Friday, January 16, 2015

Chandan Pathak's, 'The Beckoning of Gyanganj' is story of love, spiritualism and politics

In an exclusive chat with Strokes of Pen, Author Chandan Pathak talks about what inspired and motivated him to write his second novel, ‘The Beckoning of Gyanganj.’ Born and raised in Guwahati, Assam, he is an oilfield professional and is settled in aamchi Mumbai. A wanderlust and spiritual explorer at heart, he has a strong desire to experience the life of an ascetic in the Himalayas at some stage of life.

‘The Beckoning of Gyanganj’ is his second book. His first effort ‘Footprints’ was a collection of short stories which were earlier in form of blogs. Lead start Publishing published it in 2012. Most of the stories are based on real life experiences of the author while there were some fictional ones as well.

Q1. Who & what inspired you to write this book.

Chandan Pathak: Having travelled to the Himalayas number of times in search of elusive true-saints and at times even contemplating to retire to a cave there to meditate for the rest of my life to attain spiritual knowledge. There was a phase of my life when I juggled with the materialistic and spiritual influences in my mind with lots of challenges.

In my younger days I was fascinated by the story of a princess falling in love with a common man and the common man’s heroics to win her from the clutches of the ruthless king. Also there were other stories wherein a king or a prince would invariably torture the common people, exploit and at times mercilessly kill them; left a deep imprint of sadness in my mind.

Through this book, I have tried to weave my own story encompassing all these aspects centering on love, romance, spiritualism and politics. I sincerely hope this effort of mine with reach out and appeal to the readers of all age groups.

Q2. Is the book loosely based on the stories attached to the place or it has some real experience behind it?

Chandan Pathak: This is a work of pure fiction. The story centers on two places, one is the mystical and mythological Gyanganj in the Himalayas which is inhabited by divine saints and the other is the Kingdom of Mayurpura, which is assumed to have existed somewhere in the current state of Odisha in the fifteenth century.

All the characters of the story therefore are imaginary except for the great MahavatarBabaji who needs no introduction in the spiritual circle. He is considered to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva; epitome of divinity and immortality with a very youthful look.

Q3. How and when did you ventured into writing? What was your motivation behind it?

Chandan Pathak: The desire to write came to me quite late. I had gone through a difficult phase of life both personally and professionally and it lasted for several years. The pain and sufferings during that phase was tremendous; the frustrations, hurt feelings, the anger all had bottled up inside me making it a big struggle to control them, contain them. I needed some kind of outlet to let these ooze out in order to lighten my mind. So I started blogging and thus began my toddle into the amazing and magical world of writing. My pent up feelings found a beautiful outlet to come out, I could pour them through the ink of my pen into various characters that I had created, in order to nourish and grow them to build my stories.

Q4. How does Himalaya’s play an important role in this novel? I mean, how have your explored Himalaya in your backdrop?

Chandan Pathak: Himalaya is the seat of the story. Not for a single moment in the entire 209 pages of the book, will you be able to ignore the influence and enormity of this majestic mountain range both physically and spiritually. Whether it is when the trekking group of Ravi the protagonist explores the jaw-dropping pristine beauty of the snowcapped peaks during their expeditions or when Swami Raghunath performs deep penance near Satopanth Tal in extreme hostile weather for years without taking food or protection; one can feel how the mighty Himalayas embraces all with love and care. 

The presence of the immortal sages in the mystical Gyanganj located in a different plane in the Himalayas, inaccessible to mere mortals; the roles of these sages in alleviating the sufferings of the poor subjects of Mayurpura Kingdom all would make the reader feel the spiritual vibration of this majestic mountain range!

Q5. The internet is filled up with many stories about Gyanganj. How have they inspired you to dedicate a novel?

Chandan Pathak: I have read about Gyanganj and Shambalain the internet and few spiritual books and subsequently developed quite a bit of curiosity about this sacred and mystical place. There have been many instances in the past when chosen rishis have claimed to visit this holy place and shared their amazing experiences. Gyanganj is truly a mysterious and heavenly place based on all these accounts that I had read. In fact, during my various wandering stints in the Himalayas, I always have a secret desire in my mind which is of being teleported to this magical land to get a glimpse of it.

Hence these aspects of Gyanganj inspired me to write a story centering on this place and thus ‘The Beckoning of Gyanganj’ was born. I genuinely wishes that the immortal and divine saints of Gyanganj would come to the fore and guide today’s corrupted and ruthless world to raise its level of vibration and purity, the same way that they helped the people of Mayurpura. 

Q6. Have you experience anything mystical or unworldly over there?

Chandan Pathak: Any person who has travelled on pilgrimage or otherwise to the Himalayas can vouch for the fact that it is a completely different feeling to be there in the lap of the mighty mountain. You may call it mystical, unworldly or divine, but you are bound to experience something special and different. One such experience of mine is narrated in ‘The Ten Second Eternity’the first story of my first book ‘Footprints’ which was published in 2012.

Q7. Is it tale of love or mystical people or old stories or an amalgamation of both?

Chandan Pathak: As I had stated in the book blurb, this is a story of undying and pure love, of deepest penance and spiritualism and a story of ghastly politics and bloodbath. I have tried to incorporate all the major rasas in this story. In fact I had struggled quite a bit to categorize the book under a specific sub-genre before publishing. Though I had put it under ‘Romance’, I still feel the story is a cocktail of romance, spiritualism and politics in equal proportion.

Q8. You are also attached with Udaan Charitable Trust. Can you brief about what it is and their works?

Chandan Pathak: Udaan Charitable Trust is a non-profit organization set up in Jan 2011 by me and my wife. This trust is registered with the Government of Maharashtra and the registration number is E-6562 (Thane).

Udaan is currently working in the area of rural education supporting primary schools in few areas in and around Mumbai (Wai, Karjat and Dhamni village in PanvelTalukaetc) and also sponsoring few bright students. We do support one off medical cases like congenital heart defect correction, emergency treatment of accident victims etc. The other key areas that we wish to focus in future are healthcare and old age care.

However, our level of contribution is at a very small level compared to what we genuinely wish to do. It is like a small drop in the ocean but at the same time we do believe that drop by drop makes an ocean. So we do have dreams to raise our activity to a larger scale in the future and provide meaningful contribution to the socially underprivileged.

All the proceeds from the sale of ‘The Beckoning of Gyanganj’ will be used for this purpose.


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