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French writer Rolf Doppenberg has made the ancient town of Amaravathi part of his next book

French writer Rolf Doppenberg.

French writer Rolf Doppenberg.  

Making connections: French writer Rolf Doppenberg is so charmed by Kuchipudi and the ancient town of Amaravathi that he has decided to make them a part of his next book

“My new name is Eeshwar”, declares Rolf Doppenberg. The French writer from Switzerland loves his new-found ‘identity’. At Gandhinagar, he visited a Durga temple and struck up a conversation with a young priest . “He asked me my name, looked into my eyes for some time and declared ‘your name will be Eeshwar’.”

This is Rolf’s first visit to India. About Vijayawada he says, it delivers relaxation and recreation withunique charm. “Bigger isn’t always better,” he says.

In the city to participate in an international multi-lingual poets’ meet hosted by the Cultural Centre of Vijayawada and Amaravati recently, he extended his stay, watched a Kuchipudi performance, and decided to stay back and explore the dance form further. “I could feel the young girl dancing on the stage transforming into a divine entity and I could not take my eyes off ,” he exclaims.

With a Telugu writer to help him translate, he visited the Kuchipudi village, the dance academies that train young girls and boys in the dance form and the gurus of this unique dance-drama pattern which has its roots in the ancient Hindu Sanskrit text of Natya Shastra.

While researching about Kuchipudi, the 52-year-old writer also discovered the small ancient town of Amaravathi on the banks of River Krishna in Guntur district. Rolf learnt about how this small town played a big role in the spread of Buddhism . Referring to the Amaravathi stupa, one of the biggest in the country and unearthed in the process of the town’s construction, Rolf says he can’t let go of such fascinating places without delving deep into them. “I am taking notes of everything I come across. At this point, I have no clue what form of writing I will use them in. It could be fiction, an essay or poetry depending on my state of mind,” he says.

Rolf has been writing since he was nine years old. He says listening to his brother on the piano inspired him to write verse. Rolf travelled a lot in his childhood thanks to his father’s job. As he visited different places, Rolf began writing about things that interested him. His first book was published in 2007 in Germany. “It was poetry on the Rhine that flows from the Swiss Alps to the Hook of Holland. The river is a merger of European cultures and landscapes,” he says.

What India means

Reading Rabindranath Tagore’s Geetanjali triggered a strong desire in him to visit the “land that produces such fine writers”. So when he received the invite for the poetry meet, he grabbed the opportunity.

He read the Bhagwat Geeta too and says, “Over the years, I realised that the Geeta is not just for India but it is relevant for the entire mankind.”

Rolf feels connected to India. “I feel very close to the philosophy of Bhagvad Geeta. After careful analysys of the verses, they don’t sound foreign any longer, it’s like walking a familiar terrain,” he says.

While Rolf learnt English in school he prefers writing in French. “While dealing with literature, I switch to my mother tongue because most words I use are directly related to the emotions of my childhood.”

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 6:32:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/making-connections/article30480691.ece

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