Chief Guest - Raj Nair speech at the book launch

A Maverick Heart: Between Love and Life_ Book  Release
Feb 18, 2013
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am happy to be here to release the debut novel, ‘A Maverick Heart: Between Love and Life’, by Ravindra Shukla but before doing that I want to share a few impressions about the book and the author.  At one level it is a free-flowing easy-to-read story with no pretensions of literary pompousness but I want to draw your attention to something at another level. This novel is a vehicle in which the author has placed 3 central characters to mouth messages that he, the author, wants to send to society.
These messages are important. I will come to that later without narrating the story itself. The amount of passion in the key character, Rahul, made me wonder whether he is indeed the author itself. It does not take much to unmask the autobiographical under-current.
Ravindra Shukla is himself, an engineer from IIT Bombay. Engineering is hardly a profession that is expected to throw up novelists, although we are seeing a few like Chetan Bhagat, these days. Many people believe that engineers don’t really understand human behaviour because they see everything as absolutes whereas human behaviour is anything but absolute.
Ravindra Shukla has not fallen prey to making this novel an all-out autobiography. He reserves some of his philosophy of life to be reflected in the other two important characters, Richita and Neerav. All three are IITians. You will appreciate their character if you realise how an engineer thinks.
You have, no doubt, heard about the story of an optimist remarking that the glass is half full and a pessimist calling it half empty. Don’t be surprised if an engineer looks at it and concludes that the glass is twice as big as it should have been. In this book, the characters succeed or fail because they seek to find the right glass rather than try to fit into what is there.
An engineer’s mind is trained to use masses of quantitative data along with the laws of science to design and make goods that are useful to mankind. His mind works to fix problems involved in making things and to fix problems that will appear after something has been used for a while. Engineers are supposed to be logical, precise and analytical. Ravindra who works for IBM does precisely that in his day job. He carries that into this novel. Hence Rahul, the main character just cannot understand why someone should want to do something but would still avoid doing that due to social mores and customs, he cannot see any logic in not doing something that one believes in even if had to be at the cost of one’s career. He sees the world as black and white with no grey in between. For him, corruption is an absolute cancer as is the need to fight for RTI. He is a character like Howard Roark from Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead, not prepared to compromise. ‘Integrity is the ability to stand by an idea’, a quote from Fountainhead, explains Rahul’s philosophy too.
The second character is Rahul’s best friend through whom the author tries to show the good in self-made capitalists. Neerav was clear from the outset that he is world-wise and wants to be successful. He goes onto becoming wildly successful the way it happens when Silicon Valley meets Wall Street. The author twists the tale to paint Neerav as a self-made man who is not attached to his wealth- much like Bill Gates, who gives back to society through Rahul’s fight for social justice and eradication of ills in India.
The third character is a woman and when there is a man and a woman, romance cannot be far behind. But here love is a victim to the over-powering forces of social compliance and risk avoidance. Rahul is hurt, numbed and upset but this adversity only increases his resolve to fight against the various forces that obstruct individuals from doing what they believe in.
Finally, the three characters come together to empower the movement set off by Rahul. The easy style of the narrative could lull the lay reader into believing that it is the familiar happy end to a long story.  I was left with the feeling that the author, was trying to show that each of us can go our own ways to pursue our dreams but there is some part of us that wants to see some essential changes in society, which can be fulfilled if some take up the cudgels and others support them financially, emotionally or otherwise. Everyone has to play a role to fight those who have a stake in status quo.
Do read this book.