What is your earliest memory?
My earliest memories are of my mother who sang verses from the Gita into my ears, recited poems of Jai Shankar Prasad, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Bihari, Sumitra Nandan Pant and Harivansha Rai Bachhan to me and talked about the freedom struggle and her years in Benaras Hindu University. Stories about the freedom struggle and stories from our various mythologies and legends were our bedtime stories.
How has your family influenced you?
What ever I am is because of my family. My parents’ background, their nationalist fervour and the freedom struggle in which my grandfather, Babu Shyama Charan was involved have all had a huge influence on us. My grandfather was the first man to be jailed in Bihar in 1919 and went on to become a Member of the Legislative Assembly (the then the Parliament) in 1924. My mother, an ardent social worker and Congressite, went out of her way to render assistance to anyone who came to her for help. And since my father was in the civil services, our home was always teeming with literary, artistic and political luminaries.
What’s your take on love and marriage?
I believe in the institution of marriage. To me, love and marriage mean a lot more than physical attraction. Devoid of trust and understanding, the foundations of a marriage are weak. No one is perfect and the beauty of marriage is to keep discovering each other and to keep on deriving joy from the adjustments that each one makes.
Are you religious?
I am spiritual and spirituality to me is above any kind of religion or ritual. It is beyond all dogmatism and fundamentalism. It is beyond the ritualism associated with faiths that divide people and communities. Being spiritual, I feel, makes one humane and altruistic.
The most outrageous thing you’ve ever done?
Way back in the seventies, Ustad Shafaat Ahmed Khan, Pandit Jwala Prasad and I were unceremoniously thrown out of the train at Ratlam station since we didn’t have confirmed tickets, so, we spent our time helping a fruit vendor sell his wares on a travelling cart. So astonished were some of the travellers that they bought fruits from us just out of curiosity! Shortly thereafter, the TTI who had thrown us out came back and helped us get confirmed tickets.