We must lose ourselves in action and not in despair: Captain G.R. Gopinath

Captain G.R. Gopinath peppers his idea of India with anecdotes and experiences

Updated - December 30, 2022 05:33 pm IST

Published - December 30, 2022 09:02 am IST

‘I have always found immense joy and solace in great short stories and novels,’ says Captain G.R. Gopinath.

‘I have always found immense joy and solace in great short stories and novels,’ says Captain G.R. Gopinath. | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Captain G.R. Gopinath has worn many hats, as an Indian Army officer, politician, entrepreneur, aviation pioneer, and also farmer. In his recent book, Our India: Reflections on a Nation Betwixt and Between, he gives a perspective as a concerned citizen on a variety of subjects. Excerpts from an interview.

Our India: Reflections on a Nation Betwixt and Between; Captain G.R. Gopinath, HarperCollins, ₹599.

Our India: Reflections on a Nation Betwixt and Between; Captain G.R. Gopinath, HarperCollins, ₹599.

The essays in the book, under the sections, ‘Enterprise’, ‘Society and Governance’, ‘Politics’ and ‘Musings’, have perhaps an almost complete view of issues. Yet, you ‘hesitate to wear the mantle of an oracle’, to pick a line from the book. You seem to spare none.

Yes, my comment about not wishing ‘to be an oracle’ was specific to the future of aviation during COVID-19 which had upended the world. Though it would be presumptuous of me to play the role of an astrologer! I have covered a diverse range of topics. I have been in the Army, plunged deep into farming, ran many small businesses, from motorcycle dealerships to a Udupi hotel, founded aviation companies and contested two elections, State and Centre. I was also president of a political party at the district level. Almost all my articles are laced with anecdotes from what I saw and experienced. No claims to scholarship here. This is just a layman’s attempt to present both a ‘worm view’ and ‘helicopter picture’ as I saw it. It’s a palette of colours rather than a painting.

A number of essays offer incisive takes, and are blunt at times, such as those on Indian politics. You have a quote from Robert Browning’s ‘Pippa’s Song’, “The lark’s on the wing... God’s in his heaven, All’s right with the world!” Is everything ‘all right’ with India today?

The Robert Browning lines were a spontaneous reaction to the Supreme Court verdict on the Ayodhya-Ram Mandir dispute, when dissonant voices to the verdict were heard from some left-leaning intellectuals, Opposition parties and Muslim sections of society. But they all said they will respect the judgment. There was a sigh of relief. Of course, all is not right with India. There are many ills in our society and polity. We can be proud of our great heritage but we cannot overlook our present shortcomings and injustices staring in our face. Communal strife, casteism, gender inequality, threats to democracy, the erosion of the autonomy of institutions, and poverty and unemployment should be our primary concern. But cynicism is not the answer. We must lose ourselves in action and not in despair. We must all do what we can. We must have the magnanimity of spirit to admire and celebrate the beautiful, the good and the brave even amidst hopelessness.

The essays have found a place and space in a number of dailies and sites. What was the feedback, as you say “readers have nourished you”?

Of course those who are deeply spiritual in an ‘unreligious way’ welcomed my writings. But that is preaching to the choir. You must write about the glory of diversity and plurality to convert those against it. You must reconcile the rabid right and rabid left. One must write to unite. That is always a work in progress.

Captain G.R. Gopinath as Managing Director of Air Deccan (Deccan Airlines), at his office in Bengaluru.

Captain G.R. Gopinath as Managing Director of Air Deccan (Deccan Airlines), at his office in Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

You have commented on the Tata story and the homecoming of Air India, but a thread that runs through the book is on a subject close to you, i.e., aviation, and the Air Deccan saga, which also propelled you into the limelight. Is there wistfulness? Will there be another shot at an aviation venture?

Someone asked me why I am not retiring from dreaming and starting ventures. I said it would be like asking [M.S.] Subbulakshmi to stop singing!

The book is thought-provoking, with points that reflect a certain candour. You have seen and experienced much, with personal vignettes that shape your storytelling. Which direction are you headed? More essays or a novel?

My mind is humming with stories. You can see glimpses of it in my essays — even serious essays. I have always found immense joy and solace in great short stories and novels: Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Steinbeck, Maugham, Maupassant and the great Kannada writers. But writing fiction now at my age is like going on a voyage on the perilous high seas! Who knows, I might try. As Ulysses said, “I cannot rest from travel: I will drink Life to the lees....”

murali.nky@thehindu.co.in

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