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Interview with Dr. K. N. Raghavan

Q.1 Tell us a little about yourself.
A. I was born in Kochi, Kerala, in 1964. A few years later added the doctor to my name after completing my MBBS from Government Medical College at Kozhikode. Still, yearning for more, I went on to complete my postgraduate studies in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. It was then that I was selected for the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) in 1990, after clearing UPSC Civil Service exams.

I have held various posts in Customs, Central Excise and GST department in different parts of India and also worked on deputation with the Government of Kerala. I also had a tenure in the Indian High Commission in Singapore, where I worked as the First Secretary (Commerce). Presently I am working as Executive Director of Rubber Board of India, located at Kottayam, Kerala.

I did not forget to have fun I pursued my hobbies too, as a cricket umpire, accredited to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and umpiring the One Day International matches, Duleep, Deodhar and Ranji Trophy matches. As a reader and an author, both of which I love.

My wife, Dr. Ranjini is an ENT surgeon at Kochi. We have one daughter Aiswarya who is working in Sportify in Stockholm, where she lives with her husband Emil, who works in Apple Inc.

Q.2 Do you have any upcoming books?
A. Yes, a couple of books are in the pipeline - one fiction and the other non-fiction.

Q.3 When and why did you start writing?
A. I was encouraged by a friend of mine to write a book about the cricket World Cup in 1999. He felt that my expertise in cricket and deep interest were attributes that made me eligible for the task! I took this up because I did not wish to disappoint him. But when I started, I found that I enjoyed writing. It helped me to relax and gave me a great sense of satisfaction and happiness. I could devote more time to writing when I was in Singapore, where I contributed articles on cricket regularly to a local newspaper. At that time, I also started reading and writing about 1962 India China war, which came out as a book Dividing Lines: Contours of India-China Discord in 2012.   

Q.4 How do you select your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
A. I always have the main plot of the story in my mind when I start writing. Other than the protagonist and main characters, others evolve as the storyline progresses. I don't use any set formula. The subplots and characters evolve along with the storyline. I don't have any set pattern/ formula for selecting plots and characters; they pop into my mind as the story writing progresses.

Q.5 How do you select the name of characters?
A. Names are chosen based on the nature of the character and time during which they live/ operate.

Q.6 Are your books inspired by a particular event/person/memory?
A. The main storyline is invariably inspired by some events that I have heard or had the opportunity to see/witness. Inspiration could be from some people, as well.

Q.7 What is the most difficult thing about writing on characters from the opposite sex?
A. For character writing, one has to get into his/her mind and think in the way the character would. Each character is unique, irrespective of sex. I believe my empathy and sensitivity in my interactions towards the opposite sex helped me in understanding their thought process angst and hopefully, I have been able to capture the same in my book, A Slice of Calicut Halwa.

Q.8 Where do you hope to take your writing in the future?
A. I wish to write best selling fiction and some masterpieces in non-fiction!!!! On a more serious note, my target is to do one book in 1-2 years, mixing fiction and non-fiction.

Q.9 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
A. I have written four books - three non-fiction and one non-fiction. My favorite continues to be Dividing Lines: Contours of India China Discord.

Q.10 Outside your family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author?
A. My friend Dr. MK Muneer. He asked me to write my first book and has steadfastly encouraged and motivated me in all my effort to write.

Q.11 To craft your world, do you have to travel? Before and during the process?
A. I have not traveled solely for the sake of writing. However, I had made use of some of the experiences/incidents that I have come across while traveling in my writing.

Q.12 Do you believe in writer's block? If yes, how do you deal with it
A. I have not yet experienced writers' block. I try to write a minimum number of words or for a specified period every day. This helps me tide over inertia, which I sometimes feel when writing.

Q.13 Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
A. I dread that day!!! I will focus more on reading. Reading is my favorite hobby and I can spend any amount of time doing that.

Q.14 Do you have any unique or quirky reading habits?
A. None that I am aware of.

Q.15 If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your books?    
A. Nothing. There have been many suggestions about changes, but I prefer to retain the script the way it is.

Q.16 What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
A. I have not come across any unethical practice in the publishing industry so far.

Q.17 What advice would you have for aspiring authors?
A. Keep writing and take disappointments in your stride. You should never lose your confidence in your ability as a writer.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
A. Jawaharlal Nehru. He was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. He studied in the best of schools and colleges, which trained him for a comfortable life as a lawyer. Instead, Nehru joined the independence movement and chose to face the sufferings and tribulations that came with it. He put to good use the time spent in jails by penning some world-class books. After independence, he guided the fortunes of the infant nation and built institutions that served to make it the largest democracy in the world. He had his share of weaknesses and committed mistakes, which only showed that he was human as well. I would love to spend time with him to hear him talk about his thoughts and experiences.

Q.19 Which is your favorite book and why
A. It is difficult to pinpoint one favorite book. So I will give a list of my favorites. 

Nonfiction -
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer
A Team of Rivals by Doris Goodwin
India’s China War by Neville Maxwell
India Before Independence by Bipan Chandra
Out of My Comfort Zone by State Waugh

Fiction -
Aparajito by Bibhuti Bhushan Bandyopadhyay
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
The Man by Irwing Wallace
Enippadikal (Malayalam) by Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai

In non-fiction, the reasons are the topics involved and the style of writing. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich was one of the first books that I had read on the subject and it remains my favorite to date. A Team of Rivals is a classic as it examines in detail a very vital period in the history of the USA. Neville Maxwell’s book prompted me to read more about the topic and write a book on it myself. India before Independence helped me considerably while preparing for civil service exams, and hence there is an emotional connection. I am a fan of autobiographies and cricket and Steve Waugh’s book is the best autobiography penned by a cricketer. In fiction, choices were on an account of how each of these influenced my thinking while increasing my knowledge and insight on the topics covered.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
A. This has been a fantastic journey. I am an ordinary person who tried his hands at many things and attained some amount of success in a few of them. My twin passions - cricket and the written word - which were ingrained in me by my father, have stood me in good stead all my life. Cricket has played a definite guiding hand in shaping my life story. My reading habits have been influenced by my love for history and fascination for autobiographies. I have enjoyed my job and the variety that it offers. Besides, it has also given me amazing experiences, which I treasure.

The beauty of life lies in the element of unpredictability that garnishes it. Who would have envisaged a scenario where the whole nation and a major portion of the world would go into lockdown?  The twists and turns that take place in the life of every human being stand as proof of the fickle nature of fortune. One has to learn to take the rough with the smooth and the highs with the lows while learning from the experiences, both good and bad. I believe that this should be done without losing sensitivity and passion and zest for life. This, in my opinion, is the best recipe for getting the best out of the journey of life.

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  1. Dr. KNR is multifaceted dignitory and is a roll model for all. A true civil servant, serves the nation in the right spirit, utilising his skill on medicines by administering medicines thru his books and his thoughts to all... Congratulations and all the best for future endeavors...

  2. Dr. K. N. Raghaban IRS is an inspiration to us . Combination of multi talented personality.

  3. Dr KN Raghavan IRS is a multitalented oersonality, still to be explored
    Wishing him all success for his future dream projects

  4. Dr. K. N. Raghavan sir. Sir's vision has helped many poor children in to develop their personality and their vision about future. Once a child get ignited in right thoughts, he will achieve many things in his life and they r tomorrow's promise. Thank you sir and God bless you always.

  5. Sir, You have always been a figure to look upto. best wishes for your endeavors

  6. I have read Dividing Lines. Liked it . Will read the Slice of Calicut Halwa. How strong is your literary Malayalam?