“We must listen to learn,
We must serve with love to grow
We must meditate to realize
We must write to purify thoughts and emotions.”
Raj Kamal Jha, the personality with a tremendous poise, unfolds the true existence of mind and heart by choosing the right path and following it religiously.
aj Kamal Jha (born 1966) is an Indian novelist and journalist. Jha was born in Bihar and was raised in Kolkata, West Bengal, where he went to school at St. Joseph’s College. He then attended the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur where he did his bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering, but perhaps more significantly, had his first brush with journalism as the editor of the campus magazine, Alankar, where his first short fiction appeared. After graduating from IIT, he went to the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of Southern California, where he received his M.A. in 1990.
During school, Jha began to explore various forms of writing. He wrote for college literary magazines, and after graduation, did internships at The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post. With his confidence growing, Jha came to realize that he did not care for reporting. Writing up the interviews appealed to him much more than calling people and taking notes.
Four years after graduating, Jha returned to India to take a job with The Statesman, an English daily newspaper based in Calcutta as an assistant editor. He also worked briefly for India Today, as a senior associate editor before accepting the job as deputy editor for Indian Express in 1996. He was then promoted to executive editor. Based in New Delhi, Indian Express is one of India’s most well known English newspapers and Jha is now the managing editor of this news paper.
The Indian Express has twice won the Vienna-based International Press Institute’s award for Excellence in Journalism in 2004 and 2006. Its journalists have won several national and international awards.
Jha’s journey from a mechanical engineer (IIT Kharagpur) to a journalist and finally to a writer (in form of an editor) is actually inspiring and brings to the surface, the basic fundamental of ‘where the basic interest or the purpose of an individual lies’? He completely immersed himself in his inspiring purpose and stuck to it ardently with all his mind. Thereafter, he funneled all his abilities for its fulfillment.
Jha is the author of three published novels. Jha’s writing style has been called very sparse, especially in comparison to other Indian writers. His writing is heavily influenced by the amount of time he spent in the United States, as well as by the works of twentieth-century American writers Don DeLillo and Paul Auster. Another unique aspect of Jha’s style is that he writes in English, unlike his Indian contemporaries. After reading Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children, Jha began to see the English language as more than homework, and began using it as an aesthetic for his storytelling.
His first novel, The Blue Bedspread won the 2000 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (Eurasia region) and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His second novel If You Are Afraid of Heights was a finalist for the Hutch-Crossword Book Award in 2003. He has also been shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the Guardian First Book Award.
His third novel, Fireproof, debuted in October 2006 (published by Goldmann). It was published to wide critical acclaim by Picador in India in December and in the UK in February 2007. French and Italian editions are due in 2007-08.
Set against the backdrop of the , the first attack on innocent Muslim civilians after 9/11, the novel is a chilling, magical tale of a father and his deformed son on a journey across a city where the ghosts of those killed have decided to seek justice.
Jha’s fiction is known for its stark simplicity and ability to evoke emotion through attention to detail. The Blue Bedspread can be described as the “Coming of age of the Indian novel.”
His fiction is strongly grounded in contemporary Indian themes around change, often taking off from newspaper pages. From domestic violence to the urban-rural divide and, in his latest novel, mass violence and communal tension, Jha’s books engage with disturbing subjects unusual in contemporary writing in English but capture those realities of India that escape the mainstream media. His writing, simple as it appears, often calls for a lot of reader participation which evokes sharp, divided reaction.
Jha’s fiction has been translated into more than a dozen European languages, including French, German, Italian, Dutch, Greek, Hebrew, Turkish, Spanish and Finnish. His short stories have appeared in French and German anthologies as well. His work has been featured in several international literary festivals, including Hay-on-Wye, Munich Writers’ Festival, Melbourne Writers’ Festival and the Los Angeles Times Book Festival.
Japanese video artist and photographer created four video installations taking scenes from Jha’s three novels for an exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi in 2007 as part of a special exhibition of contemporary Japanese art called Vanishing Points.
Jha was a visiting professor at the graduate school of journalism, where he taught a course on reporting.
Writing helps subconscious recall details. Choosing the most evocative details that carries the meaning and are symbolic to readers are the specialties of Jha’s writings.
The major theme of his novels especially “The Blue Bedspread” is that of family relationships. Jha asserts that the novel should be read as a portrait of a typical family. He wants to emphasize that “the silence in families…becomes an accomplice in repression….the identity of the individual is always weighed down by his/her role in family, society” (Asia Source interview). The family secrets that the novel’s narrator reveals is also an important aspect of the book. “The Blue Bedspread” is an example of metafiction, because of its self-reflexive nature.
The details and coincidences in the novel are important reflections of Jha’s personal philosophy on life. Because of that, he integrates them into his novel. He says, “…we really underestimate the power of mere coincidences and stupid little accidents. I think they play a much, much bigger role in life, than large forces…what I really feel I connect with, is not the scene (in the novel), is the small accidents, when he or she bends down to pick something up that has fallen, in that mental frame, or when you look at his shoulder and see where the shirt is crinkled at the collar, or that small speck at the knee, I find these things important. How I don’t know, but I feel that these accidents, these coincidences, matter” (Source: interview).
Raj Kamal Jha, a deeply virtuous man is the most potent servant of mankind. He alone is the sacred reed through which the Lord shall sing His Song of Blessing to the generation.
“Be clear and focused” – is our supreme duty, so that what we do may be fruitful and benefit the maximum number.
As a great thinker thundered: “Virtue makes men of the earth famous, in their grave illustrious, in the heavens immortal”. This is no less – if not more – true even today in our modern technological age of continuous grabbing and endless indulgence.