Gopalakrishna Pai on his monumental novel that won the Kendra Sahita Akademi Award
Swapna Saraswata, P. Gopalakrishna Pai's monumental novel, has won the Karnataka Sahitya Academy Award, the H. Shantaram Literary Award and now the prestigious Central Sahitya Akademi Award.
The novel narrates the Gowda Saraswat community's diaspora along the west coast of India from the early 16th Century to late 18th Century, from Goa right down to Kerala. The author put in years of research, delving into written histories and oral narrations, covering a huge time span and the social dynamics within the community in the perspective of historical events.
The book has been translated into English, Marathi, Malayalam, Hindi, Bengali and Tamil. Gopalakrishna Pai has written several short stories and wrote the script for Kanasemba Kudureyaneri, a film by Girish Kasaravalli, for which he got the National Award. Excerpts from an interview with the author who is now engrossed in another ambitious novel.
What prompted you to write the novel?
When I was as bank officer in Gorur, people who were displaced following construction of the Gorur dam used to narrate their stories to me. Disturbed by their plight, I planned to write a short story, but it grew beyond my expectation. Meanwhile, Na. D Souza's novel Mulugade came outand I gave up the idea. Then it struck me that the Gowda Saraswat community, to which I belong, migrated from the distant shores of Goa. It has had a traumatic past and is steeped in painful memories of persecution and torture. I decided to chronicle its travails.
Can you explain the process of writing this monumental novel?
I worked for nearly 20 years and sourced 4,000 books, manuscripts and documents. I travelled from Goa to Kochi to meet people and studied their lifestyle. I worked for nearly five years and revised the draft six times.
What was the initial reaction, both from the readers and critics?
It is significant that Swapna Saraswata, published two years ago, has already seen four editions. Though I was apprehensive initially, the response was overwhelming. Within three months, the publisher brought out the second edition. Appreciation started pouring in from litterateurs, U.R. Ananthamurthy, G.S. Shivarudrappa, H.S. Raghavendra Rao and T.P. Ashok. They opined that the work should be translated to other Indian languages, as it has a pan-Indian character. I'd be happy if more people read the novel because of the Akademi Award: that will be the real reward.