. Authors I have recently enjoyed include Akhil Sharma, Jerry Pinto, Shashi Warrier, Jeet Thayil, Arnaldur Indridasson. Has age and experience changed the way you look at the world and people? Does age make a person wiser, or religious, or cynical?
Yes to all three. Experience has made me less excitable, I guess. Experience has made me boring. Everything has a déjà vu quality to it. Age has made me appreciate women of all ages. In you long experience as a journalist and editor which images, famous people or events made a lasting impression on you?
The lasting impressions on me have come from readers. It has always been a ‘Letter to the Editor’ that has made me sit and think and take away a lesson, than meeting any Prime Minister or President. The reader will always surprise you with her/his common-sense and wisdom. Journalist and editors once commanded respect and awe; not a section of them are openly labelled as paid media. How did things come to such a pass? Also, is this a new phenomena or favouritism in return of government largesse has always existed?
The fact that some are called paid media means they still command respect and awe, otherwise, why would anyone bother to pay them? Things came to pass not because of journalists, but because of media-owners who have little patience for the mission of news, and who have business interests which they feel their media is supposed to protect, not put at risk. Owners are beholden to advertisers, not to readers, and so things have come to this sorry pass. Don’t blame journalists.
Government largesse has always existed. Some people acted holier than thou about it, but they do exactly the same. It is currently on display. What can Indian journalists and media learn from the West and vice versa?
Indian journalists can learn to tell truth to power and stand up to the government of the day. The fact that we have such a diverse society and end up covering a vast array of people and subjects is something the Westerners can learn from. They come to India, stare with their mouths open, and then return to the safety of their stenography in Washington DC or Central Command. What are the most interesting or offensive but true things about Indian that foreigners say?
That we have no concept of personal space.
Anand Arnold“One day, the students who used to train under me, brought me to the gym where I did a few shoulder exercises. That short while was enough for me to get inspired and return to training. At that time, my coach Ravi Parashar helped me to restart an intensive fitness regime. He allowed me to work out at his health club for free and also supported me mentally. Thanks to him and all those who stood by me, it was no looking back from there on.”
He joined fitness regime after three long gruesome years; he was feeling out of the world that time, mixed with the emotions when seeing others working out around him. Understanding his new body and state, he slowly restarted his workouts and realised that this is what he was always meant to do-with or without his legs.
Workouts without lower body support are very tough for one but Arnold was determined to achieve what he deserves for. Spending up to four hours in the gym each day, it was just a matter of time before Arnold’s determination and hard work began reaping results. He started regaining his strength and ensured that he did it without the aid of steroids. Awards and recognition
“I started winning titles the moment I got back to my training. I’ve been crowned Mr. India thrice, Mr Punjab 12 times, and also have 27 other titles to my name. Apart from being India’s first wheelchair bodybuilder, I am also the face of Muscle Mania and the brand ambassador of Halelifenutrition.com.”
Author Allen Woodman has written about his story in his book titled ‘Weightless: A True Story of Courage and Inspiration’. “I have also taken part in the reality show India’s Got Talent, where the judges christened me ‘India’s Superman’ after I showcased stunts on a wheelchair. That was a moment of great pride for me because I was being recognised by famous personalities.”
“I feel that I have achieved a lot in this span of my life, I am thankful to everyone who supported me and still supporting me. I wish to be an example of inspiration and motivation for every young guy in country. I just believe that giving up is not an answer but
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