While the word categorizes writers as people who seek loneliness and silence, it fails to see them as they truly are- a diverse group of individuals, who have mastery over the most powerful human sense, imagination.
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Pooja- Welcome to LonePack Conversations! I’m Pooja, your host. Today we have with us Krishna Trilok, master storyteller and best-selling author of the biography of our beloved composer, Mr. A.R. Rahman.
Welcome to LonePack Conversations, Krishna. Having you here with us is an absolute pleasure.
Krishna- Hello, it’s a pleasure to be here. Hello, everyone.
Pooja- Hi, so how’s it going during the quarantine?
Krishna- It’s going great. I mean, we need to be positive so I’m going to say that it’s going great. Yes, could things be better? Do I miss going out, seeing people doing all the things we took for granted? Yes, but I think this is a fantastic time to introspect and to value and appreciate what we have and look forward to when things go back and be very grateful when they do.
Pooja- That’s so nice. I wish I was as positive as you. So, let’s start off with a little perspective. What prompted you to write ‘Sharikrida’, your first book? I mean, how did a student of commerce become so interested in mythology?
Krishna- So, I actually grew up in a household of storytellers. I don’t mean that in the sense that coming from a family of storytellers, generally, but even the people who worked in the house, so on and so forth, they were great storytellers. My grandmother was a big influence, she used to tell me stories when I was a child. You know, stories from Indian mythology and Indian folk plays and I loved those. She used to go to the theatres and watch movies and I was too young to go and she would come back and tell me the stories. So, a lot of classic movies, actually, much before I actually saw them, I heard them as stories, so that was an informative experience. Then I actually had a cook in the house. She used to come and cook for us and she was a fantastic storyteller, in the sense that she would actually make it a series. She would tell a little bit of the story every day, so I guess she would prepare and then come and tell everyday. You would be waiting to hear what happened next. So, she would tell me a little bit of the story for fifteen minutes everyday and I would be waiting to hear what happened next.
So, all of that, I think really got me into storytelling and Indian mythology in general and I was also a big fan of all your ‘Amarchitrakatha’ and the books on Greek mythology and so on and so forth. So, I always knew, I think when I was around thirteen, I decided that I wanted to tell stories. That’s what I wanted to do with my life and at that age, the only avenue available to explore this interest was pen and paper. We did not really have the camera technology and all of that, as it is available today. So, I just decided that I would go and start writing. I got a notebook from a nearby store and I started writing and that’s how it happened. I studied business on the side and all of that but I was always writing whenever I got the time and thankfully by the time I finished college, my undergrad, I managed to find an agent and then a publisher who would be interested in putting out my work.
It was a long process, it did take time, it did not happen the way I thought it would happen. Like when you’re thirteen, you start writing, you think everything is going to go your way and everything is going to be perfect but it doesn’t happen and part of life is figuring out how to deal with things not going your way. When something doesn’t go your way, you learn to say “Okay now, this hasn’t happened, what do I do with the situation?” and it was a great learning experience as well. That’s how it started and I’m still on the journey, and it’s been fantastic. Everyday has been fantastic and I’m grateful for it.
Pooja- Okay, so can you share with us one of your mythological stories that had you so interested? A small type of story, maybe?
Krishna- I think one of my favorite stories that I used to hear when I was a kid was not actually a mythological story but it was those folk tale stories, you know, of the crow and the snake and the old lady and the crow and then the fox. I think the one that I’m most fond of is the one where there’s a hungry fox and it sees the grapes and it tries to get them but then they’re too high up and then finally the fox just says “You know what? Those grapes are probably sour” and goes away. I mean, contrast that against the story of the crow, that is very thirsty and finds a jar of water but the water is too low and it goes on putting stones until the water level is higher and it can finally drink it. I think those two stories just taught me more about life than anything ever since. You can either say that a situation is not working out for you, blame the situation and walk away, or you can see the situation and see what you can do to make it better and make it work for you. So, those were two stories that really really shaped my looking at the World.
Of course, I didn’t learn the lessons until I was much older but now I try to work and apply it in life in every way because I think you have to make mistakes. Unless you make mistakes, you don’t learn. So, definitely, I have walked away from a lot of situations which I could’ve handled differently and changed and so on and so forth but I’ve learnt over time. Including things like this quarantine, you know? I mean, we can either say that this is the worst time in our lives and we can’t wait for things to get better and we’re going to sit and crib about what governments are doing, what everybody is doing and how awful everything is or we can choose to take it as a gift and say that this is time that we have been given.
Literally, we have been given time to not do anything and just enjoy ourselves, watch movies and all of that, if you have that privilege, which I do. I’m not going to lie about that. I know there are a lot of people who are struggling right now. They are struggling with lack of employment, they are struggling with uncertainty, they are struggling with a lot of issues but I think if you are a person who doesn’t need to worry about where your first meal is going to come from, you should count yourself as fortunate and use the time to be grateful and enjoy yourself rather than think about everything that’s not working out because trust me, there’s someone out there who is suffering way more than you are so it’s good to remember that.
Pooja- Very true, very true. It’s always about perspective? You look at yourself and you think you’re the worst person. Yeah. So, from what you’ve said so far, I take you to be kind of like a very inspiring person. May I say that? So, do you have any lessons from your life?
Krishna- I wouldn’t be as presumptuous or I wouldn’t use that. I think I make as many mistakes as anybody else and I don’t mean to be an inspiration to anybody or anything like that but I believe in one line which is, if you are going to spend time talking to me, if somebody is going to be with me, at the end of that experience, they need to walk away saying “Okay, I’m glad I did that. I feel better having talked to him and spent time with him”. If they’re going to walk away saying “Oh my God, now I feel even worse and I feel like now I am thinking about things and worrying about things which I wasn’t worrying about earlier”, then I’ve failed because you’re spending your time with me. You’re giving me your attention, your time. You’re investing in me so if that investment isn’t going to pay off for you, or if I’m not going to try and make that investment pay off for you then it’s a problem, the way I see it. So, I just try and make sure that anybody I’m with just has a good time there. If they can walk away feeling better about themselves or a situation, then I’m very happy about it.
Pooja- But a lot of people don’t admit that they make mistakes, right? Yeah, I understand it’s a learning curve but it takes a lot to own upto your mistakes and I can see that you’re doing that, so I’m very proud of you for that.
Krishna- It’s something that I think just frees you. Once you realise that you’ve made a mistake and admit to that and say sorry, say sorry to whoever that mistake has affected, including yourself, I think it frees you to see how you can move forward and make things better rather than try to cover it up or lie or hide or blame others. It just creates more problems. The laziest way to deal with something you’ve done wrong is to admit it, say sorry and move on and I’m a very lazy person so I just do that.
Pooja- Okay, that’s nice. As with any art form, writing is a way of expressing your feelings, right? And expressing your feelings is a very hard thing. How do you know that they are reciprocated?
Krishna- Exactly. I think even in a friendship or in a relationship or with your family, when something is not okay, the most difficult thing to do is sit down and tell the other person what you’re feeling. You know while you’re doing that, that the other person may have a completely different point of view or that they may have a different take on what you’re saying or you could be misunderstood. A hundred things could happen. I think creating a piece of art is doing that every single day, every single minute. You are trying to express yourself, which is a very very difficult thing to do. It’s because you need to understand things about yourself that you may not want to face, you have to sometimes say things that you’re embarrassed to say. You say those things and there’s no guarantee that those things are going to make the impact that you want. It’s just like that. Sitting down with your boyfriend or girlfriend at the end of a relationship which has not been going very well saying “Listen, this is what the problem is and this is what I think we should do to fix it”, it’s tough to do that, look the person in the eye and do that and knowing that the other person may just disagree with you. So, that’s what it’s like.
Pooja- Yes. Very true, very true. But talking about expressing your feelings, right? We’ve known that a lot of writers speak when they face mental illnesses, right? Like depression, anxiety, and like you said, it’s very hard to cope with. But on the other hand, writing can also help to maintain mental health. How do you think that dynamic works?
Krishna- Okay, let me give you a very simple analogy, I think it’s going to tie into my point about being as mentally strong as you can. There are two steps, I think- The first step, even more so than writers, the people who really face a lot of this problem where their creativity sort of gets out of hand are actors, comedians, you know. They really can lose sight of reality because of their craft and also because of the recognition that comes with it, and I think what you need to realise, first of all, is that you need to be in control of your craft, you can’t let your craft control you. So, this is something I do to make myself feel better and because it gives me joy. It’s not something I’m doing so that it can overwhelm me.
So, I think having that distinction of making sure you’re the one in charge really really helps, and secondly- if things are going well, don’t get carried away by the praise. Like if someone tells you “Oh, you’re fantastic. You can do this, you can do that.. You were so amazing in this, you were so amazing in that.. This piece was amazing”, just nod your head, be gracious about it, politely smile but don’t let it get to you and don’t make yourself out to be anything more than you are, which is just a human being, with problems and failings and all of that. Similarly, when someone comes and tells you “Listen, this was absolute crap”, don’t take it to heart and say “I’m useless, I’m this, I’m that” and get overwhelmed and sad and all of that. Your art is not you. Keep it distant from you. In that distance, make sure that you are controlling it, and don’t let it overwhelm you. Those are the things I would definitely say would help make sure that you are getting the best out of your craft and not getting the worst out of it.
Pooja- So, what do you have to say to artists around the world who are struggling for inspiration?
Krishna- Understand what makes you excited. For example, I know that I see a lot of books, paintings, films, series, music- I hear a lot of music- and it’s very popular, it’s very acclaimed but just because it’s popular or acclaimed, I say “Okay, I’m going to do something like this”, it’s not going to work out. Rather, you can experience as much stuff as you can and say that “Okay, for some reason, this strikes a chord with me. There’s something about this that I relate very deeply to”. Sometimes, it could be something that’s not successful. It could be something that nobody knows about and some of the things that people actively dislike but you say there’s something about it that I can relate to, and from there your inspiration will come.
When you find what is exciting you, you will find your inspiration because you will say “Okay, I understand a little bit more about who I am. This is making me understand who I am.” The more you understand about who you are, the more easily you will be able to create art that is unique to you and that you are excited about creating. As long as you are living the life of someone else or trying to be someone else, it’s going to be tough for you to try and come up with inspiration and create anything that truly resonates with who you are. When you realise who you are, and that comes from identifying the things you like, you are able to create a lot more content which is more original and which you are more interested in creating as well.
Pooja- So, hats off to you! I understand why people loved ‘Notes of a Dream’. I have one last thing to ask you- if there is one word you would like to say to artists, artists all over the world, maybe writers, painters, sculptors, just one word- what would you say to them?
Pooja- Okay, any reason behind that?
Krishna- It’s because unless you’re going to believe in what you’re creating, it’s going to be hollow. I’ll give you an explanation about how it works for me. When I first started writing something, for a long time, I would just be like okay, I can’t show people this. I can’t show people this. It’s not yet ready. It’s not yet good enough. But suddenly comes a moment when that changes to “I can’t wait for people to see this”. I’m so excited to show people this. The moment that changes is when you start believing.
When you start believing that your concept, your idea, your writing, your language, whatever you want to say, suddenly something happens that makes you believe that it is working for you and it resonates with who you are, that is when it is possible for you to take the next step. Trust me, there are a lot of times when I’ve said “Okay, it’s not ready, it’s not ready, I need more time” and I’ve never come to believe in it and I’ve never finished it. It didn’t happen because I’ve never fully believed in it. Of course, then again, I go back to it after some months or sometimes, after some years, and then I suddenly say “Okay, this is actually quite good” and I start believing in it and the story changes but until you believe in what you’re saying, don’t expect anybody else to believe in it. Also, until you can see something happening, again, how can the Universe or God make anything happen for you until you can see it clearly? And for you to see it clearly, you have to believe in it.
Let’s move onto art. You see someone who you think is really attractive. You think they could be your boyfriend/girlfriend. Until you want them to be your boyfriend/girlfriend, until you believe that you are good enough to be with them, are you even going to start talking to them? Until you believe that the situation is possible, how can anything happen? You won’t even go and say “Hello”, you won’t even go and say “Listen, I feel this way about you” or if you’re applying for a job or you’re applying to a University, until you think you’re good enough, you’re not going to want to apply to it.
I have been told this repeatedly in pitches, they have been like “Listen, we don’t know what you are seeing in your head right now..” I sold ‘Notes of a Dream ‘ on this. Before I had written a single word but I knew the concept, I believed in the concept, I went to them and said “Listen, this is what I want to do”. And they didn’t ask me for a sample or anything. They just said “Listen, you clearly believe in this concept. We can see that you’re passionate about it. Go ahead with it. We’ll support you”. So, I think until you can see yourself in a certain situation, the Universe cannot make it happen. So, when I say “believe,” all I’m saying is, see the situation that you’re dreaming of because dreams without belief cannot become reality. It’s dreams plus belief that equal reality. It’s very simple math. So, if you’re just going to believe in yourself without a dream, then nothing can happen. But again, if you have a dream without belief, it can’t happen either. So, it needs to be a balance of both.
Pooja- Wow, that was so nice. Thank you so much for your time, Krishna. It was such a pleasure to talk to you and I picked up a lot of lessons today, actually. I learnt about perspective, I learnt about how to believe in yourself, as we just discussed and I learnt about the struggles that one might face in life, not just about writing, not about just with an artist but general life, right? It was very enlightening for me. Thank you so much.
Krishna- Thank you, it’s been a pleasure to talk to you as well!
Pooja- All the best from LonePack for your journey forward and I’m sure it’s going to be a really
wonderful one. Especially your love for experimenting and your love for life, I can tell.
Krishna- Thank you.