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Spirituality is the only succour for today's youth - The Afternoon Despatch and Couriers

Achal Dhruva ()
March 10, 1998

Title: Spirituality is the only succour for today's youth
Author: Achal Dhruva
Publication: The Afternoon Despatch and Couriers
Date: March 10, 1998

What is the story of 'Parallel Journeys' all about?

Well its a story of a young dancer, Maitreyi Sen and a French
architect, Yves Broca, whose lives are infiltrated by the journey
of Maitreyi and Yajnavalkya as narrated in the Brihadaranya
Upanishad. Yajnavalkya, the great Rishi, had left behind his
scholarly wife Maitreyi for the quest of the ultimate truth,
Maitreyi asked Yajnavalkya a question, "of what use is all this
to me by which I cannot obtain the nectar of immortality? "What
is left unsaid in the Upanishad is whether Maitreyi was satisfied
by the answer her husband gave her as he left home, did she get
the nectar or she followed her husband who knew more than just
the answers.

So how did you link the vedic past and present?

My novel weaves in and out of the past and the present,
interlinking two strangers on their parallel journeys that bind
them closer with each step. Thousands of years later, Maitreyi
Sen, a young dancer from New Delhi, comes face to face with
certain questions after an intense experience and discovers in a
temple in the forest of Himalayas that dance could be a way to
tap the reservoirs of knowledge within the body. As Maitreyi
progresses, she finds that her experiences are signals from
another life, in another time. She tries to put these fragments
together on a flight to Paris. In Paris, architect Yves Broca is
on a similar quest through a challenge of a new project, building
the Concord Dance Centre. He travels to study some of the
greatest structures in the world and comes across a temple in the
forest of Himalayas, which alters his life.

In a way, does your book give an insight into the world of
spirituality and the 'new age phenomena'?

Yes, the book does symbolise the emerging contemporary
preoccupation in spirituality, the occults, holistic disciplines
like Vastu Shatra, alternative medicines, psychic phenomenon etc.

The vedas are very contemporary and all this 'new age' tag is a
misnomer. We are still struggling to reach this so called 'new
age' and it is my personal endeavour to see how the vedic
knowledge could have a bearing on our lives and push us towards
this 'new age'.

How do you analyse the growing interest in spirituality?

It is on account of the crisis in society. The youth of today is
facing numerous problems in his day-to-day life and that is when
the spirituality comes into play. Without change of individual,
there will be no change in society.

Who has been your influence in life, literary and otherwise?

The main influence has been Shri Aurobindo and J. Krishnamurthi's
books. Inspired by Aurobindo's vision, I decided to visit his
ashram in Pondicherry and went on to visit Auroville. It was an
intense experience. I didn't want to leave as I instinctively
knew this is where I had to be.

As for the influence of vedas, they are not some obscure mystical
texts but a live contemporary statement of our lives. They
present different dimensions of the rishis who were the most
original and dynamic thinkers. What we link with spirituality
today is a passive outlook, which is wrong.

So, in a way, is arallel Journeys a manifestation of a
mystical fiction?

See... mystical fiction is a doorway, a tool with which one taps
another experience to expand his or her horizons of awareness. I
wasn't targeting any particular genre when I wrote. If anything
I was targeting, it was myself.

I used to focus only on. poems but the success of my first novel
has cultivated the taste for fiction in me. Poetry is much more
concentrated requiring precision. Writing a novel takes that
experience and makes it more complete as it examines one point
>from all perspectives.

How do you explore the other creative realm, dancing, in your day-
to-day life?

I must confess that dance was nowhere in my life's agenda but
simply happened after I joined Auroville. It was while working
on, the Maitri Mandir construction site, where I was balancing
myself precariously on huge pipes and concrete beams, that I had
my first lesson of dance. I would only notice the movements when
I was in these situations and enjoy myself. I realised the deep
rooted desire to learn dance when a dance troupe came to

Did you have any formal training in dance?

Once the realisation dawned, I took the basic training in
Bharatnatyam from a teacher. Once he left teaching, I only had
the same steps to repeat over and over again. So I started to
take liberties with the steps and that became very interesting.
She found few like-minded people eager to experiment with the
traditional form and formed a group. This group has two
production to their credit. Crossroads and Mantra. In fact,
dance and writing compliment each other. Dance is a very physical
expression of thoughts which is a parallel journey to writing.
However, I don ride two horses at a time..... whenever I am in
a writing spree, my dance activities take the backseat.

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