The Age of Innocence

The Age of Innocence
Me with my Mother

Thursday, August 21, 2014

India Abroad Review of "The Revised Kama Sutra"

As not all of my reviews are easily reachable (a major Indian journalist in America asked me whether I had been reviewed), I have decided to publish them on my blog:


For the next few days, I can mail an autographed copy of the book (Penguin paperback or Viking hardcover) to a US or Canadian address: http://richardcrasta.com/order-books-richard-crasta/

Please note that I have disowned the hardcover U.S. edition of The Revised Kama Sutra under the name of Avatar Prabhu; the content is inferior, and the "publisher" cheated me big-time. Please do not support crooks.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Decline of Indian Independence

Sixty-seven years after India's independence from Britain, the freedom of Indians has suffered ... and at the hands of Indians themselves, even though some work for foreign firms. For me, 1993 and 1994 represented the height of Indian independence. March 1993 was when Penguin India's David Davidar accepted my novel, The Revised Kama Sutra; in early 1994, it was enthusiastically welcomed by most of the media, despite using language and daring that had not been seen before in a book published in India. In 2000, Impressing the Whites received considerable attention from the media--and considerable sales. And then, the Indian Ayatollahs went to work, suppressing their own author.

I regret to say that, in 2014, I feel that the decline of Indian independence continues (and not just with the takeover of independent newspapers and media organization by tycoons); few dare to question power, especially the power of publishers: mostly, for selfish reasons. And so, if you write a courageous book ... you're on your own, kiddo.

But if you care, four books I would recommend--my contribution to resisting the invisible limits to  freedom: all of these books, directly or in their execution, argue for the right of Indian writers to write like any other writers in the world, without being pigeonholed, typecast, and restricted to the ghetto of "exotic" writing: The Revised Kama Sutra; Beauty Queens, Children and the Death of Sex; Impressing the Whites; and The Killing of an Author. All but the fourth are available on Amazon. The fourth, and the rest, are available from most other platforms. For the next week, you can order a signed paperback, which will be mailed to any address in the United States, of Impressing the Whites or The Revised Kama Sutra (Penguin paperback), by writing to me at rc[at]richardcrasta.com or following the directions here: http://richardcrasta.com/order-books-richard-crasta/

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Memory Trap: How Society Bleeds the Forgetful

Excerpts from my new book (a long essay), which is out on Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Nook, etc, now for 0.99.:

If your memory is imperfect, loads of people and institutions gleefully profit from your weakness to extort whatever money they can from you. It is almost as if the world is set up to gouge us, to make superprofits from us. Rentals on storage spaces we are not using, phone connections in apartments we’ve long given up (but which we forgot to disconnect, or gave up trying to disconnect after being put on hold for 30 minutes—yes, I’ve been a part contributor to Verizon’s obscene profits), or for internet access in countries we do not even live in, because we moved somewhere else, didn’t make a phone call or get through the voicemail, return a key, or sign a document. But why does society treat us thus? Do we punish the blind by fining them or denying them their basic rights? Do we construct special obstacles to trip the physically handicapped so as to brutally remind them of their handicap, and of the burden they are to society? Do we construct trapdoors for the blind? 

Many late fees, such as late fees for late credit card payments, are unnecessarily harsh: a $35 late fee for a missed or late payment of $25, for example. To think that banks borrow billions of dollars at ridiculously low and highly subsidized interest rates from the Federal Reserve Bank, and then subject small borrowers, in a democracy, with such harsh penalties? 

Even more vexing, imagine this possibly theoretical situation: I have this feeling that there is a fabulous woman who I love, and who loved me, and she’s somewhere in this world, if still alive. All I know is that we met, had a wonderful time together, and promised to meet again, because at the time I was on an important journey, and simply had to go on. And much later, at a lonely time in my life, when I did have the time and freedom to meet anyone who felt warmly towards me, when I needed to connect with anybody at all who had a soft spot for me, I could not remember which country on earth it was that I met her and when it happened, let alone what her name, address, and telephone number were. Because, even if I had written it down somewhere, I had either lost it, or couldn’t find it in the multitude of bits of paper and diaries that I have. 

Yes, the addresses and other details (if any) of the people I’ve met are on five thousand scattered pieces of paper, jottings on the back of notebooks, and in various computer files, in three countries on two continents, and some of these addresses are no longer accessible to me because the operating system they ran on has long become obsolete, or the original software has been lost. I have no idea about who many of these people are, about which are the important ones to follow up and which not. In some cases, I forgot to put down the name, just noted down a phone number. In rare cases, I have tried sending out emails that say the equivalent of: “I have your address or email address on my list; sorry, I have forgotten how and when we met. Who are you?” Such emails are rarely fruitful. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Official Richard Crasta website is back!

Though its list of books may be incomplete, the official website is back after an outage of a few weeks. Here:
http://richardcrasta.com/
http://richardcrasta.com/reviews/
http://richardcrasta.com/links/
http://richardcrasta.com/biography/

It also contains a few blog posts, including my latest one on the subject that is on many people's minds: football: http://richardcrasta.com/why-brazil-costa-rica-and-the-african-countries-play-exciting-football/
A big thank you to my readers and supporters.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Why Father's Day, Mother's Day ... Matter

I, for one, am grateful for "Mother's Day," which did not exist when I was growing up in India, and which I was introduced to only in America, where it has near-religious significance. Though nowhere as religious as Mother's Day (and possibly that's fair, because we don't spend nine months in our father's "womb", straining his resources and eating his food), Father's Day has begun to mean something to me too. Why? Because I'm a father--a proud father of three sons, whom I think of with love especially on this day. If you think Father's Day ought to be abolished, ask any father for his opinion. Fatherhood does not get the attention it deserves, and here is a day when people at least spend a few moments to take time off from the current obsessions of their culture, the media pap--nip slips, wardrobe malfunctions, stained dresses--to think about their fathers, and perhaps to wish them. (Other than that no father has ever given birth to a child, every father is unique, and all generalizations--including mine--are silly.)

Besides, why not fathers, since we have a Groundhog Day and a Secretaries Day, and so on? As for me, rationalist though I may call myself at times, just the words, "Happy Father's Day, Dad!" coming from my sons ... lifts up my spirits, makes me feel loved, is worth more than gold. If I can make someone immensely happy by just saying four words, why deny them that pleasure?

Besides, it's only because of this silly, acquired tradition that I managed to speak to my mother just before she became sick and was admitted to the hospital, only to die a few days later. So my last conversation with my mother, which was a lucky conversation--my mother had not been in the best of health, and sometimes, the connection wasn't clear, or she wasn't fully lucid--was full of love, dollops of tenderness, a dash of humor, real feeling, and her blessing. I had no idea it would be our last conversation, and I might not have called but for the almost unshakable feeling within me that if there was one person I ought never to miss calling, every New Year, Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, Nativity of Our Lady (a very big feast day among Mangalorean Catholics) and on her birthday (in addition to once every couple of weeks, when possible)--it was my mother. A very intelligent book I'm editing (I can't say more than that it's by an American author who's an Ivy League graduate of some distinction) suggests that the silly things matter, because they show that we care; little gestures show our consideration, function as reaffirmations of continuing love (which should never be taken for granted).

In this connection, I have published a few books relating to the theme of fatherhood (some serious and passionate--"Fathers and Sons, War and Love," for example; and a few playful), and you can find them at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Railway Man, Forgiveness, and "Eaten by the Japanese"

I just saw Railway Man, the movie based on the bestselling book: the true story of Eric Lomax, a former British prisoner-of-war who decided to confront his nightmares by confronting his Japanese torturer, Takashi Nagase, in the flesh. It's a fascinating movie, with a surprising ending. In fact, most reviews of this movie do hint at the ending, so the story is actually in the telling, in the progress of Lomax from fury and terror to forgiveness and understanding.

In Eaten by the Japanese: The Memoir of an Unknown Indian Prisoner of War, my late father, John Baptist Crasta, tells his own story. For him, the only possible therapeutic outlet was the act of writing the book. He, like thousands of other Indians, some dead, never got to meet the Japanese who ill-treated him.

However, the Indians did engage in a form of forgiveness, as shown in this section from my father's book:


On 27 August, we were taken to Romali, about thirty miles from Rabaul, to be “handed over.”

Romali turned into a collection point for all Indians in the vicinity. The Japanese left us there and departed — for good. Our three-and-a-half-year connection had finally ceased.

The Japanese who were in charge of our group HQ were stationed in Romali. Among others, they included Hiroshima Thai, Oobayashi Juni [Warrant Officer Oobayashi], Nakamura Socho [Sergeant Major Nakamura], Kabutha Chuui [First Lt. Kubota], et al. As an old revenge, Indians robbed their belongings and beat them up. The Japanese fled in fear of their lives, but as they had nothing to eat, they returned on the third day. They pleaded with the Indians to spare them, expressing profound regret for having ill-treated Indian prisoners. They were again beaten, but before they left, they were given food and assured that in future no harm would be done to them. The Japanese, having no clothes, bedding, or food, visited us again and again. Indians were by now moved to pity, and treated their former enemies with hospitality. [emphasis mine]
My father once told me that he was one of the people urging his colleagues to forgive and to be generous in their victory.

What happens in Railway Man [where the sadistic scenes are extended well beyond my taste--I would have gotten the point with 70% less violence] is much more profound. The British POW, Lomax, finds that his Japanese torturer has already been suffering for his crimes, and has been engaging in a form of atonement by being a tourist guide to the Kanchanaburi War Museum. When Eric approaches Nagase with a knife, and with the intention of killing him, Nagase's response is humble, accepting, and deeply remorseful. In the process, they both discover the larger forces that had made them behave as they did. The surprise ending is this: They become friends for life.

Forgiveness is a good thing, but it needs to be preceded by a modicum of giving witness, of acknowledgment, atonement, and regret. As for the tens of thousands of Indians, and other Allied soldiers, who were either killed, tortured, or imprisoned in the Pacific theater of World War II, particularly in the area of Papua New Guinea, very little regret has been expressed, and most people are still unaware that it happened at all. Even a distinguished and senior American journalist, who knows quite a bit about the world and its recent history, was surprised that Indians were taken prisoner to Papua, New Guinea. Most of the survivors returned to India to have their contributions or their sufferings unacknowledged, and lived hard lives till they died. Therefore, the only thing I, as a son, can do, is to continue to tell my father's story and to make it available to those who wish to read it.