In an exclusive interview with Bookaholicanonymous, author, now screenplay writer, and Ayurveda expert, Kris Advaya, talks about his novel ‘The Buddha of the Brothel’
‘The title is taken from a conversation in the book and is a kind of a tongue-in-cheek comment on someone who was a previously a celibate devoted to spirituality falling in love with a prostitute’ Kris Advaya
Kris Advaya emerged from the void in Slovenia (part of former Yugoslavia) in the spring of 1976. After crawling his way through a stint in the military, and already multilingual, he spent five years studying French, Russian, and literature at the University of Ljubljana. Always artistic, he spent most of these years writing songs and abusing an electric guitar while playing with his alternative rock band. Soon afterwards, life took him to India and its enticing ways, and he’s been trying to cure himself of nomadism ever since.
What or who inspired ‘The Buddha of the Brothel’, is it your story? Who is the ‘Buddha’ in the brothel?
The Buddha of the Brothel is my story set back in 2004, during my fifth trip to India. It was when I came to Pune to learn about Ayurveda, notably its massage practice. The title is taken from a conversation that's in the book and is a kind of a tongue-in-cheek comment on someone who was a previously a celibate devoted to spirituality falling in love with a prostitute. I hope readers will appreciate the irony. Though what I hope even stronger is that readers won't mind the fact that while it's non-fiction, I tried to write the memoir so that it reads a bit like literary fiction. It was inevitable due to my background, and I do believe it makes the reading much more enjoyable.
The ‘nomad’ in you brought you to India. Other than to study Ayurvedic massage, what else were you looking for in India?
Yeah, that particular trip was mostly about healing practices, but previous bouts of nomadism directed me towards India primarily in relation to spiritual teachings that were not available in a small town within a small country. Although, it was more than that, it was cooking, it was new friends, it might have partially been an escape from fierce winters and alienation a bit as well.
How different or real was India from what you had heard or read about?
I had earlier heard all sorts of things about India from a variety of people, so I can't say that anything was particularly surprising when I came for the first time back in '99. Oh! The honking was the thing that no one had prepared me for, neither the volume nor the regularity. My first walks were thus spent moving further and further towards the edge of the road until I realized the issue wasn't my positioning.
Coming back to the book, tell us something about your journey writing this book? What did you discover?
I had by coincidence studied the two most difficult literary courses in college, but have never taken any creative writing courses/lessons so the process was excruciating. Especially since English is not my mother tongue, and while the quality in the end didn't suffer (or so I've been told) because of that, it often took a lot of time to find precisely the word I needed, and I somehow just couldn't move forward until I did. And, of course, finding buried memories and painting them with literary language and graspable wit was no easier.
So, now, what do you think of India being the spiritual center? Its godmen/godwomen et al!
Well, some of it is in the book, naturally, and to be honest, this was my sole experience with such things so I can't really add many original thoughts to the subject. What saddened me profoundly were the cases of virtual slavery, the cases where girls had been promised marriage, but were sold into brothels (including masses of Nepali girls), and that the police couldn't offer more protection to them.
Do you plan to come back to India?
Always a probability regardless of my current plans. It's all unfathomable.
Have you written or planned your next book?
In a way it would be a waste to have learned to write long-form prose and not write anything else. The problematic issue is, however, that while vivid, my imagination is not particularly fertile, so creative non-fiction would be a better bet than fiction. So let's see which celebrity hires me as a ghost writer :). For now though, I'm only focusing on finishing the screenplay based on the book, which included another mountain of learning I had to climb. But what else except these endless mountains do we have in life?
Yes, cinema. But not in India, at least not its commercial format. I had to do something creative so I studied about 4- 5 textbooks on screenwriting and thus far completed about 80 percent. It's much more cerebral and less artistic than prose writing since a screenplay for a genre like this - drama with a few elements of comedy - shouldn't have more than 120 pages so the pacing is different. Also, many parts have to be cut without sacrificing anything of import, and character and story progression have to rely on visual story-telling instead of monologues (in a good script at least) or creating new dialogues where in a book there was an internal monologue. Think Alexander Payne (Nebraska, Sideways, etc). I'll possibly go to LA next year to find an agent to represent the screenplay. Let's see.
Bookaholicanonymous wishes Kris Advaya all the success he deserves as a writer as well as a screenplay writer.
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