Everyday people with a streak of the extraordinary — we’ve known them, we’ve read about them. And, somewhere at the back of our minds, we all wish to become them. When Sri M sat down to write his latest offering, Shunya: A Novel, these are the people he was inspired by. The spiritual guide, social reformer and educationist’s debut book, his memoir titled Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master: A Yogi’s Autobiography, had proved a bestseller the moment it hit the shop shelves. But this novel, named after its lead character Shunya, marks Sri M’s first attempt at fiction.
“The idea was to invent a character who shares many characteristics of a certain type of religious avadhoota in India. The character has broken all social barriers — he doesn’t go by the rules of a society. He appears out of nowhere. And, after three years or so, disappears into nowhere. Nobody knows where he went and where he came from. But, if you ask him his name, he says Shunya, which means nothing. He calls himself a zero man.” Not aimed at any particular age group, the book can be read by readers of all ages. “This is for any age group. Of course, not for really small kids. Perhaps, anyone above the age of 13. But, honestly, I would like people slightly older to read it because there are a few things that would make more sense to a mature audience,” he says.
Speaking about the essence of the book, Sri says, “When one has touched the ultimate truth, when your mind is expanded from limitedness, one lives a happy life. The character is full of understanding and knowledge. He tries to bring together people of different religions.” Talking about his reading preferences, he says, “I think there are some really good Indian writers today, though I don’t read a lot of modern literature. My favourite novel is The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemmingway. I haven’t read a lot of books. I love to read the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible and Christian mystics. The list is endless...”
Sri M has been a pivotal figure in creating innovative educational institutions and healthcare centres for the less fortunate. In 2015-16 he walked 7,500 km on foot across the country from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, spreading the message of common humanity through the inspiring Walk of Hope. Speaking of what’s next, he concludes, “There are a couple of books in the pipeline. One is non-fiction which I want to title Yoga for the Godless. Yoga doesn’t need a concept of God. So, I’m going to do some serious research into the yoga shastras to prove that you don’t need to believe in the concept of Eshwaraa to believe or pursue Yoga, and then talk about Yoga. I also want to write a really good horror story. It should be original, not those ridiculous horror stories. I’m trying to work on that. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. When I spoke about it to my wife, she laughed it off. So, let’s see how it goes.”...