Gurcharan Das - Writer of Year Award 2018

HIS LATEST BOOK :

KAMA: THE RIDDLE OF DESIRE

KAMA: THE RIDDLE OF DESIRE

India is the only civilization to elevate kama—desire and pleasure—to a goal of life. Kama is both a cosmic and human energy, animating life and holding it in place.

Gurcharan Das weaves a compelling narrative filled with philosophical, historical and literary ideas in the third volume of his trilogy on life's goals—India Unbound was the first, on artha, 'material well-being'; The Difficulty of Being Good was the second on dharma, 'moral well-being'. Here, in his magnificent prose, he examines how to cherish desire in order to live a rich, flourishing life, arguing that if dharma is a duty to another, kama is a duty to oneself.

This fascinating account of love and desire sheds new light on love, marriage, family, adultery, and jealousy as it wrestles with questions such as these: How to nurture desire without harming others or oneself? Are the erotic and the ascetic two aspects of our same human nature? What is the relationship between romantic love and bhakti, the love of god? Desire is a lack of something and once fulfilled, it declines inevitably: how do we prepare for the day when it disappears and turns bitter?

Gurcharan Das shows that kama is a product of culture and its history is the struggle between kama pessimists and optimists. The yogis and renouncers regarded kama as an enemy of their spiritual project. Opposed to them were kama optimists, who flowered in the courtly culture in the first millennium CE, especially in the classical Gupta Age, culminating in Sanskrit love poetry and the Kamasutra. In the clash between the two emerged kama realists, who offered a compromise in the dharma texts by confining sex to marriage. Ultimately, this ground-breaking narrative leaves us with puzzles and enigmas that reveal the riddle of kama.

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Gurcharan Das explores the pleasure principle in his new book on desire

Pleasure and desire, in contemporary India, are contentious subjects. The rights of the citizens to indulge their appetites, for food or love, are being curtailed by the state and the judiciary. Gurcharan Das' latest book, Kama: The Riddle Of Desire, is pertinent reading in this context. Going back to ancient India and further, to the cosmic spheres, it revisits philosophies, mythologies and cultures of love. The third of a trilogy that began with India Unbound , focusing on artha, or material well-being, followed by The Difficulty Of Being Good, which explored dharma, or moral well-being, Kama is unique in that it is written as a fictional memoir, with Amar, the protagonist, telling the story of his desires in the first person. In the edited excerpt below, we learn of his early brush with kama, via a ganja-smoking pandit his grandmother revered:

Like most Indian boys, I grew up on stories of the gods Rama and Krishna, both avatars of Vishnu. Rama’s is a story of conjugal love in which dharma triumphs over kama. But the pandit preferred Krishna’s tales of illicit love. He told us how Krishna has an open love affair with Radha, a married woman. During raas leela, he dances with thousands of gopis and gives pleasure to each one. Eventually, he becomes the king of Dwarka and marries 16,108 women.

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Excerpt from the book "Kama: The Riddle of Desire"

Arranged marriages are a compromise between kama optimists and kama pessimists, writes Gurcharan Das

Das's new book explores kama through personal experiences and philosophical readings.

Arranged marriages are a compromise between kama optimists and kama pessimists, writes Gurcharan Das

Sharma-ji was itching to talk about what was uppermost in his mind. At the first opportunity, he asked if we could suggest a suitable boy for Avanti. Both his wife and daughter were embarrassed but they were resigned to his coarse ways.

"Avanti is still young, what's the hurry?" asked my mother.

With self-important gravity, Sharma-ji rose to his full height, like a doctor proclaiming a diagnosis, and explained that the problem lay in an inherent conflict between the biological and social nature of women. Quoting Manu, he asserted, "Every woman desires every man she sees."

It is not her fault, of course; it is her stri-svabhava, "biological nature", and it has to be tamed and controlled by stri-dharma, her "duty to her family and society". So, she must marry as soon as she attains puberty. An unmarried woman has to be chaste; a married woman has to be faithful and produce sons, according to the dharma texts.

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Is sex more important than friendship in marriage?

Is sex more important than friendship in marriage?

After more than a dozen years of marriage, I suffered from the inescapable sulk of a lover. Avanti no longer felt the same physical desire. I remembered wistfully the blissful months immediately after our marriage when both of us used to rush home from work in anticipation of the evenings and nights of utter delight. But slowly and inexplicably, desire receded from her end, especially after the children came along. I felt resentful. My work too became more demanding and I came home later and later. I felt our marriage was caught in a middle-age inertia and it was beginning to dull my sensual feelings. Every desire seemed to become a decision in our unloving proximity.

We had raised two lovely girls while I had spent the years slogging and climbing the ladder in the shipping company where I worked in Ballard Estate. Even though I had risen to the top, life had grown increasingly tiresome. Although Avanti and I had a good marriage in all other respects, the daily routine of life had taken its toll. With the passage of time, I was becoming increasingly aware of my mortality, wondering if this is all there is to life. Feeling frustrated and unhappy, I complained to Ramu Mama. He listened sympathetically but didn't offer any advice. We met again the following week and he told me he had spoken to his old psychologist friend—the same one who had once explained 'male narcissism' to us over dinner. Sensing my reluctance, he said, 'Meet him at least. See him as my friend, not as his client, without any obligation.' I agreed half-heartedly.

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Gurcharan Das’ Acceptance Speech at the GQ Writer of the Year Award 2018

Review : Infinite Passions by Arshia Sattar

Infinite Passions

The many shades and shapes of love come alive in this exploration of Hinduism

THIS IS A MOST unexpected book. From anyone, let alone a public figure. Let alone from Gurcharan Das—optimistic prophet of the Indian economy, philosopher of personal and public ethics, staunch supporter of neo- liberalism, recent cheerleader for Modi- nomics, grand old man of newspaper columns and a hundred corporate consultancies, a man who has also written at least one fine play and a sensitive family saga about Partition. Kama: The Riddle of Desire is a book about desire in the fullest sense of the word—it is about love and vulnerability, about self-doubt and betrayal, about wanting more of everything and being haunted by settling for less. These are not declarations that one associates with a man who appears greatly assured in all his public avatars, a man who has spent the last three decades telling us what we should be thinking. Kama is also a book about sex, not in the abstract sense, but about physical pleasure located in the body of the narrator (could he be the author himself, one wonders). When we read Kama, Das offers us a journey into the life of a body as much as the life of a mind, and in Das' narrative, the body diminishes through life but the mind expands.

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“Something tremendous is happening in India, and Das, with his keen eye and often elegant prose, has his finger firmly on the pulse of the transformation.”

The New York Times

Read his latest column

The many shades and shapes of love come alive in this exploration of Hinduism THIS IS A MOST unexpected book. From anyone, let alone a public figure. Let alone from Gurcharan Das—optimistic prophet of the Indian economy, philosopher of personal and public ethics, staunch supporter of neo- liberalism, recent cheerleader for Modi- nomics, grand old man of newspaper columns and a hundred corp...

ನನ್ನ ಮಗ ಸಲಿಂಗಿ. ಇದನ್ನು ಒಪ್ಪಿಕೊಳ್ಳುವುದಕ್ಕೆ ನನಗೆ ಈಗ ಯಾವ ಅಳ್ಕೂ ಇಲ್ಲ. ಆತ ಕಳೆದ ಇಪಪಿತ್ತು ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ತನನು ಸಿಂಗಾತಿಯ ಜೊತೆ ಬದ್ಧತೆಯಿಂದ, ಸಿಂತೋರದಿಂದ ಸಿಂಬಿಂಧ ಕಾಪಾಡಿಕೊಿಂಡಿದ್ದಾನೆ. ನನನು ಕುಟಿಂಬ ಮತ್ತು ಹತಿತುರದ ಸನುೋಹಿತರು ಇದನ್ನು ಘನತೆ ಯಿಂದ ಒಪ್ಪಿಕೊಿಂಡಿದದಾೋವೆ. ಆದರೆ, ಸಲಿಂಗ ಸಿಂಬಿಂಧ ಅಪರಾಧವಲ್ಲ ಎಿಂದು ಸುಪ್್ೋಿಂ ಕೊೋರ್್ಷ ಹೋಳ್ವ ಕ್ಷಣದವರೆಗೆ ಈ ವಿಚಾರವಾಗಿ ನಾನ್ ಸಾವ್ಷಜನಿಕವಾಗಿ ಮಾತನಾಡುವ ಧೈಯ್ಷ ತೋರಿಸಿರಲಲ್ಲ. ಹಾಗೆ ಮಾತನಾಡಿ ದರೆ ಅವನಿಗೆ ಏನಾದರೂ ತಿಂದರ...