Sitharaam Jayakumar is one of the few bloggers who caught my attention many years ago. His writings have a touch of genuineness that one rarely comes across nowadays. They suggested to me a charming personality that is a rare blend of forthrightness and meekness. But his fiction pieces gave me another impression altogether. I met him personally once for a favour and he struck me as an ideal human being: a personification of authenticity and magnanimity. I think he is one of the many good people in the world that need be brought into some limelight. Especially in today's India where all wrong people seem to grab the spotlights.
Over to Sitharaam Jayakumar who is known among his friends as Jai and the rather silly me whom Jai calls Tom.
Tom: You have been an active blogger for quite some time. What brought you into blogging?
Jai: There is quite an interesting story behind how I ended up in the blogosphere. It all began on the founding day function of the organisation I was working at in the year 2017. Normally on these occasions there would be several programs performed on stage. There would be skits, singing, dancing and so on. I normally never perform on stage. Usually, on these occasions I would mingle with friends, chitchat, have dinner and come back home. But in 2017 the organiser of the function requested me to perform on stage as I had never done anything before and age-wise I was the senior-most person on the staff. I was taken aback as I could simply not think of anything I could do. I asked the organiser who was also a close friend of mine for suggestions. He asked me if I could write a poem and present it on stage. Well, I was rather flabbergasted by this as I had never thought of myself as a poet and I rejected the suggestion immediately. But somehow that weekend I sat down on my laptop and penned a poem on my mischievous ten-year-old daughter. I presented the poem on the stage and it turned out to be a major hit. I put the poem on a blog and that was how my blog was born. Initially I thought I would write only poems. But one thing led to another and slowly I started writing articles. Then I added fictional stories, book reviews and so on. So, my blog is a hodgepodge of several miscellaneous writings.
Tom: Today blogging has been hijacked, so to say, by all sorts of people most of whom have no aptitude for writing. They use blogs for purposes that have nothing to do with writing and its noble objectives. What is your opinion about this situation?
Jai: That is indeed true and is a sad situation. Many people blog because they have nothing better to do. And the maximum contamination of blogs occurs in the language used by bloggers. People want to desperately blog in the English language. It would be better if people would stick to blogging in a language, they are thorough with. That way the quality of blogging will not suffer. I would probably be thought of as an elitist snob for saying this, but when I read some blogs, the poor grammar and vocabulary really puts me off. It is not that my English is perfect. When I went to the UK, I had great difficulty in understanding the English spoken by the Brits and found it exceedingly difficult when I had to speak in order to buy groceries or anything else for that matter. But accent is a part of speaking. And blogging is all about writing. So, my advice to bloggers is, please blog in a language you are thorough with. And another thing is children of many rich people roam around the world and start travel blogs. And there are other blogs which are written very incoherently because of poor language and lack of first-hand information. So, there is a profusion of travel blogs in the blogosphere. Of course, I am not denying that there are some genuine travel blogs which give some very valid and important information to the reader.
Tom: A few months back you wrote in one of your blogs that “India has (now) reached a point where we are being told what to eat, whom to marry and several other things that are a matter of personal choice.” What do you think is a blogger’s role in questioning or evaluating the socio-political reality of her country? [I’m using the female pronoun merely to avoid a gender bias.]
Jai: Well, we have reached a point where people are frightened of speaking out. It is particularly important in a democracy that people have the freedom to criticise each other. India is a diverse country with a plethora of diverse cultures, languages, and ethnicity. Attempts are being made to break the diversity and bring in uniformity. Diversity is the pride of our nation. In the international stage we are a unique example of unity in diversity. Right now, it is homogeneity that is sought after. This is definitely a dangerous trend. I feel it is important that bloggers stand up and question these things.
Tom: If you don’t mind my asking a personal question, in the same post mentioned above you referred to your traumatic childhood and youth. As a grown-up adult, do you still feel intimidated by other people and the games they play –political or otherwise?
Jai: Yes, it is true that I had a rather difficult childhood. I was an average or maybe a slightly above average student. I was subjected to severe bullying in school and that left a deep and indelible scar on my psyche. I still hesitate to trust people. I am a rather chatty person and anyone who meets me for the first time would get the feeling that I am an extrovert. But the one quality of an extrovert that I lack is the ability to maintain relationships. I am the kind who gets angry one minute and calms down in half an hour and comes back and apologises if the mistake is on my side. And yes, I do have difficulty in trusting people and another thing is I take offence easily. These are the negative qualities. On the positive side I am extremely loyal to genuine friends.
Tom: You also published a few books including a short novel. In many of your stories there is a preponderance of crime and even mindless cruelty. Yet I know you personally as a very sensitive and gentle person. To what will you ascribe this disparity between you and your characters?
Jai: I think that the trauma I went through during childhood has left some dark areas in my mind and that reflects in my writing. That is why I tend to make some of the characters in my books and short stories extremely cruel. It is something that is rebounding from my childhood. There is a saying ‘The child is the father of the man’. The context it is used in is quite different normally. But this is true of the characters in my books also. I have been abused as a child. And that reflects in my books. In fact, my mother has asked me this question often – “Why do you always have to write about killing and cruelty? Just for once why don’t you write something that people can laugh about for a change?”
Tom: If you are given the power to change one aspect of today’s reality in India, what will you change promptly?
Jai: This is a difficult question to answer. But I would definitely like to put a roof above the heads of the poor children I come across in the roads and the rag pickers and so on.
Tom: A few light questions now which require very short answers:
Your favourite food: Prawn Biryani
Your favourite author and why you like him/her: Stephen King. Because most of his books are unputdownable.
The book that you would like to carry with you if you are sent to an uninhabited island all alone for a week: Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
If you are offered an opportunity to be part of the Bigg Boss reality show, will you accept? Why / Why not? I will accept the invitation. I would like to see if I am able to survive the ordeal with the kind of anti-social characteristics I have. It would be a real challenge for me.
Tom: When can we expect the next book from you? What will it be about?
Jai: The one difficulty I have is in finishing books. I write around 15 to 20 thousand words and then tend to stop because I have a tendency to read my own effort and end up with the opinion that the quality of the book is poor. But I have a book called The Resurrection of Loudenbeck which is an entirely imaginary historical story based sometime in the 2nd Century AD. It is a thriller. I have completed around 16000 words. But true to form I left it midway. I intend to pick it up again and complete it within say, another 6 months.