I usually am reluctant to accept invitations to literature fests, simply because I am a non-fiction public policy writer and find that such jamborees do not fit my bill. I was apprehensive about SKOCH LitFest too, in the same vein. But I found that it is a LitFest with a difference. Inclusion of public policy literature—published and unpublished—economics, governance and inclusion make this a maiden Public Policy LitFest.
When I reflect back, I see my life as a series of coincidences and accidents that have brought me here. I was born in Shillong (when it was a part of Assam). Back then, it was cut off from the mainstream and as a child my only recollection and connection with the mainstream world was Illustrated Weekly of India. I participated in a story writing competition for the publication. And, world of wonders, my story on Ramayana won the prize. It was not only a surprise, but also a re-affirmation that I can write. That was my first literary award.
My education in a missionary school helped me build a strong base in English language. My abilities in Bangla were developed and strengthened at a Bengali school that I shifted to thereafter. During my school day, I trained myself and tested writing writing in both languages and gained confidence in my writing skills. I naturally progressed to become the Editor for the school magazine in English.
As someone who started writing in English and then fluently in Bengali as well, I started to empathise with writer Michael Madhusudan Dutt. He was someone who used to write in English at that time and then switched to writing in Bengali. I identified with his literary trajectory. He is one of those people who contributed towards shaping the future of Bengali language in modern times. I am now being chased for a biography of Madhusudan Dutt by a publisher. Anyways, since I started empathising with Madhusudan Dutt, the first ever thing that I wrote in Bengali was the translation of a play written by him in English ‘My Fair Lady’, which was a story of Sanyunkta and Prithviraj.
Few people know this, but like every true Bengali of that format and age, I started writing poetry. A lot of it was revolutionary poetry and some of it was romantic. This was for a short span of time. Then I graduated to a relatively lesser known stint of writing fiction. I wrote several short stories, which got published in various places.
I have always been interested in a lot of things at the same time and have tried to grasp as much knowledge as possible. I am still learning. As life moved on, I joined the rat race and discovered economics as my choice of subject and wrote extensively. Even as I chose Economics as my main subject for writing, I have always had an interest in marvelous Indian heritage literature, which I cherish.
In the year 2004, I had a near death experience and I decided that I will complete 10-books in a year, following which, I would drop out of the rat race. As fate would have it, I over achieved my ambitious target and opted out of the rat race. This did not mean that I was going to stop writing. Opting out of the rat race meant that it was still my bread and butter but seized to be my jam. I absolutely enjoy creating books, writing and editing. And therefore, in 2004, when I reinvented my life, I rediscovered myself and reinvented my priorities and I started writing whatever I liked. This redirected me towards translations of great works from Sanskrit to English, Bengali to English and so on. These included renditions of great books such as the Mahabharata in ten volumes, the Bhagawad Gita, the Harivamsha, Valmiki Ramayana in three volumes, Puranas, the Vedas—the list is endless.
At 64 today, I am not tired and I have a pipeline of upcoming books. These include a book on economic reforms with Diwakar Jhurani, book on the agenda for the government, translation of the Brahma Purana and biography of India’s greatest translator, Manmatha Nath Dutta.
In my reinvention and rediscovery, my wife has been my partner in this journey and I would share this honour with her. The SKOCH Literature Award for Prolific Write is just as much about her as it is about me. I receive it in all humility.
Bibek Debroy Literary Experience
Bibek Debroy is a renowned economist, scholar and thought leader. Apart from teaching at universities, research institutes and working with Government of India, he has incessantly worked towards authoring books, writing papers and articles on meaningful subjects and contribute towards knowledge creation.
He has dedicated his time and efforts towards writing books, translations of great literary work and editing. His hard work has given us 100-plus unquestionably brilliant books are in themselves a knowledge bank. Pursuing his passion for creating books, he has also authored interesting books like Sarama and Her Children, which combines his interest in Hinduism. He has aptly deployed his multilingual talent towards a translation of known and relatively unknown but credible writers, from Bengali and Sanskrit to English, for the benefit of a wider mainstream audience.