Most authors have written bestsellers while on a trip to a different country or an exotic holiday destination. Whatever it takes to get inspired. For popular columnist and author Martin Jacques, a trip to East Asian countries did the trick. It gave the author a push to write a book.

“In 1993, I went on a big holiday and life changed thereafter. I met my wife, Hari, during this two-and-a-half week trip and was charmed by East Asia,” says Martin Jacques, who was here in the city to address a gathering on China and world politics at IIT Madras.

As some who has written extensively about Britain’s political happenings, it wasn’t surprising to guess why Martin wanted switch to another subject. “I was bored of writing about British politics. During my trip, I was intrigued by East Asia and the hunger to do something new arose then.”

For a columnist who has headed several popular British publications, the book has come in pretty late. “Am I accused of being lazy,” he laughs and continues, “It was a friend who suggested I write a book. It isn’t an easy task. One cannot write about a nation by just visiting the place a couple of times as a tourist. I was completely devastated by my wife’s death, it took sometime to pick myself up. So the whole process stretched for about 12 years. I signed the contract in 1997, and the book was launched in 2009. So you can imagine,” he reasons.

Ask him why he chose China over other East Asian countries, and he says, “In a few years, you will not be able to make sense of the world, if you can’t make sense of China. In my book When China Rules the World, I have said how China is different from the West and will remain so. And also the fact that we can only understand China in its own terms and not through a Western prism.”

What is interesting to note is his observation of India when he says, “I think Indians are still battling to find answers to the age-old question – What India is?”

According to Martin, Indian minds succumb easily to Western powers.

“One of the prices you have to pay for colonisation,” he says.  It isn’t easy for an Indian while the Chinese, he thinks, “are strongly attached to (their culture) and hardly think western civilisation as intimidating or even superior.” The witty author that he is, when asked if he would ever consider writing fiction, he says “Will I be interviewed again, if I wrote fiction?”

– Prarthna Sarkar