The Age of Innocence

The Age of Innocence
Me with my Mother

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My father's work with the War Crimes Investigation Committee

Excerpt from Eaten by the Japanese: The Memoir of an Unknown Indian Prisoner of War:

On 1 October 1945, I was taken on the staff of the War Crimes Investigation Committee. Capt. McLillian and Capt. Foster of Auxiliary (India) Force, Capt. Munro, 1st Hyderabad Infantry, and I, comprised the staff. We were asked to investigate charges against the Japanese under the War Crimes Act, hold courts of Enquiries, collect evidence, et cetera and submit the proceedings to 11th Division HQ. This work kept me busy the whole day.

About one hundred and sixty proceedings were submitted, the most notable among them being a case of cannibalism. I give a precis.  .....
The prisoners in New Guinea had fared a worse fate. Out of a total of three thousand men, only two hundred had survived. Most of them died of starvation, fatigue, and disease. Some had been eaten by the Japanese. In New Britain, out of a total of eleven thousand men, five thousand three hundred were alive, including nearly one thousand hospital cases.

My comment: A very high casualty rate indeed--2800 dead out of 3000. My father was lucky to be in the group that had a 50% mortality rate, and to be one of the lucky 50%.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Fighting for Christ the Lord ... The New Preface to The Killing of an Author

New Preface (October 2014) [Book is also now a paperback on Createspace.]
Recently, thanks to a chance meeting with a childhood friend, I understood why I had really written The Killing of an Author.

As a boy of 11--at an age when American boys are usually playing with their Lego collections, and Indian children of my social class, then, were playing rubber-ball cricket or throwing stones at cashew and mango trees--I enlisted in the Army of Christ. And, as an enlisted serviceman, I ultimately ended up doing a lot of fighting ... though not for Christ.

To begin at the beginning: In a country that has 43 Hindus for every Christian, I was born, in Bangalore, to Roman Catholic parents. Moving to my parents’ home town, Mangalore (which sometimes refers to itself as “the Rome of the East”), at age 6, I grew up a devout Catholic, brainwashed into believing that martyrdom was the only guaranteed path to sainthood and immortality.

Attaining sainthood, I realized, was very hard work: like studying for the most difficult exam you could ever imagine, but studying, not just for a few years, but for all your miserable, self-flagellating life, and being better at it than most others.

However, there was one shortcut to sainthood (a shortcut that appealed to my lazy self): martyrdom. The deal was this: All you had to do was offer your neck, at the right time, for Christ the Lord (or Mary, his mother; no, Joseph was not good enough). And no matter how sinful your life had been until that moment, if you recognized the error of your ways just minutes before your beheading or deep-frying (or whichever inventive and kinky method your persecutors used), and so long as you had mentally repented your past sins, and so long as you were clearly sacrificing your life for the True Faith, you were guaranteed martyrdom—which, in effect, also guaranteed sainthood.

However, just to be sure, and just to strengthen my spiritual C.V. (which would be examined by the Pope, as well as by Saint Peter, before I was granted sainthood), I joined the Sodality of Our Lady, a Catholic youth organization whose anthem was this martial song:

An army of youth

Flying the standards of truth

We’re fighting for Christ the Lord!

Heads lifted high

Catholic Action our cry

And the Cross Our Only Sword!

... Mary's Son, Till the World is Won
We Have Pledged You Our Loyal Word!

The Cross Our Only Sword! Till the World is Won! So, at the age of 11 or 12, I had been brainwashed into becoming a sword-wielding crusader, for I had now been told that it was not enough to follow Christ; one had to fight for Him. It was a marching song, with a marching beat, and I think, during one or two of our processions, we actually did a bit of marching--though no goose-stepping.

And, though, as a mere first year high school student, I outperformed college seniors to win first prize in the Sodality’s Religious Quiz, there followed, four years later, a stunning reversal: at 16, I rejected the program of being a crusader and martyr for Christ, having woken up to the realization that I had been brainwashed with bullshit, and that I had spent eight of the best years of my childhood believing in that program and shunning many other possible pleasures.

What I didn’t realize, at the time of my “liberation,” was that history often repeats itself, and would in this case repeat itself, in disguise ... [Continued in the book, where half of this chapter is in the Preface, and the remaining half in Epilogue II; please find my links below. This story will also be told in The Last Catholic Colony, a book that needs funding now: )

Google Play:
Amazon Kindle UK:
Createspace paperbacks:

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Chairman of Six Land Tribunals, and Much Else

I had a life before this, a life that was very different--and I plan to write a bit about it in a short book, very soon.

Among other things, I was the Chairman of six land tribunals. We had around five or six members, and I think I had a deciding vote. The land tribunal judged cases in which tenants were entitled to land because they had been in possession of it, or cultivating it long enough--and awarded them to tenants, where there was proof enough of their cultivation and possession.

This was one of my most delightful roles ever: to give land to people who I considered poor and oppressed. If I could favor a tenant or a landless person, I did. No landlord reading this is going to feel happy about what I did. If the evidence was a bit murky, at least my tendency was to vote on the side of the tenant.

I don't know to what extent the evidence was fixed, to what extent I was a mere rubber stamp. This was complicated stuff, and besides having to travel to five of these taluk headquarters to preside over Land Tribunal Meetings, I was also:
The Subdivisional Magistrate for an area the size of Rhode Island.
The Subdivisional Revenue Officer.
Chairman of the Subdivisional Development Council.
Returning Officer for Assembly Elections and many other local elections
and, many other things, last but not least of which was:

Being the 25-Year-Old Guy Who Took the Salute at the Independence Day and Republic Day Parades.That was a hoot. I had to give a speech too, in Kannada, and in a photograph (that I don't think I have with me), you can notice people sniggering in the background.

Well, nobody's perfect.

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 often, at the hands of Indians themselves, even though a few of these work for foreign-owned corporations. 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 any book published in India, in any language--possibly since the original Kama Sutra itself, which is completely clinical and unembarrassed about sex. 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. Impressing the Whites disappeared from the shelves, the debate (even the criticism) stopped, and there was no welcome for any Richard Crasta book, past or present: it was as if selective amnesia had descended on literary circles (or worse ....).

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, this silence is for selfish reasons, and the result of cowardice. And so, if you write a courageous book that dares the Big Boys ... you're on your own, kiddo.

But if you do care about freedom, and equal freedom, 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. By the way, a few of these books are available, in their paperback/hardcover first editions, at:
Writers and Books, University Avenue, Rochester, New York.

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 that are playful), and you can find them at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. My father's World War II Prisoner of War memoir, Eaten by the Japanese, also contains a few essays by me, at least two of which express my feelings as a son towards a father I began to fully recognize and honor when he was closer to the end of his life.

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.