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A mariner's tale

Capt. Ravi Thapar believes that it is never too late to discover new worlds

Photo: Satish H.

SAILORS FOR long have been known for their ribald humour and fascinating yarns. But here is an old seafarer with a different tale. Capt. Ravi Thapar who turned 72 has tried out his sea legs with both the Indian Navy and the Merchant Navy and as captain of many merchant vessels, travelled the far corners of the globe. In retirement for quite some time now, Capt. Thapar continues to pursue a voyage of discovery in a different world.

An avid reader during his long, lonely voyages, he plunged into the world of writing when he retired. "I read to keep my intellect intact. I read like a bucket without a bottom. My father had countless books and reading kept me sane on my voyages." Adept at writing in both English and Hindi, he has published five books in each - Hindi and English. In the future he proposes to keep the same equation - of publishing a book alternately in English and Hindi. "My proficiency to write in both languages thrills me and I find that a reader of Hindi books has a different perspective from an English reader. There are nearly a thousand books published every day in English. I want mine to number among them," he says.

His last novel in Hindi, Aradhana, was published in 1999. In February 2003, he published five books titled Concept of World Conquest and its Five Torchbearers, Alexander and Caesar - Greco-Roman World Conquerors, Genghiz Khan - Greatest Emperor in History, Napoleon Bonaparte - Greatest Soldier-Statesman and Adolf Hitler - Greatest Organizer. What is remarkable about these books is that they were published simultaneously. "I am a slow writer. These books cost me four years of research. I write by hand and I hone every line I write."

Why did he choose history as the subject of his writing? "I write on historical subjects because they have lessons to offer and of late there is a revivalism of the subject. Movies are being made on Alexander and Napoleon and the New York Times named Genghiz Khan the man of the millennium. However it is Hitler whom I admire the most. I am not a fascist. I condemn his policy towards the Jews but he was the greatest organiser the world has known. I extol him for that. He had what William Shirer (author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich) called a `Germanic passion for thoroughness'."

Capt. Thapar is at present working on his next book, a novel with the merchant navy as the background. "You are as good as your last book and like Somerset Maugham I believe that fiction is more interesting. The novel is not autobiographical. I also want to publish this abroad, preferably in Britain. They are after all a nation of seafarers."

At an age when most watch life sail by at an easy pace, Capt. Thapar follows knowledge like a sinking star. "Life is an endless ocean and the learning never stops. I seize the day and try to be honest with myself. But most of all I give it my best. I try to be like Ulysses," he says.

To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield?

DEEPA ALEXANDER

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