Prachanda victory kickstarts Indian author’s career

August 16th, 2008 - 1:10 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Aug 16 (IANS) While analysts debate over the pluses and minuses of Maoist chief Prachanda’s election as republic Nepal’s first prime minister, one man is certainly regarding it as a blessing. The long march of the guerrilla leader from bunkers to Baluwatar, the official residence of Nepal’s prime minister, has kickstarted the career of an Indian author.

Anirban Roy, a 38-year-old vet from India’s northeastern Assam state, who decided to become a journalist and now has turned to writing books, is set for a spectacular debut with his first book, that presents Prachanda the man to the public.

“Prachanda: The Unknown Revolutionary” is an intimate chronicle of the personal life of the man who has captured the world’s imagination. It is the fruit of talks with nearly 200 people who know the Maoist leader closely, ranging from his father, wife and children to comrades and politicians who supported King Gyanendra in his war on the Maoists.

“I came to Nepal five times between 2001 and 2006,” says Roy, describing the genesis of the book that its publisher Mandala, one of the biggest publishing houses in Nepal, feels will sell like hot cakes now.

“However, it was always like a tourist. I never had any interest in Nepal’s politics.”

But it changed in April 2006 when he was sent by his paper, the Hindustan Times, to cover the pro-democracy movement started by the Maoists and the opposition parties to overthrow King Gyanendra’s army-backed regime.

“Everywhere I went, people would ask me, have you met Prachanda?” reminisces Roy. “I stayed in Nepal for a month and friends and relatives would call me up asking the same question. I realised, here was a man who was the centre of all attraction.”

Intrigued, Roy wanted to know more about the persona of the revolutionary who waged a successful 10-year war against the state, lived underground for 25 years and propounded a new philosophy that was a synthesis of Marxism, Leninism and Maoism modified to meet Nepal’s unique situation.

To his chagrin, he found there was very little authentic personal information about the shadowy figure who appeared in public only on June 16, 2006, after the fall of the royal government.

“When you live underground for 25 years, even those very close to you don’t know everything about you,” Roy says. “For instance, even Prachanda’s wife Sita doesn’t. For instance, she says he never worked for the US and yet, he worked on a USAID project in Bharatpur for some time.”

One day, as Roy was bemoaning the dearth of an authentic book to Prachanda’s deputy, Baburam Bhattarai, the latter told him, “Why don’t you write it?”

The idea took hold and Roy began his quest to ferret out details about Prachanda, the man.

“My book is just a skeleton,” he says. “Yet, it was a herculean task to create it. In the subsequent editions, I hope to give the skeleton flesh and blood.”

The book gives the reader a glimpse into Prachanda’s hidden life with rare anecdotes and photographs.

“No one knows,” says Roy, “that the robust Prachanda of today was born premature.”

The first of six daughters and two sons, his father Muktiram was told the birth would be painless if he brought holy water from a nearby village. As he went to bring the water, his wife Bhawani, then seven months pregnant, went to the field to graze their buffaloes.

By the time the young father had come back, she had given birth in the paddy field.

The rare photographs show Prachanda and his wife in Goa, admiring the Taj hotel in Mumbai and in Shimla.

After writing the book, Roy was on tenterhooks as the Maoists won the April election but failed to form the new government.

Initially planning to be republic Nepal’s first executive president, Prachanda had to give up the plan due to opposition by the other parties. And then, with the Nepali Congress blocking him, it seemed he may not even be the new prime minister.

“When you write a book, you want your subject to grow taller,” says Roy, describing his angst during the four months of uncertainty after the election. “Then the importance of the book also grows. Now I am happy that Prachanda is the new prime minister.”

The book will be officially released in Kathmandu this month at a ceremony that will be attended by the new prime minister himself, top Maoist leaders and Nepal’s leading politicians.

It is also being translated into Hindi, Bengali, Nepali, Chinese, Italian and Spanish.

With so many Nepali authors and intellectuals close to the Maoist movement, it is surprising that it took an Indian to write an intimate book on Prachanda.

“People think that the Maoists are anti-Indian,” says Roy. “But as an Indian, whenever I talked to Prachanda and other Maoists, I found them extremely cooperative.”

Prachanda himself was happy to know that Roy was writing a book on him.

“What can I tell you?” he told Roy during one of the interviews. “You know everything about me.”

With the first book out of the way, Roy has already begun work on his next book.

“It is on Nepal,” he confirms. “But it is too early to say anything more.”

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