For New York-based Karan Bajaj – author of best-selling contemporary novels, Keep Off the Grass (2008) and Johnny Gone Down (2010) – writing is an expression of his deepest ideas, and of thoughts that he can’t even articulate verbally to himself.
Talking about his passion and interest for writing, he says, “Six years after leaving India for the first time and living a nomadic existence in Philippines, Singapore, Europe, and the US, I felt a deep stirring within me that I had stories to share and my own unique insight into the messy, glorious human condition. The need to express these ideas got me interested in writing. Over the last eight years, it’s been satisfying to see my writing evolve as my ideas have deepened.”
The Seeker, Karan’s first international novel, will be published by Penguin-Random House in India in June 2015, and worldwide in early 2016. The book follows a Manhattan-based investment banker who becomes a yogi in the Indian Himalayas. It was inspired by Karan’s one year spiritual sabbatical learning yoga in a South Indian ashram, meditating in complete silence in the Vedantic tradition in the Indian Himalayas and living as a Buddhist Monk in a Scottish monastery.
“The Seeker is a pulsating, contemporary take on man’s classic quest for transcendence. At its core, the book is a page-turning adventure story about a guy who goes from the dark underbelly of New York to hidden night markets in India to freezing caves in the Himalayas," describes Karan, further adding, “I hope people truly relate to Max’ (the protagonist) tremendous inner transformation.”
Karan is also a certified yoga teacher attached to the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in New York, and calls himself a striving yogi. “The Yoga Sutras say that man’s purpose is first, evolution, then involution: An eagle in perfect rhythm flaps its wings high, then brings them down gracefully. If it kept flapping higher, its wings would break. If it always kept its wings down, it would never experience flight. So must we first push ourselves to stretch, grow and experience the world, then detach from it. That’s the heart of the yogic life, a life full of adventure, first without, then within,” says Karan, sharing his views on living a yogic life.
The best feature of living a yogic life, he believes, is that it gives you a clear end goal – kaivalya, or complete dissolution of one’s individual ego. “With that goal in mind, you can be fully engaged and productive in the world yet not be attached to it.”
Karan is the Chief Marketing Officer of the cult mom brand, Aden and Anais. Both his novels, Keep Off the Grass and Johnny Gone Down, were optioned into films, the latter just entering pre-production and slotted for a 2016 international release. He was selected as one of the 'Top 35 Under 35 Indians’ by India Today in 2010, and was nominated for all of India’s top literary awards – the Crossword Book of the Year, Indiaplaza Golden Quill and Teacher’s Indian Achievers Awards (Arts).
Q&A with Karan:
What inspires you to write?
I’m inspired to write because it’s such a democratic process – anyone who works hard at their craft can get published and have this amazing platform to touch an unlimited number of people. I’m inspired by the Kabir (mystic poet and saint of India) quote: “Friend, you had one life and you blew it.” I don’t want to blow it – I want to impact people with my words.
What would you say is your biggest achievement so far?
That I’ve always prioritized learning and growth over stability and stasis.
What advice would you give to young writers?
To live a big, interesting life, unfettered by the dictates of convention. Ultimately, a great life isn’t dissimilar from a great story – the hero reaches for a lofty, unattainable goal and gives all of himself to achieve it. Sometimes he makes it, sometimes he doesn’t, but at-least he lives a life of meaning because he’s in pursuit of that big goal. The more you do so in real life, the better your stories.
Indians around the world have made significant contributions to their immigrated countries, what do you think of this accomplishment?
It’s great. Rephrasing Bahá’u’lláh (founder of the Bahá'í Faith), "Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind.”