• October 1, 2020 12:33 am

Reporting From Delhi

Thriving in serendipity

ByMihir Srivastava

Aug 29, 2020

Writer and teacher Gaurav Monga has in 20 years lived in 20 cities all over the world. Some excerpts for his journey called life…

Gaurav Monga, 38, has made some unusual choices in a hurry, fairly intuitively, and that explains why he has had an eventful life—the best is yet to come. A teacher, writer and voracious reader, Gaurav, is a man of literature and has over the last 20 years inhabited more than 20 places across the world.

This Karol Bagh boy has travelled to places and experienced life in a fairly unfiltered way. A thinking man, Gaurav is a lover of literature, he identifies with the character, in some measure, he reads about. His love for Franz Kafka is reflected in his writings, a combination of magical realism and a stream of conscious writing with a poetic quality to it. He has already written many books—Ruins, Family Matters and Costumes of the Living; some are in the pipeline.

Gaurav left home at the age of 11 and joined a boarding school—Kodaikanal International School—at that time one of the two schools in the country that offered International Baccalaureate (IB). He did well and was skilled at playing golf. At the age of 16, he was shortlisted to study in a school in North Carolina, where he was to finish his schooling and also hone his golfing talent.

The coach was an excellent golfer and an athlete, a man with a good heart, but also a stickler for traditions, almost to a fault, a hard taskmaster, a no-nonsense guy who was far too aggressive. They didn’t get along well. Instead of honing his skills, the coach methodologically destroyed Gaurav’s love for the sport.

Gaurav was in the US for nearly three years, including a year of college, before he had to come back to India as his family was facing financial hardships. During his stay, Gaurav found a fun way to keep himself occupied and support his stay.

He decided to shift to Pune, where he learned German at the Goethe-Institut- Max Mueller Bhavan. Love for Kafka—one of the greatest German-speaking Bohemian novelists—was one of the reasons he learned the language. As far as he’s concerned, nothing of Kafka’s writing is lost in translation. He speaks classical German and had the opportunity to teach German in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, albeit in an international school. He also writes in German, apart from English.

Gaurav entertained the idea of going back to the US for some time after learning German, but things didn’t work out. Instead, he joined St Stephen’s College in Delhi and fell in love with a Italian girl. Within a few months of joining the college, he decided to go to Heidelberg to live with his love interest. Soon, he was disenchanted again, and the family situation back home was not particularly good. He came back home to nurse his ailing grandmother and bide some time.

Thereafter, he joined his mother, who had shifted to Bengaluru, and started teaching German in a local school. Here he met a girl from Aligarh, and they fell in love and a protracted relationship ensued that culminated in a marriage.  However, it did not last long.

Gaurav Monga at the grave of Franz Kafka

He had shifted with her to Ahmedabad but not for long. He went back to Delhi, then to Hyderabad for a teaching job, came back to Delhi and taught at Vasant Valley and the British School—where he was exposed to a corporatised way of disseminating knowledge that didn’t go well with him. “No one gives a crap,” he says.

At some point in time, he followed his girlfriend (whom he hadn’t married by then) to Kathmandu where he taught creative writing in four different schools.

It has to be said, Gaurav is true to his calling, and does not compromise when it comes to his work, relationship or family. He’s easy to commit and quit, as and when things start to or cease to make sense to him. That has taken him places, enabling him to lead a rich experiential life. And he has this uncanny knack to support himself, find odd jobs, all over the world.

He was in Berne to translate some works of Robert Walser, a renowned German-speaking Swiss writer. From 2015, he lived in Basel, Switzerland, for a couple of years, taught intermediate-level German at the International School. Thereafter, stayed for a few months in Karlovy Vary, before coming back to India. If he had a choice, he would like to settle in Vienna.

Since 2018, he’s living in Ahmedabad with his girlfriend, she’s of Indian origin and grew up in The Netherlands. He takes online creative writing classes at Ahmedabad University and the National Institute of Fashion Technology.  “I keep in touch with my students, some of them have become friends,” he says.

There was so much happening in Gaurav’s life, yet living for in the present moment and love for literature helped him deal with some testing family situations and kept him going. He is close to both his parents, though they have separated. Like the author he loves the most—Kafka—his father has had a fair impact on his life. As Kafka had expressed in his letters to his father Hermann, “your effect on me was the effect you could not help having…you don’t even have to be at all consistent, and could still be never wrong and…you are free and that is why you are lost.” That pretty much explains the unexplainable.

Gaurav is not wedded to an ideology or point of view. And he abhors those who condemn others with a different point of view while they are militant about their own. He’s a liberal in the true sense of the word and fairly open to being influenced by life. As Kafka aptly puts it, “Better to have, and not need, than to need, and not have.”​

(Cover: Gaurav Monga taking a class)