Richard Crasta (Konkani: रीचर्ड क्रास्ता (Devanagari); born 1952) is an Indian American writer and novelist, with a strong Indian identity in his writings. He is the author of the comic novel The Revised Kamasutra, nonfiction and essay collections like Impressing the Whites; Beauty Queens, Children and the Death of Sex, and some semi-fictional works like What We All Need. His first novel The Revised Kama Sutra was published under the name of Avatar Prabhu in the United States and Germany.
Born in Bangalore, India, he grew up in Bombay (briefly) and Mangalore, where he was influenced by the strong Catholic culture as well as the region’s cuisine, including bangda curry and masala dosas. Added to this there were Time Magazine, and Readers Digest in his childhood years, and even by Hollywood movies such as Disney movies, The Sound of Music, and James Bond. Then, as an Indian Administrative Service officer, he found himself briefly immersed in the implementation of Indira Gandhi’s 20-point programme.
Later, going to the United States on a student visa to study literature and ultimately become a writer, he found himself stuck there: his three sons were born even as he was writing his first novel. He ended up spending most of his adult life in the New York City area, though he currently spends most of his time in Asia (where he has been working on two novels and two nonfiction books).
Richard Crasta considers himself as a stateless person, a compulsive itinerant, a migrant, a man without moorings except to his imagination, his memories, and his childhood. He believes that his roots in the Mangalorean Catholic culture had a significant impact in his writings.
Early life and education
Richard Crasta was born in 1952 to John Baptist Crasta and Christine Crasta (née D'Souza) in Bangalore, India. Richard had two brothers and a sister. His father John, son of Alex and Nathalia Crasta, originally hailed from Kinnigoli in South Canara district, about 20 miles from Mangalore. John was a World War II veteran and prisoner-of-war who survived a Japanese prison camp.
Richard had a strict middle-class Catholic upbringing and grew up in Mangalore in the 1960s and early 1970s. He began writing when he was ten. He wrote a 12,000 word novel in which the hero was a composite of John F. Kennedy and Robin Hood. Writing was just an outlet for his fantasies, which he used to escape his real life. An important factor in his development was the church and the convent school to which he was sent as a boy, and the secondary school of his adolescence.
He completed his Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Economics, History and Political Science from the University of Mysore in 1972. He was eventually accepted into the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), through which he became the Assistant Commissioner and Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Chickballapur Subdivision in Kolar district and Belgaum Subdivision in Belgaum district. Later, he became Special Deputy Commissioner of Shimoga district. However, this position suited him neither professionally nor socially as a creative writer. He later served in the IAS for 4 years. Crasta travelled to the United States in 1979, enrolling in the American University in Washington, D.C.. He worked for a New York literary agency and taught English at a New York college through 1981, and completed his Master of Arts (MA) degree in Literature and Communication. Crasta emigrated to New York City in the United States in 1984. Crasta received his Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Creative Writing from Columbia University in 1987.
Although Crasta wrote his first 12,000 word novel at the age of 10, he did not consider himself a writer until many years later when he wrote the first two chapters of his first novel, and felt that he had found his voice. He began his novel The Revised Kamasutra: A Novel of Colonialism and Desire while taking courses at Columbia University. After more than eight years of work, The Revised Kamasutra appeared in India in 1993. Subsequent editions appeared in Britain, the United States, Germany, Italy, and a few other countries.
A collection of humorous and political essays Beauty Queens, Children and the Death of Sex, appeared in India in 1997. Finally, Crasta edited and contributed to essays Eaten by the Japanese: The Memoirs of an Unknown Indian Soldier, by John Baptist Crasta, his father, in India in 1998. In the 1998 U.S. edition, and in one or two European translations of his novel, he used the name Avatar Prabhu, reverting to Richard Crasta in 2000.
In 2000, he published Impressing the Whites. Five years later, he published two other books, What We All Need, entirely his own, and Fathers, Rebels and Dreamers, compiled with two of his Mangalorean friends Arunachalam Kumar, conservationist, and Ralph Nazareth, poet and professor. In 2008, he published The Killing of an Author, a literary and publishing autobiography and critique of the publishing industry. He has recently published a few other books as digital books on Amazon and other platforms, and a few books as paperbacks on Amazon Createspace and Lulu, and is working on seven books in progress.
He dislikes being labeled, but, as India has overwhelmingly been his subject, particularly in two of his three important works, he believes that “Indian writer” is the category that fits him best. However, he recognizes that there are 1.2 billion Indians, each unique, and each has his own story to tell.
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|Charity, forgiveness, redemption – all these have stayed with me though I'm no church-goer. I like this essence of Christianity that is not there in George Bush.||”|
|–Richard Crasta in an interview to The Hindu|
Although sometimes his work is described as anti-Christian, he admits that his deep principles are actually Christian. Though Crasta is not a church-goer, he believes values like charity, forgiveness, and redemption have stayed with him throughout his life.
Ideologically, Crasta describes himself as "a profound, all-round sceptic whose religion is literature, laughter, and love". He states that his beliefs are diverse and that these cannot be lumped into any single brand of philosophy. He states that he often contradicts himself over the space of a few years. Crasta further dismisses any attempts to label him as "Anti-Christian" or "Pro-Christian" as an absurdity, stating that religion to him is an abstract principle and simply not important to him, although he does make occasional observations of the influence that religion has on human behaviour.
- The Revised Kamasutra: A Novel of Colonialism and Desire (1993)
- Beauty Queens, Children and the Death of Sex (1997)
- Impressing the Whites: The New International Slavery (2000)
- One little Indian (2003)
- What We All Need: An Anti-Terrorist Book of Incompletions, Unsafe Love, and Writing While Brown (2005)
- Fathers, Rebels and Dreamers (editor and co-author, along with Ralph Nazareth and Arunachalam Kumar) (2005)
- The Killing of an Author: Jackie Kennedy, Sonny Pfizer, Seven Little Ayatollahs and a Suicide Pact (2008)
- I Will NOT Go the F**k to Sleep (2011)
- Nelson 2000, p. 76
- The Composite Interview with Richard Crasta, Where are you from? How-if at all-has your sense of place colored your writing?
- "Mr. Richard Crasta [Mangalorean Star: October, 2003]". Mangalorean.com. Retrieved 2011-12-26.
- "Biography of Richard Crasta". RichardCrasta.com. Retrieved 2008-12-10.
- The Composite Interview with Richard Crasta, When and why did you begin writing? When did you first consider yourself a writer?
- The Composite Interview with Richard Crasta, What inspired you to write this novel? How did you decide upon its title?
- Nelson 2000, p. 77
- The many faces of Crasta, What is your philosophical axis? Where are you coming from?
- The Composite Interview with Richard Crasta, What would you say is the source of your individuality and quirky viewpoint? How would you describe your philosophy of life?
- Nelson, Emmanuel Sampath (2000). Asian American Novelists: A Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-30911-3. Retrieved 2008-11-25.
- "Latest Interview with Richard Crasta". RichardCrasta.com. 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-10.
- "The Composite Interview with Richard Crasta". RichardCrasta.com. Retrieved 2008-12-10.
- Prashant G.N. (2005-10-18). "The many faces of Crasta". The Hindu. Retrieved 2008-12-10.