Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Biren Kothari: Gujarati writer-biographer: From passion to profession


A talk with Gujarati writer-biographer Biren Kothari+biren kothari ) , residing at Vadodara. A diploma holder in chemical engineering, he worked in a petrochemical industry for 22 years, and then switched to a career in writing, writing biographies to be precise. He is also a blogger (+Blogger).

His blog ‘Palette’ can be read at - http://birenkothari.blogspot.com/


On Facebook, he can be reached at https://www.facebook.com/biren.kothari.37


He can be contacted at bakothari@gmail.com

Now over to Biren Kothari:


On blogging:

It’s very easy to start a blog. But it is very difficult to maintain it regularly. Even if it is not maintained regularly, nobody is there to ask you. Considering this, it’s always a commitment to yourself rather than anybody else to maintain the blog. I usually used to put one post per week on an average. However, this year the no. of posts is very low due to my professional preoccupations. Blogging is always a pleasure. I don’t think that the family life or professional life is being affected by blogging. On the contrary, whenever I get a chance to write about some person of family of some personal story regarding my professional assignment, it’s a pleasure always.  

As a full time writer, it’s difficult to write on the subjects I love most especially when I’m not connected with any mainstream media. Blog provides such space where I can write the way I can without any constraint of space, length, subject, time etc. That’s the principal reason to start blogging. And as I went on, I found it very delightful and convenient medium, so I continued it.

On a canvass, various colors are mixed with a particular theme and composition in mind, whereas in a palette, they get mixed almost effortlessly. I’ve varied interests and I wanted to write about it with no particular subject in mind. That’s why I thought ‘palette’ to be appropriate for my blog. The tagline of the blog says ‘anek rango ni anaayas melavani’ (effortless mixing of many colors) reflects the very idea.


As far as blogging is concerned, I was inspired by the blog of my brother Urvish Kothari where he used to publish many writings apart from what he was writing for the media. I also used to read some other blogs but most of the Gujarati blogs I found were either amateur, copy-paste type or not of my interest except a few.  When I thought of starting a blog, I didn’t have any clear idea in my mind of what to write. Also it was sure that whatever I was to write was exclusively for the blog only. It was not that I wrote something for a particular media and publish simultaneously on the blog. 

On writing career:-

I don’t think there is any certain formula to become a writer. Even as a writer, there isn’t every aspect or type you can excel. There are many other factors which contribute to become a writer apart from reading. My father was fond of reading and used to purchase books. But those were most of thrillers. However, those books attracted me towards reading which I continued and expanded. In a way, this helped me to develop an idea of reading and buying books. It is only because of my hobby of reading, I could become a writer. 

It’s difficult to say if this profession is special or not but it’s a fact that people definitely think so. The idea of commercial/commissioned writing is though old, yet people don’t have its acceptance. Actually like any other profession, you require dedication, sincerity and hard working to achieve excellence in whatever the work we undertake. As I work from my home, I have to maintain strict and disciplined working schedule. Yet it’s difficult to accept for some friends and relatives how a person can remain busy though he is ‘at home’. Fortunately my family members know the importance and seriousness of my work, and with their understanding and support only, I can devote full time to my profession. 

It is due to Rajnikumar Pandya that I am into this field. I was originally a voracious reader of his writings along with many other writers. It was my feeling that I would be of some help to him. So I started to transcribe the audio cassettes which were mainly the interviews of various people. Later I could see how this raw material being used in the final write-up. Thus, I could learn the whole process from taking interviews, making its script to the final write-up. Then Rajnikumar ( +Rajnikumar Pandya ) molded my skills as a writer and I started assisting him in various biographical projects. Along with my job in the chemical industry, I continued this for 5 years. Then a time came that I thought I should bid good bye to chemical industry and indulge in full time writing. So I took voluntary retirement in 2007 and became a full time writer

I am a biographer, translator, and compiler. When someone approach me to get anybody’s biography written, I get as many information as I can by asking several questions and reviewing the material. I accept the project only, if found it satisfactory. Writing biography requires so many things. It requires skill of research, finding references, taking interviews, history, documentation, compilation and last but not the least presentation. Then only, the writing is justified. This is the way I work.

Along with Rajnikumar Pandya, I’ve written ‘Purusharth ni pele paar’(biography of industrial scientist N.R.Trivedi), ‘Maroy ek jamano hato’ (life sketch of poet-king Ruswa Mazloomi), ‘Upendra Trivedi: Aatmakathan ane anya aalekh’ (Biographical compilation of renowned Gujarati actor Upendra Trivedi), ‘Amrut Saurabh’ (Biography of business tycoon Champshi Devshi Nandu), ‘Karmayogi’ (life sketch of social worker Arun Buch) etc.  Individually I’ve written ‘Saumya Sugandh’ (biography of dedicated teacher Ramprasad Jani), ‘Krantikari Vicharak’ (Life sketch of Prof. Raojibhai Patel ‘Mota’), ‘Padkar saame purusharth’ (biography of freedom fighter, publisher, translator Navneetbhai Madrasi).  The books I translated are ‘mukti’, ‘pragna’, sahas’ and ‘nar’, all the four by Osho. I’ve compiled the memoirs of veteran actor Krishnakant in ‘Guzra Hua Zamana’. Besides this, some  other books are also there. 
On good/bad memories and about life in general:  

Most of my life till today is full of happy memories. There are many persons with whom I’ve spent memorable moments. I am lucky that I got caring family members, friends, and most of the relatives who stand by me in every situation. When I lose a friend or a near one, it pains a lot but we have to accept it. I think there is nothing inspiring or worth learning from my life. If one feels like that, he/she will find it. 

I don’t have any bad experiences/incidences which I remember at once or which have lasting effect. It hurts temporarily for the time being but none worth mentioning about.

Hobbies:-

I am inclined more towards listening to vintage Hindi music especially of ‘40s and ‘50s. I used to draw as well as make paper collage but now it’s difficult to spare time for that. I love to read humor esp. cartoons by various cartoonists, stories, biographies and autobiographies and many other things. I love to collect various antique articles provided it should be genuine as well as to collect various vintage things. I also love to visit different places esp. those of rural India.

Having interest in such various things helps a lot, when it comes to writing. It helps to understand a subject thoroughly in a proper perspective.

I’ve traveled in various parts of India, though the unseen places are naturally much more than the places already visited. Any place without crowd, having natural beauty is my favorite.

Books I like the most:-

Well, it’s difficult to single out a book or a particular writer. I love many books and many writers. The list is long. But if asked to shortlist 5 favorite books, it would be like this: 

(1) ‘Pratimao’ (પ્રતિમાઓ)

(2) Palkara (પલકારા) (both by Jhaverchand Meghani)

(3) Shabdathattha (શબ્દઠઠ્ઠા by Rajnikumar Pandya)

(4) Vinod ni Najare (વિનોદની નજરે by Vinod Bhatt)

(5) Raag Darbari ( રાગ દરબારી in Hindi, by Srilal Shukla)

On traditions of Gujarat :-

I am very disturbed about some of the Gujarati traditions the way it has been labeled or projected now days. Every region/people have their own traditions and customs. I feel that the tradition of healthy dialogue and tolerance is disappearing gradually in Gujarat. Everything seems to be politically motivated, even the area of art and the literature. People are mostly seen compartmentalized. Political fanaticism has been becoming a style statement.

To have proud (swaman) is a good thing but to have a false proud (mithyabhiman) is shameful but it seems to have become a fashion now a days. Wherever I read ‘proud to be Gujarati’, I can’t do anything but laugh. It’s as if s/he has opted to take birth in Gujarat as a special case. When we talk of Gujarati tradition or feel proud, we should ask ourselves what we have contributed to enrich this tradition. And before asking, we should also be clear about what we consider a tradition worth taking proud other than eating dhokla, handwa etc or playing garba.

Message to the readers :-

Most of the interviewee has a bad habit of giving message though nobody even in his/her family takes his/her message seriously. So do not take anybody’s message seriously. [Do it your own way.]

On your successful life and those who contributed for that:-

It’s doubtful if my life till now can be called successful or not. But I surely enjoy it and am thankful to all those family members, friends, relatives and readers who have contributed to make me feel so.

I would like to tell them

You have contributed in making my life worth living. I am grateful for that.

Now, Few Words from my side :- I ( +Paavan Jethava ) really thankful to Birenbhai Kothari about to spend time with us and wishing him and all his family members "Happy New Year 2014".