In a heavily cloudy political weather in which Pakistan is shrouded these days, something apolitical is surely taken as a breath of fresh air. It was the Asian Study Group, a non-profit organization under the leadership of its President Ms. Parveen Malik who managed to carve some crevices for the denizens of tinsel town and see the silver lining amongst the thunder by inviting Javier Moro, a well-established Spanish writer for a talk in Islamabad. Born in Madrid to a Spanish father and a French mother, Javier received his graduate degree in History and Anthropology from Paris, France. However, it was not his mother’s birth place where he found permanent abode. He settled for five good years in United Sates, two years plus in Brazil and now writes for two leading newspapers based at his own birth town Madrid, contributing also for some world known travel magazines.
His first book Senderos de Libertad was published in 1991, recreated on the life of a murdered Brazilian Union leader Chico Mendes and his struggle to protect Amazon rainforest. Another book of his titled El Pie De Jaipur is a tale about a man’s ability to overcome tragedy. His book, The Mountain of Buddha is based on author’s research in Nepal, India and Tibet and is a journey of two Nuns and their quest for freedom. Moro’s other publications, Past Five Midnight in Bhopal, Passion India, retitled as The Dancer and the Raja and Red Sari is plotted on the famous Bhopal chemical disaster, whereas, Passion India is a story of a young Flamenco dancer from Spain who married an Indian Maharaja. The Red Sari is inked on the Nehru family and in particular Sonia Ghandi which the writer claims created quite a storm in India. It was pregnant with controversies. Another famous book which won Moro loreals was El Imperio Eres Tu, on the Brazilian Emperor.
In a one-to-one interview the writer spoke on his interest in writing, his research and his love for subcontinent.
Q. What is the common thread in all the books that you have written?
A. All of my books are based on real stories. I don’t invent stories. I take real stories
Q. Why are you so obsessed with India as most of the books you have written are Indian based?
A. I started travelling to the subcontinent in my early age, around 14-year-old. When I arrived in India for the first time, I was absolutely shocked what I saw. It was a very poor country. I saw poverty, burning streets, elephants, camels and other animals wondering freely on the roads, it was a very filthy sight to be honest, whereas, India was a like a fairytale for me in my imagination.
Somehow India in general and the sub-continent in particular always intrigued me for its history and culture. The people attract me, I feel very close to this region. I feel I belong to a culture which is very similar like when I am in Granada, in Alhumra or I am in Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, or in Delhi, wherever the Mughals have ruled and left their mark, I feel I am in the same world. I don’t feel I belong to another world.
Q. How about the other sub-continent countries? Don’t you find Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan intriguing enough?
A. Absolutely tes. I would have come to Pakistan. At one point I wanted to cherish the idea of doing story on Ms. Benazir Bhutto when she was all over the place. Benazir was the image of Pakistan and the world at large. Her story, her personality is a mixture of family intrigue, drama, political clout and a sense of destiny and to an author it was perfect for a fantastic biography. But at the end it was very difficult for me to come to Pakistan so then I decided to do a story on Sonia Gandhi and Nehru family.
Q. How about a story on Afghanistan? That too has many real-life stories to tell. How come you never thought of that?
A. Again, I absolutely agree with you. It’s just that I need to get my hands on a good story from there. It is not easy to go there and spend time on research and then come up with a story to write on. It’s tall order. Good stories are not easy to find, you have to research find the characters and that demands months to live in that environment. I can’t just come up with a story. Having said that I would definitely write one but waiting for the right circumstances.
Q. When you pick a story for writing what impresses you or attracts you to choose that particular topic?
A. For example, my book on the Brazilian emperor. There was no book written on him with an epic sense what that story deserved. That is a fabulous story. There has been a lot of stuff written on him by specialized scholars, historians but there is not yet a book on him which focuses on his epic struggles, this man underwent. At the age of 36, he gave independence to Brazil, made it a single unified country, and then came to Portugal, won a civil war against his brother, refused the throne of Greece, refused the throne of Spain. He lived a life that one could not invent. Had I invented that kind of life story, no one would have believed me. He was a force of nature. Only people like that can achieve the things he achieved.
Having said that there is also a very tragic side to his story. Here is a man torn between two continents, between two worlds. Even though he gave independence to Brazil, he was very much Portuguese. For Brazilians he was too Portuguese and for the Portuguese, he was too Brazilian. He saw himself torn in between two nationalisms. Even today, his heart is being kept in the church of Lapa in Oporto, Portugal while rest of his remains are in Sao Paulo in Brazil. Two hundred years later he is still torn between two continents. It was a fabulous story.
Q. At the age of fourteen you went to subcontinent and were mesmerized by the culture, the people and the trajectory. Interestingly your first book is not on the sub-continent but from South America.
A. Actually, at the time I was in Hollywood, I was involved in movie making, writings screen plays and other related for Hollywood films. I had done some research in Brazil for some other project so it was more convenient to pick a story from there that is how I got my first book. Then I went to India and started writing on Indian subjects.
Q. The book Passion India, is it more focused on the struggle of the women flamenco dancer or Indian culture?
A. Passion India is a story of an ordinary young Spanish flamenco dancer Anita Delgado whom the Maharaja Singh fell in love with during a visit and made her a princess of Kapurthala. She managed to stay with the Maharaja for 20 years. It was through her diaries that I could get a sense of what is the life at the end of the Raj dynasty. Was she a powerful woman having influence on the Raja! No, she was never a powerful woman because the Britishers never wanted her to be one and she was also boycotted by the other wives of the Maharaja. She was a survivor.
Q. You were born to a French mother and a Spanish father. Who did you get more influenced from and started writing?
A. Actually both of my parents. However, my uncle Dominique, (my mamo) he was a very famous writer and he used to give me work as a researcher on several of his books so it was actually association with him that I got interested in writing and most of my books are researched based.
Q. You have two children, a girl and a boy. Are they also interested in writing. Does any of the two take after their father?
A. No, no one is into writing anymore. They are into digital, into TikTok.
Q. You are a frequent traveler. You have been around the world, studying different cultures and researching on various subjects. How come you never thought of writing travelogues? That would have been very interesting.
A. Thought-provoking question. It takes a lot of work to write a travelogue and I have never written travel books but I surely want to do that.
Q. There are many books written on the Bhopal tragedy. What makes your book --- different than others?
A. Its an epic story of the world’s deadliest industrial disaster, penned down by my uncle Dominique Lapierre and myself. This book was published after an utmost research on the incident. It took us three years to write and I spent seven months in Bhopal. I talked to everybody that mattered. The book is based on human adventure and not a political leaflet. It is very beautiful.
Q. What inspires you to write? What makes you eager to write on the subject?
A. It depends, there is no rule for that. It can be an interview with somebody, or I read something in a book or a newspaper, something that catches my attention and I get this feeling that there is more to it than meets the eye. So, in a nutshell the answer to your question is there is absolutely no rule.