Turning About Once Again

I only have one more day in Bodhgaya, after which I fly back to Kolkata for the book fair; and it’s been absolutely delightful to be here. I’ve just been pedalling around, making the most of the local food, meditating when I feel like it, sleeping when the mood takes me, making new friends, sitting and thinking, reading things that come my way, and feeling pleasurably purposeless.

There is, however, one problem: in theory, I am in Bodhgaya do research. Before coming here, I filled in research proposals and even managed to get a modest amount of funding for this trip. These proposals were tied to a couple of book projects that I’m working on at the moment, both of which have some kinds of interesting connections with Buddhist themes, ideas and history. But as the days have passed, I have begun to realise that it doesn’t particularly look or feel as if what I am doing is research. Not only am I spending more time at tea stalls and in temple meditation halls than in libraries, but I also have to confess that I’m not even thinking about these books very hard.
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Thunk, thunk, thunk…

Bicycles are my favourite mode of transport. They are less grouchy than camels, they don’t have minds of their own the way horses do, they are cheaper than cars, and they are speedier than going on foot. So it was a pleasure today to borrow a bike from my guest-house here in Bodhgaya, and to set out to explore the outer reaches of the town.

I started out with some trepidation, as it’s a long time since I’ve cycled anywhere like India. Back in the day, when I was living in Pakistan, I used to regularly cycle across Lahore to my job as a school teacher. After miles of cycling through the choking fumes, jostling horse-carts, rickshaws, motorbikes, buses and cars, I developed style of cycling that combined fearlessness, justified caution, and a degree of panache. Today as I got on my bike on Bodhgaya, I found that old knowledge coming flooding back.
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The Whatever-it-is of Existence

It is seventeen years since I was last here in India. Back then, I was travelling around the Buddhist pilgrimage sites as a young and rather earnest aspiring Buddhist, making notes towards an excessively pious travelogue that I’m now rather glad was never published.

Now I find myself back in India to launch the paperback of my novel The Descent of the Lyre at the Kolkata Book Fair. As it’s a long trip for a book lauch alone, I’m taking advantage of being here to spend a short while doing some research towards various projects that I have in the works. And this has involved (for reasons that are still rather hazy in my mind) finding my way back to Bodhgaya, the foremost of India’s Buddhist sites, the place of the Buddha’s awakening.
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The last few days have been pretty busy, as I’ve been putting everything in order for my forthcoming trip to India. I’m going to be doing an event at the Kolkata Book Fair, where I’ll be launching the paperback of my novel, The Descent of the Lyre. Kolkata Book Fair is an interesting event, in particular because of the strong emphasis that it puts on the relationship between readers and writers. But I’m also taking advantage of being in India to head up to Santiniketan, where I’ll pay my respects to the memory of Rabindranath Tagore, and to do a bit of research for a couple of forthcoming projects in Bodh Gaya, Rajgir, and around the Buddhist pilgrimage sites.

I was last in India — and Bodh Gaya — in 1998, and so I’m expecting that things will have changed quite a lot. But I’m looking forward to being back, and to getting to grips with India again (and to spending a bit more time than usual writing and meditating).

I’ll be posting updates on this blog whilst I’m away — I generally write more when I’m on the move. In the mean-time, there are bags to pack, things to organise, and classes to be taught…

Complete Write a Novel Launch Event — photos

Last night I launched my book, [amazon text=Teach Yourself: Complete Write a Novel&asin=1473600480] at De Montfort University, so here are a few images of the launch event. Niki Valentine (Nicola Monaghan) was asking the questions, and it was great to talk about novel-writing in front of an audience of friends, strangers, and some absolutely fabulous writers.

Images © Ambrose Musiyiwa — with thanks!


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