Only test match can keep Guha away from writing

Only test match can keep Guha away from writing

Historian Ramachandra Guha.(DH file photo)

Whether it is a leisurely Sunday or a busy Monday, it makes no difference to historian Ramachandra Guha, who has a habit of writing reams of pages daily, but come to a test match and the writer cannot help but put down his pen -- even if it means "2-3 days" at a stretch.

An acclaimed cricket aficionado, Guha has written extensively on cricket and was also a former member of the CoA -- Committee of Administrators -- appointed by the Supreme Court to run the BCCI.

"I write everyday... I never take time off, Mondays and Sundays make no difference. Except when there is a test match, then I might take two days off or for that matter, a match in Bangalore -- a particularly exciting test match -- and I might decide 'Ok 2-3 days I am not going to work'," Guha told PTI.

And, for Guha the test match need not have India playing in it necessarily, in fact, on the contrary; he enjoys it more if India is not playing at all.

"When India is not playing I find I enjoy it more because then I am not emotionally involved. For example, a really good competition between Australia and South Africa is always a treat to watch," he added.

The author of best-selling "India After Gandhi", Guha, well-known for his penchant for writing non-fiction tomes, follows a very "sturdy routine" which includes writing from "9 am to 1 pm" everyday and "2-3 hours in the afternoon" also.

Of course, all this is done with no distraction either from mobile phone or internet.

He recently came up with a new book, "Gandhi: The Years That Changed The World, 1914-1948", published by Penguin (Allen Lane). The book is a sequel to his earlier book "Gandhi Before India" (2014).

Throwing light on his writing style further, the 60-year-old writer said his professional life is composed of two parts: "research on the road" and "writing in Bangalore".

"If I am out of Bangalore, I am doing research in the archives. So I will be in Teen Murti, National Archives (New Delhi), British Library (London) or Sabarmati Ashram looking at old files and letters from 9 am to 6 pm taking notes. That is one part -- the research and travel.

"Then I go back to Bangalore with all those notes, and classify them, categorise them, make sense of them and start writing," said the Bangalore-based author.

Guha, who otherwise rued the fact that Bangalore has no archives or "materials library", said it is a place well-suited for him to write.

"It is a very good place to write because I am with my family, have that comfort zone, the weather is always very nice.

"And also because you are distant from the clutter and the noise, far from Delhi. This way you don't get distracted, so essentially when I am in Bangalore I am reflecting, writing and re-writing, and when I am in Delhi I am doing my research," he said.

The writer, unlike some other writers, does not have a writing ritual per se.

But that said, he too has his own little idiosyncrasy -- the one he just can't do away with when writing -- "printing everything that he writes".

"Whatever I write I print even if it is unfinished... let's say I have written 1000 words I will print out those pages and look at it. I have to look at the printed word to revise.

"Maybe I am wrong, I know many young people who tell me that it is an 'old-fashioned thing' and that they do the revision on screen, but for me, it works this way only," he added.

Having mastered the craft of communicating academic research work to people in an accessible language, ask Guha, the story-teller of contemporary India, what is the mantra behind it, and he replies with a smile, "No mantra. Just hard work and experience. And anyway, I think one gets better with 40 years of practice, right?".

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