The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Karan Bajaj
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?
For me, writing is an expression of my deepest ideas, thoughts I can’t even articulate verbally to myself. Six years after leaving India for the first time and living a nomadic existence in Philippines, Singapore, Europe, and the US, I felt a deep stirring within me that I had stories to share and my own unique insight into the messy, glorious human condition. The need to express these ideas got me interested in writing. Over the last eight years, it’s been satisfying to see my writing evolve as my ideas have deepened—and there is so much more ground to cover.
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
The Seeker is a pulsating, contemporary take on man’s classic quest for transcendence. It follows a Manhattan based investment banker who becomes a yogi in the Indian Himalayas. To be honest, I’ve completely let go of the idea of the author trying to say something with a novel. All I’m trying to create is a fictive dream, a world in which the characters inhabit their own universe and learn their own lessons. In that way, The Seeker is my purest book yet. I’ve just been a medium for the story to express itself without an active sense of authorship.
Describe your writing aesthetic.
I aim for my stories is to be at the intersection of entertainment and meaning. So I choose deep, meaningful themes but make the story gripping and fast-paced. My goal is the reader be fully immersed in the story and yet be changed just a little because of them.
Who are your favorite authors?
Nowadays, my interests are leaning towards Eastern mysticism so my favorite authors were born centuries ago—Patanjali (Yoga Sutras), the Buddha (Dhammapada), the sages who wrote the Upanishads etc. The only contemporary author I’m re-visiting is Herman Hesse (Siddhartha).
Definitely The Seeker. The task of making a predominantly inner journey of enlightenment fast-paced and page-turning is difficult. To succeed, I meticulously researched every aspect of the protagonist’s external journey from the South Bronx in New York to an ashram in the south of India, to the high Himalayas. I read hundreds of books as part of my research to ensure that the reader has a very strong sense of external place to balance the profundity of the protagonist’s inner transformation.
What’s your idea of bliss?
A day where I wake up and meditate for an hour without interruption, then play with my one year old baby, then work on my writing for a few hours, practice yoga or go for a run, read in the evening, then meditate again before bed. Meditation + creative work is a blissful combination for me.
What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?
I’m pretty calm so nothing really riles me up that much. Probably, superficial chatter like talk of restaurants and sports and stuff like that. Life is so incredibly rich and brimming with purpose that it seems a sacrilege to kill precious time with filler conversation.
What book/s would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Every time I read it, I get a new message from it.
Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?
Wife, baby, dog—that’s my house!
Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.
The purpose of life is first, evolution, then involution. First, we must push ourselves to the maximum to stretch, grow and experience the world, then detach from it. That’s the heart of the yogic life, a life full of adventure, first without then within.
Karan Bajaj is the #1 bestselling novelist of KEEP OFF THE GRASS (HarperCollins: 2008) and JOHNNY GONE DOWN (HarperCollins: 2010) with more than 150,000 copies of his novels in print. He was selected as one of the “Top 35 Under 35 Indians” by India Today and was nominated for all of India’s top literary awards—the Crossword Book of the Year, Indiaplaza Golden Quill and Teacher’s Indian Achievers Awards (Arts).
THE SEEKER, Karan’s first international novel, was published by Penguin-Random House in India in June’ 2015 and will be released for US/world in early 2016. It was inspired by Karan’s one year spiritual sabbatical learning Yoga in a South Indian Ashram, meditating in complete silence in the Vedantic tradition in the Indian Himalayas and living as a Buddhist Monk in a Scottish monastery. Now back in New York, Karan is a certified Yoga teacher attached to the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center while working his day job as the Chief Marketing Officer of a start-up.