What did you learn while co-authoring the book Ikigai?
While interviewing the older inhabitants of Okinawa in Japan, what I learnt is that you can lead a simple life doing the same thing everyday and still be happy. It could be waking up early, working in the sun and bonding with your friends.
But doesn’t life get monotonous everyday?
Milan Kundera said that happiness is the possibility of repeating what you love. So if you have a life that you love be it writing, or playing the piano or spending time with friends, everyday is like a miracle. But to reach this point, you must know what is meaningful for you. Because if you focus on the wrong things, you will be very unhappy but if you find what can be the centre of your life, you can have a simple and wonderful life.
Do you follow these principles personally?
Yes I do. But your Ikigai changes with various stages in your life. When you are a student, your ikigai can be learning foreign languages, for another moment in life, maybe the focus is on love,. At this moment in life my ikigai is helping others to discover their own purpose. I am teaching people German and also helping them discover themselves
Personally, my head was never in studies and I was always, distracted with fantasies, I did not know what I wanted in life back then. I studied journalism, then literature, then German and then I joined a publishing house specialising in self help books. But I was working 12 hours a day and I was very unhappy even though I had a well paying job. I decided to quit and visit India in 1999 with my girlfriend.
Is that when you wrote your first novel?
Yes. I travelled in a cheap way wrote my first book Perdut a Bombai (Lost in Bombay) in 2001 with a note book and a pen. I was staying in a village where people would go to sleep at 8 pm. So I wrote the story of a child from Barcelona visiting India with his parents and gets lost. He finds friends and discovers the country. I was 30 when I wrote that book. India is so rich in tradition that it aroused my imagination.
You have won many prestigious awards throughout your career? What do they mean to you personally?
The biggest award I received was a mail from a sick man with cancer. He wrote about how important my books were for him. I answered him and sent him my books, though I did not hear from him later. His sister wrote to me and said that her brother died but he was very happy in the last few months of his life because of my books. To bring happiness to single person, you have a purpose in life, that is enough..
Tell us something about your upcoming novels
Ichigo Ichie, my latest novel, which has just released in the US, focuses on the belief that what we are experiencing now will not be repeated. It was established by the founders of the Japanese ceremony in the 16 century Murato Juko and Sen No Rikyu emphasised the importance of not bringing to table a topic that is political. It was important to treat your guests as if you are meeting them for the last time and this will be a memory that will last forever. The book will be in India, in few months.
I am also working on a Spanish novel for youngsters called The Five continents of Love. It is about a girl who is sad because their father has left the family. When she turns 18, she receives a mysterious packet with an atlas of the 19th century, along with a note on five ways of loving men from different cultures. For instance the American lover is a social lover, the Asian lover is a silent lover. So she is gifted this book to discover where her heart belongs. I hope it comes out in English soon....