This Dog Barking – The Strange Story of UG Krishnamurti (Harper Collins; Rs 599) calls 20th century’s most radical philosopher a “Cosmic Naxalite”. His life oscillates from his deepest need to connect with the world and his understanding of the mind being a myth. Cambodia-based, self-taught artist Nicolas C Grey and Scotland-based children’s social worker and author James Farley found the story of UG so compelling that it took them 12 years to turn it into a novel. They discuss how the title of the book means nothing, and how UG’s interactions with personalities from Hindi cinema show his softer side. Excerpts:
How did this project come into being?
Grey: About 13 years ago, I was homeless. It was then that I first heard about UG. I was already familiar with philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, through Roland Vernon’s biography Star in the East. In this book, UG is briefly mentioned. A friend of mine printed UG’s books for me; I read them all on the street, and was taken with the material. Being involved in underground comics, I felt UG’s story would work well in this form, there was something freewheeling. This is a book about ideas, and much of the journey depicted occurs in UG’s head. James was the only person I knew who would ‘get UG’.
Why did you choose this title?
Farley: Like almost every word in the book, it’s something that UG himself said. The phrase ‘This Dog Barking’ says absolutely nothing about the book. We chose it as an invitation to a potential reader.
UG’s passive nihilism philosophy believes that there is no purpose in finding the reality of things. In fact, the ‘eye’ is as much a protagonist as UG himself.
Farley: The mystery of life is closely connected to the mystery of consciousness, and the eye is the window through which we can glimpse at that mystery.
Why were Hindi cinema celebrities such as Parveen Babi and Mahesh Bhatt excluded from the narrative?
Grey: UG and his friend Valentine De Kerven tried to help Parveen Babi during the early stages of her mental illness. UG felt that due to her vulnerabilities, she would always struggle to cope with the high-pressure world of Bollywood. But, Parveen opted to continue with her ‘filmy’ life, and her mental health continued to deteriorate.
Farley: We initially wrote and drew a whole section for the comic around UG’s relationship with both Parveen and Mahesh. We were keen to include it as it revealed a more caring and loving side to UG that doesn’t always come across in his confrontational speaking style. However, this material simply didn’t work in the structure of the book, and the whole Bollywood section had to go.
What are your future projects?
Farley: Besides Nic’s art and book projects, we are working together on a comic about Irish novelist James Joyce.