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Anthropologist turns author

Grandfathers are great storytellers. And proving this adage true is octogenarian anthropologist Mrinal Roy, who returned to hometown Ranchi from Washington four years ago, is the quintessential “story-grandpa” to one and all.

Roy, who taught anthropology since 1966 for over four decades at Washington State University, has written eight short stories, four exclusively for children, and a voluminous reference on 10 religions of the world at the age of 85.

But, his manuscripts are yet to be published.

Roy, who finished writing the books last December, is waiting eagerly for a publisher.

Speaking about his new-found career as a writer, Roy said his short stories focussed on how diverse lives could be. While his stories for grown-ups have diverse protagonists such as a tribal, a middle class man, a miner and a Bengali family, those meant for children showcase characters and lessons from mythology.

Roy is a doting grandfather to six and great grandfather to two.

He happens to be both a globetrotter and a voracious reader. “These two passions have made me into writer. And the anthropologist in me has helped me understand life,” said the octogenarian writer at his Tharkpakhna home.

Asked about his travels connected with anthropology, Roy said he did not travel for sightseeing or to see monuments. “I am a wanderer and I travel the world only to meet new people. I love to interact with people and get ideas from their lives,” said the anthropologist-turned-author.

But, the reference book on religion is a different ball game altogether.

His unpublished work titled Nakedness Is All — The Final Testimony of All Religions is an in-depth comparative work on 10 religions.

Asked what inspired him to do a comparative study of religions, Roy said: “Religion is the diagnosis and prescription for the ultimate human problem. I believe one must try to understand the ultimate.”

While seeking how religions explain the meaning of life, Roy asked and tried to answer three basic questions — what are human problems, what are the paths of resolution and what is the ultimate.

“Through my work, I have found all religions talk about oneness. Unless everything else is discarded, the ultimate remains an illusion,” Roy signed off.