NAW Interview with Arun Kaul

Arun KaulWing Commander Arun Kaul (Retd.) is an alumni of St.Stephen’s College. He is a graduate and post graduate in English Literature from Delhi University.

He has served the Indian Air Force, a career he found most fulfilling, dignified and honourable. While in service he also did a PG from the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University before seeking premature release.

Only One Life To Give is his very first publication of non-fiction.

NAW-  When did your literary journey begin? At what age did you discover that you wanted to write?

At school St Xavier’s, Jaipur, even in the late 60’s reading was a fad encouraged by a very good environment and a well stocked library. My fascination with books and literature has its roots from then.  Pursuing literature at graduation and post graduation made me realise how natural the subject was for me.  It was at college that I did feel the tug to express myself,  beyond the usual contribution to school and college magazine.  The actual putting pen to paper happened only five years back.

NAW- Tell us about your book “Only One Life to Give”.  How did you get the idea for the book?  What made you try non fiction for your first book?  Were you apprehensive how the book would be received since fiction is the in thing these days?

The trigger for my book was surprisingly a rebound to a sense of disappointment, disillusionment and despair both at social and work environment.  Even from close personal relationships I found a lack of integrity and value systems which was disheartening.  To my own horror it affected me in wanting to retaliate in the same manner of “eye for an eye”

To regain equilibrium I did some soul searching- I wrote my first story and then the rest, of those people who had touched my heart by their qualities of being humane- in my journey of life they had always stood by me in good stead by their example of doing good.  I realised that if I compile them they would provide moorings to many more people.  I intended to initiate a circle of influence to extend this goodness.  This is how the book emerged.  Since the message of the book was of importance I wasn’t too apprehensive of its literary assessment.

Incidentally one of the stories from the book has been converted into an episode for a serial (Lakhon Mein Ek) on Star Plus.  A program which highlights human interest stories.

NAW- Armed forces is such an exciting field but very few Indian servicemen have actually narrated their tales.  Why is it so?  Is there any in service requirement for armed forces personnel in India like not to divulge sensitive information?

There is no denying that the Armed forces does provide an exciting field for writers yet there are only a very few who have narrated their in service tales. This phenomenon is not just limited to India but is global and reasons inhibiting it common. The officials Secret Act would limit the issues which can be written about. In my own case there was another reason. There were examples of exemplary people one could write about but viewed in the context there would be other senior functionaries who would not come out in equal good light. I did not wish to dilute the ethos of what Defence Services stand for.

Though the clearance procedure atleast in the air force has now been simplified, an independent senior functionary who is nominated can recommend the clearance for the committee to approve. It is only when there are objections to certain parts that it is screened by a censorship committee.

It is for these reasons that one does not find too many works based on defence forces in India or abroad.

NAW- Tell us about yourself- What do you do when you are not writing?

Regimen from a servicemen can never be isolated.  I have prescribed myself to write in two sessions. A two hour session in the first half and at least two hours before the day ends.

Since I do not pursue any vocation other than writing that I busy myself with, a few hours of sports early morning- soiling my hands in the garden including the kitchen garden- listening to MTV and VH1 whenever and also watching English movies often.   I do lend a helping hand in the Air Force Association which looks after the welfare of retired air force personnel across Gujarat.

NAW- Please tell us about your other works- you write the Chicken Soup series too? Right!

One fine day I was approached out of the blue by Editor of Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul, wanting me to help in seeking stories from the Air Force for a series to be done on the Indian Armed Forces.  I finally ended up contributing stories myself.  It was my very first formal attempt at writing.  I have since contributed stories for three different themes for the Chicken Soup.

NAW- Any plans to write fiction or other genres?

Incidentally I am in the process of concluding my first attempt at fiction.  An epic saga of two families over six decades.  The families undergo identical events yet have different perspective towards leading their lives.  A book about the triumph of human spirit.  Hopefully if I find a publisher it should be released later in the year.

NAW- Are there any literary influences that you would like to name?

I feel that I have been influenced by Earnest Hemingway in the style of writing.

NAW-  Please name your five favourite books.

Wuthering Heights, Farewell to Arms, Scarlet Letter, Women in Love and Passage to India.

NAW- What are your upcoming projects?

Currently I am fully engaged with the above mentioned fiction.  Haven’t yet decided on the next project.

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