Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
The Proust Questionnaire: Vikram Chandra

In this edition, novelist Vikram Chandra opens up about his happiness, achievements, loves, and challenges. The award-winning author pinpoints every writer’s greatest fear and tells us how choosing the right tools and embracing patience help make art. A true creative spirit, Vikram blesses the musicians — while accepting his own lack of musicality — and explains why giving just one of his readers a single moment of joy is “enough for me.”


What do you do/are you doing at Esalen?
I am teaching a class about embodied writing with my friend Sravana Borkataky-Varma.  We’ll explore bodily and meditative practices, which allow artists to intentionally focus their abilities and talents on their creative practice. The writer’s craft emerges from deep within the body and the spirit. We’ll learn how to shape this practice.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A good day of writing and research, followed by a meal and laughter with family and friends. And, throughout the day, encountering great stories in any form — fiction, film, etc.

What is your greatest fear in your work?
The same fear which haunts all writers: “Can I write another good sentence?”

What is your greatest extravagance related to your practice?
This is very mundane, but, good tools. I spend a lot of money on equipment: computers, keyboards, tables, chairs. I find I work best when the tools I use are so comfortable that they become invisible, and I can dissolve into the work. Carpal tunnel syndrome and back troubles are the inevitable consequences of the way we live now. Preventive care is the best care. Writing happens deep in the body and spirit, so taking care of both is essential.

What is the quality you most like in a human?
Generosity.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My children, Bean (12) and Leela (14). They are a constant wellspring of inspiration and laughter and joy.

What about your work brings you the most happiness?
There are moments when different elements of the work come together, like the pieces of a difficult jigsaw puzzle suddenly clicking together so you can see the big image, the design. These moments are magical, and they more than make up for the many periods of frustration.

Which talent would you most like to have?
A minimal ability to play music and sing would be most welcome. But I’ve known since sixth-grade music classes that I have absolutely no musical talent. I listen to music all the time, though, and may the goddess shower her blessings on all singers, musicians, and lyricists.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
The tendency to be always working, even when I’m not at my keyboard. When you’re working on a story, it buzzes inside your head at all times. I’d like to be able to give myself more holidays.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Writing some books that have given people pleasure and satisfaction. In Kashmir Shaivism, aesthetic pleasure is exactly the same as the joy that a yogi feels experiencing the divine. Even if one person has tasted a tiny moment of this pleasure through my work, that is enough for me.

What is your most treasured possession?
The love of my family and friends.

How do you maintain your practice(s) during challenging times?
To be honest, writing never gets easier. What has allowed me to keep going through the long trek that is each book is curiosity — the need to see what lies just over the horizon. For me, as for many artists, each project is an exploration of the world and the self. These journeys can be hard and sometimes terrifying, but they are always finally fulfilling.

What is your most marked characteristic?
The ability to be patient. Igor Stravinsky once said, “I can wait, like an insect. I’m always waiting.” Art comes slowly, and so one must wait.

What is your greatest regret?
The moments in which I couldn’t find the gumption to take risks.

How would you like to die?
In peace, without physical or spiritual pain. With gratitude for all the opportunities and rewards that my life has given me.

What is your motto?
Read what gives you pleasure, write hard about what hurts.

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?


Vikram Chandra co-teaches Chakras and Embodied Writing with Sravana Borkataky-Varma the week of September 19–23, 2022.


About

Esalen Team

The Proust Questionnaire: Vikram Chandra

About

Esalen Team

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
The Proust Questionnaire
What is Every Writer's Greatest Fear?

In this edition, novelist Vikram Chandra opens up about his happiness, achievements, loves, and challenges. The award-winning author pinpoints every writer’s greatest fear and tells us how choosing the right tools and embracing patience help make art. A true creative spirit, Vikram blesses the musicians — while accepting his own lack of musicality — and explains why giving just one of his readers a single moment of joy is “enough for me.”


What do you do/are you doing at Esalen?
I am teaching a class about embodied writing with my friend Sravana Borkataky-Varma.  We’ll explore bodily and meditative practices, which allow artists to intentionally focus their abilities and talents on their creative practice. The writer’s craft emerges from deep within the body and the spirit. We’ll learn how to shape this practice.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A good day of writing and research, followed by a meal and laughter with family and friends. And, throughout the day, encountering great stories in any form — fiction, film, etc.

What is your greatest fear in your work?
The same fear which haunts all writers: “Can I write another good sentence?”

What is your greatest extravagance related to your practice?
This is very mundane, but, good tools. I spend a lot of money on equipment: computers, keyboards, tables, chairs. I find I work best when the tools I use are so comfortable that they become invisible, and I can dissolve into the work. Carpal tunnel syndrome and back troubles are the inevitable consequences of the way we live now. Preventive care is the best care. Writing happens deep in the body and spirit, so taking care of both is essential.

What is the quality you most like in a human?
Generosity.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My children, Bean (12) and Leela (14). They are a constant wellspring of inspiration and laughter and joy.

What about your work brings you the most happiness?
There are moments when different elements of the work come together, like the pieces of a difficult jigsaw puzzle suddenly clicking together so you can see the big image, the design. These moments are magical, and they more than make up for the many periods of frustration.

Which talent would you most like to have?
A minimal ability to play music and sing would be most welcome. But I’ve known since sixth-grade music classes that I have absolutely no musical talent. I listen to music all the time, though, and may the goddess shower her blessings on all singers, musicians, and lyricists.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
The tendency to be always working, even when I’m not at my keyboard. When you’re working on a story, it buzzes inside your head at all times. I’d like to be able to give myself more holidays.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Writing some books that have given people pleasure and satisfaction. In Kashmir Shaivism, aesthetic pleasure is exactly the same as the joy that a yogi feels experiencing the divine. Even if one person has tasted a tiny moment of this pleasure through my work, that is enough for me.

What is your most treasured possession?
The love of my family and friends.

How do you maintain your practice(s) during challenging times?
To be honest, writing never gets easier. What has allowed me to keep going through the long trek that is each book is curiosity — the need to see what lies just over the horizon. For me, as for many artists, each project is an exploration of the world and the self. These journeys can be hard and sometimes terrifying, but they are always finally fulfilling.

What is your most marked characteristic?
The ability to be patient. Igor Stravinsky once said, “I can wait, like an insect. I’m always waiting.” Art comes slowly, and so one must wait.

What is your greatest regret?
The moments in which I couldn’t find the gumption to take risks.

How would you like to die?
In peace, without physical or spiritual pain. With gratitude for all the opportunities and rewards that my life has given me.

What is your motto?
Read what gives you pleasure, write hard about what hurts.

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?


Vikram Chandra co-teaches Chakras and Embodied Writing with Sravana Borkataky-Varma the week of September 19–23, 2022.


About

Esalen Team

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