We all come from somewhere, even though, according to the latest genetic findings, the ancestors of all present-day humans once walked the African earth. Richard Crasta considers himself an Indian first, by birth, blood, and heritage (his father was in the Indian Army, and all his ancestors were Konkani-speaking descendants of Goan migrants to Karnataka, none of them knowing a word of English until his father first went to school), and an internationalist and humanist by inclination, one who has an American passport by accident of life and citizenship. Arriving at this state of pragmatic tolerance has been, for him, a long journey, one interrupted by periods of defensive nationalism, anti-colonialism, and an annoyance with all labeling, and particularly with people who were trying to label him in order to use him in their ideological battles, in which he was not interested.
Born in Bangalore, India, he grew up in Bombay (briefly) and Mangalore, where he was influenced by the strong Catholic yet mixed culture as well as the region’s cuisine. Added to this there were Time Magazine, and Readers Digest in his childhood years, and even by Hollywood movies such as Disney movies, The Sound of Music, and James Bond. Then, as an Indian Administrative Service officer, he found himself briefly immersed in the implementation of Indira Gandhi’s 20-point programme, and in distributing land to landless peasants and tenants.
Later, going to the United States on a student visa to study literature and ultimately become a writer, he found it difficult to leave: his three sons were born even as he was writing his first novel. He ended up spending most of his adult life in the New York area, though he currently spends most of his time in Asia (where he has been working on two novels and two nonfiction books).
And, as India has overwhelmingly been his subject, particularly in two of his three important works, he believes that “Indian writer” is the category that fits him best.
However, he recognizes that there are 1.2 billion Indias, each unique, and each has his own story to tell.
While Penguin India published his first novel, The Revised Kama Sutra: A Novel of Colonialism and Desire in 1993 to immense critical and popular acclaim, HarperCollins India republished it in October 2010, describing it as a “classic.” Between these two events came the dreamy and in retrospect, innocently naive, dedication of his 1998 American edition: “To America: the locus of most of the world’s dreams, and the place where I began to call myself a writer: for allowing me to do so.”
In this subversive dedication, America finds itself in the exalted company of Henry Miller, Mahatma Gandhi, Kurt Vonnegut, and the Yoni Goddess . . .
Son of a World War II veteran and prisoner-of-war who survived a Japanese prison camp against great odds, Richard had a strict, middle-class Catholic upbringing in Southwestern India (India being home to more Christians than either Australia or Canada), often hungry and barefoot during one four-month period, spending much of his time in church praying for deliverance. (At various readings in America, readers have told him how much his Catholic childhood reminded him of theirs! )
After obtaining a degree in Literature and Journalism at American University in Washington D.C., he worked for a New York literary agency and taught English at a New York area university. He began his novel while taking courses at Columbia University. Provocatively and ironically titled The Revised Kama Sutra: A Novel of Colonialism and Desire, it was first published by Viking Penguin India, and was critically acclaimed and / a controversial sensation in the land of his birth. It was then published by a prestigious British literary publisher, Fourth Estate, and ended up being published in ten countries in seven languages.
Having published seven more books, including Beauty Queens, Children and the Death of Sex, Impressing the Whites: The New International Slavery, One Little Indian (since withdrawn), What We All Need, and The Killing of an Author, and having co-authored Fathers Rebels and Dreamers besides contributing a son’s perspective to his father’s memoir of being a prisoner of the Japanese in World War II, Eaten By the Japanese: The Memoir of an Unknown Indian Prisoner of War, Richard Crasta is presently working on two novels and two nonfiction projects.