Joseph Kaval: Good Literature Is A Rallying Point

Career Visions of People Remaking Our Small Planet: Issue #6

Only a Gooseberry in God's Palm
Joseph Kaval, 67,
104762-223625-thumbnail.jpg  A Writer and Publisher,
  Shares His Vision
Of What Are the Essentials
Required for Living

And His Dream of Equality for All

An Interview By Michael Chacko Daniels

Editor & Publisher, New River Free Press International

This month Career Visions for a Small Planet features Writer-Publisher Joseph Kaval of India.

Mr. Kaval contacted US-India Writing Station after checking the site and me out.

After some enquiry on my part, I decided it would be interesting to hear Mr. Kaval's story. Writers often decode narratives that others, caught up in the rush of daily events, miss, or do not want to hear.

Who is the outspoken Mr. Kaval and why have you not heard of him in America?

And why does he say what he does?

J.Kaval is the pen name of K. L. Joseph, son of the late Lazar Kavalakkat, a prominent businessman. He was born in 1939 in Trichur, Kerala—God’s Own Country as it has come to be known in the hyperbolic world of tourism.

This one-man writing and publishing army, writes both in English and Malayalam, one of the ancient-living south Indian languages that flourishes despite the cultural and civilizational onslaught of superficial, facile, commercial variants of Hindi and English by way of Bollywood and Hollywood films, and their vibrant offspring--Hinglish.

Since he started writing in 1960, he has written in Malayalam five novels, 300 short stories, 100 essays; and in English, two novels, 40 short stories, and 50 essays. Mr. Kaval has also reviewed 1,500 books and directed five dramas. He is a graduate in theology and philosophy from Rome, a postgraduate in sociology, and a diploma holder in journalism.

In 1998, he founded Kathalok, a fraternity of writers in English who reside in Bangalore, the call center and cyber capital of India. According to the Deccan Herald, “Kathalok members come from various walks of life, but with a deep interest in creative writing. There are social workers, teachers, botany professors, and geology specialists under its wings [The world of stories, by Veena PradeepDeccan Herald, Sept. 16, 2001]."

He is the editor and publisher of Katha Kshetre, an international literary journal dedicated to fiction.

Mr. Kaval is the recipient of the 1998 Bangara Desha Literary Award [instituted by Bangara Desha, Kannada language monthly] for his contribution to Christian literature over the previous three decades.

What Is Mr. Kaval's
Idea of a Good Short Story?

‘It should not ramble endlessly but should hit you like a gunshot.’ Then it should be structured well, with a gripping narrative and conclude with a dramatic denouement.

--“The world of stories,” by Veena Pradeep,
Deccan Herald, Bangalore, Sept. 16, 2001

His answers to my interview questions sometimes pop out at me like they have been shot out of a gun. I read again . . .  As he remarked in an e-mail to me after the interview, he is like the gooseberry--sweet and sour.

A Joseph Kaval Data Bank

High School
St. Thomas High School
Trichur, Kerala, India.

B. A
Christ College
Irinjalakuda, Trichur, Kerala, India
M. A., Sociology
Loyola Social Institute
Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
B. D.
Gregorian University
Diploma in Journalism
Press Institute

Other Schools
St. Mary’s Minor Seminary
St. Joseph’s Apostolic Major Seminary
Carmelgiri, Kerala
St. Joseph’s Apostolic Major Seminary
Mangalapuzh, Kerala

Teachers that influenced Joseph Kaval the most
Madhvan Nair: pre-High School:
Punctuality, Studiousness, Honesty
T.H.Krishna Iyer: High School:
Humaneness, Decency, Manliness
Dr. K. Sachidanandan & Rev. Dr. Jose Muriken: College:
Art of Teaching
Rev. Fr. Dr. Dominque Alvarez: Seminary:
Love for Books, Reading, Acting

Books that influenced Joseph Kaval
For his literary output:
Old Testament
And the literary works of
Thakazhi Sivasankar Pillai
P. Kesava Deve
Vaikom Mohammad Basheer
Muttahthu Varkey
M. K. Menon (Vilasini)
Henri Charriere (Papilon)
For his spiritual and social outlook
Bible (New Testament, The Life of Jesus).

Favorite Philosophers
St. Thomas Aquinas
Rev. Fr. Dr. Huns Kung

Favorite Singers
K. J. Yesudas

Favorite Quotations
Never say a lie.
Lying is intrinsically evil (St. Thomas Aquinas).
Live and let others live.

Joseph Kaval Contact Information
J.Kaval can be reached at

Snail mail:
#90, Guniagrahara, Sivakotte Post,
Bangalore-89, India


New River Free Press International:

Tell us about yourself.

What makes you who you are?


JK Upfront let me tell you that I am a small guy in this big, ever-growing city.

Then let me tell you that I am not a salesman. I can never sell a thing.

I am not a businessman. I can never be one.

I will never succeed in these two fields.

Another field is political. Politics is not in me.

I was born in Trichur (Kerala, India) on a Saturday, so family and the neighbors called me Saniazhcha kallan, Saturday thief, as I used to steal eatables. I am an Aquarian, a man of sanguine temperament, hot-cool tempered--like steel. I'm more outspoken than diplomatic. So, I often lose friends. Since childhood, I prefer to be always independent in my thoughts, words, and actions.

I do take risks. At the age of 10, I told my father that I would not ask money for my haircuts and films. I earned money. I was creative, too, bringing out something new and useful. I ran exhibitions on the palatial courtyard of my house (people around referred to it as koratty kovilakam, royal palace), showed films inside the main hall, and performed dramas on the veranda of neighbors' houses and earned money. (Cashew nuts were the entrance fee. I got, every year, 4 to 6 kilos, and sold them at 9 annas per pound. Sixteen annas made a rupee.) So, I did not bother my father for my haircuts and films.

During the high school days, I asked Father for pocket money for my service, one to two hours per day, at the provision store. I used to get three annas. That took care of seeing films and eating at hotels in the town--massala dosa, idly, and poori mazal.

I was only an average student throughout my scholastic life. Once, at the end of philosophical studies (1960), some of my bright classmates challenged me if I could, like them, secure nine points out of 10 in the final exam? I accepted and secured 9.2 points out of 10. The next day I fell ill for a week.

I have written 25 public exams. I never failed in any one. I did not have tuition.

I have degrees in Theology, Philosophy, Economics, Sociology, and Journalism.

I became a Catholic priest and worked in several parishes and I wrote in almost all Catholic periodicals of that time in south India, New Leader from Madras, Examiner from Bombay, Malabar Herald from Ernakulam, Tempest from Trichur, then, Marivijayam, Kudumbadeepam, Amma, Satyadeepam, Assisi, Preshita Keralam, Kaahalam, Thozhilal, Deepika, Sahitya Parishat. For 10 years, I contributed articles to Sameeksha and Jagratha two socio-intellectual journals. I was a columnist for Jagalsaakshi, a communist newspaper from Trichur

I left the priesthood after 12 years out of inner compulsion. I could not digest religion of Jesus becoming political. In layman’s lingo I had no ‘vocation’--a saintly subservient to Roman authority--for the priesthood.

Later, at the age of 40, in Iran, I married Grace a beautiful woman of sense and sensibilities. We have one son. Perhaps I was the first father to witness the arrival of his son in a delivery room at a hospital in Iran ruled by mullahs. The lady doctor, nurse, and I together literally pulled him out through the vaginal canal. I named him Joeliz = Joe + Liz = Joesph + Liza (pet name for my wife). So his name carries not a saint but his father and mother, and I hope he will carry their legacy.

We worked in Iran. We witnessed the Shah’s last days and the bloody revolution. We tasted the rule of mullahs. We experienced earthquake. We fled Iran leaving everything behind us.

We worked in Bahrain, the best tiny kingdom in Gulf countries. My wife worked in the U. S. for five years. Everything was ready for us entering and settling in the U. S. I did not want. My son, too, did not want to. We asked Grace to come back.

I will visit U. S., if I am invited.

In 1990, we settled in Bangalore. We have a farm (two acres) 25 km away from the city center.

I am now fully engaged in literary activities – writing, teaching, and publishing.

I own Kathalok Publications and have brought out seven books. Five in English, one in Kannada, and one in Malayalam. Our books are on par with American books but cheap. For details contact us.

I, along with friends, started Kathalok Akademy for Creativity. We conduct workshops on creative writing, creative teaching, and creative journalism.

We have a highly educated and experienced team as resource persons. I will mention few names:

Dr. Cheriyan Alexander, Head of Department of English at St. Joseph’s College; his specialty is poetry;

Dr. Eva Bell, physician, novelist, and author;

Dr. K. Hussain, retired engineer, poet, author, and secretary of Al Salar Publications;

Dr. M. S. Riyazulla, working geologist, short story writer, and novelist;

Prof. E. P. Menon, social activist, writer, and editor;

Prof. Abdul Majeed Khan, prolific writer in three languages and author of 30 books; and

Prof. L. S. Sheshagiri Rao, an eminent critic;

They all are members of Katha Kshetre Family and conduct classes for free.

Kathalok, Katha Kshetre, Kathalok Publications have no office other than my study, no fund except for few thousands in the bank, and no foundation support. Things will go steadily till 2010, or I breathe the last.

Friends both in Kerala and Bangalore asked me: “Why did you shift from Malayalam to English?”

Response: English is our window to the world outside Kerala, and outside India.

“Why do you concentrate on creative literature and short fiction?”

Creative spirit is dying out from high school and college students and from the adults due to the invasion of idiot box (TV) and in-box (computer). They have become consumeristic and fast-foodish.

All my works are published but not yet in book form. I am looking for an American publisher.

At present, I edit and publish Katha Kshetre, an international literary quarterly dedicated to short fiction.

Recently, Katha Kshetre conducted an international short story contest. Out of six winners, three are American writers.

The training given by my mother during my childhood has gone deeply into my being. My day began at 5.30 AM and ended at 10.30 PM--since 1950. I had to do almost all the manual jobs at home such as supplying milk to the customers; caring for the cow and goats; carrying lunch for my father; purchasing meat, fish, and vegetables from the market; cleaning, cutting, and making them ready for Mom to cook; cleaning the house; working in the field and compound; and finally helping Mom in the kitchen though we had a male servant and a housemaid.

I learned the art of cooking from Mom, such as fish curry, beef curry, chicken curry, etc. How to clean, cut, season, and cook. The first and the best specialties of Mom were the meen pollichathu and velleappam.

Meen pollichathu
was made with sardines or mackerel, neither fried in oil nor cooked with sauce but something in-between. It was delicious.

was made of toddy, rice flour, sugar, and eggs. It was cooked in special mud pots. It is now available only at a street corner in Trichur. In a decade, no one will ever know of it.

I could cook a variety of dishes with pulses and vegetables, too. I know how to make snacks and sweets.

Even today, I do cooking, not many items as they are readily available in the supermarkets and eateries on the streets, and I have neither teeth nor time for lavishly enjoying those home-made items.

Special regard shown to me by my father has gone into my texture. He often spoke to me friendly, took me to places,and allowed me to travel alone at the age of 13. He had believed that I would run the family business (large wholesale and retail provision shop) after him. That didn’t happen.

The priestly training given to me during my nine scholastic years formed the basis of my thinking and feeling.

The reading gave me the general frame for my outlook. I have read all the literary books in the libraries of St. Thomas College and the Apostolic Seminaries at Aluva.

In the seminaries, I was allowed to read even ‘forbidden books.’ That was a privilege granted to me as I had already become known as a Christian writer among the staff and students, 800 of them. I was made the secretary of the literary association.

I used to take notes from books I was reading. The collection of notes swelled to 20 volumes of 200-page notebooks.

I have a library. It has 1,500 titles.

The writing made my thinking and feeling alive. Reading makes 40 per cent of what I am now and writing makes the rest. My hard work pays off.


New River Free Press International:

What was your vision of

society that brought you

to the work you do?


JK I am dreaming of a society wherein individuals enjoy their freedom and they fulfill, out of inner conviction, their social commitments, wherein all human beings are equal before the law of the land. If humans are equal before God, why should they be otherwise before the religions and societies? Money and power should not segregate the people. But money power compartmentalizes people even today. I knew caste system existed in the societies of the world. Now I realize it exists even among the writing tribe.

Hope for an egalitarian society is only a dream. It is utopian. It would never happen. But still worthy of pursuing. I should try my best. I am doing this through my lectures and writings. I think good literature is a rallying point for all men of goodwill. Reading a good story or a novel will relieve one from stress and strain, soothe the mind and soften the heart, enhance the spirit and body.


New River Free Press International:

What do you think we

should remember as we remake

the world through the work we do?


JK Thaan Paathi, Deivam Paathi. You do the 50 per cent, God does the 50 per cent.

You work. It is God’s to bring your work into fruition. Never despair. You are a gooseberry in His palm. He will do His part.


Manava dharma (human duty) and paura dharma (civic duty) are not taught in the schools.

Mahatma Gandhi wrote: “The earth has enough to meet every one’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

Years later, the late K. R. Narayanan, former Indian president, a true Gandhian, in his memorable Indian Republic Day in 2000, deplored that, “The unabashed vulgar indulgence in conspicuous consumption by the nouveau riche has left the underclass seething in frustration. One half of our society guzzles aerated beverages, while the other has to make do with palmfuls of muddied water.”

I can light a lamp. It will shed light around one kilometer radius on my neighbors, bazaar, school, religious shrines. I should not look for reaching London and New York. There are people there to light their lamps.

Drops become ocean.


New River Free Press International:

Has your vision changed

as you have participated

in the remaking of the world?


JK I am a rolling stone in a stream. It doesn’t get stuck with anyone and anywhere for a long time. My perception--dream of kingdom of God on earth, Ramraj, similar to the early Christian community--remains the same but the reaction changes as I am moving through different phases in my personal and social life as well, towards the bottom of the ocean.


New River Free Press International:

What challenges do you

perceive in achieving your

vision of society?


JK I do not find any ‘challenges’ from any quarters of life, for the so-called ‘challenges’ have become part-and-parcel of day-to-day life.


I want to get a driver's license or get it renewed. Pay the broker what he asks for. Within a couple of days he brings it to me. (Oh, God, no test!!) I thoroughly learn driving, I will never pass the test. Go through driving school, sit at home. I get my license.

I want to pay my property tax. Pay the agent what he asks for. Within a couple of days he brings me the original receipt for the payment. Otherwise, the officer will make me walk 20 times to his office

I want my Katha–the original document for the ownership of the land I purchased. I have already greased the officials for the registration. So I need not pay anything. Nevertheless, I shell out a couple of thousands. Otherwise I never get the Katha.

Recently, I bought a bike--75 cc. I saw the clerk inserting 100 ruppee bill in every file meant for the Regional Transportation Officer’s office for registration. I asked him why? He answered, “The officer concerned will sign the document the moment he sees the rupee bill.”

In India, you never get anything done in government departments without bribing. One has to grease palms of the officials.

What about the situation in private sector?

I take my gaddy (motor bike) for repair to an authorized garage. The mechanics repair it and I pay them good sum. Then I find that several parts are missing and the bike does not even start. Return it to them. They repair again free. It will run for a day. Then you sit and repair it yourself!!

“Uncle, these sardines are fresh but costly!” I am not an expert. I trust him.

“Okay.” I buy two kilo fish. Take it home. I cook a few. I find them rotten! I throw the rest out.

I go to the supermarket. I find variety. Why should I have 20 varieties of soap, paste, oil, etcetera, etcetera? Each item claims to be the best in the world. I am confused and cheated by the media and the advertisements. In 1970, I bought original Jawa (Yezdi) for Rs. 3,500. In 1975, I sold it for Rs. 4,000. In 2000, I bought a Kinetic Honda for Rs. 30,000. It is now in my store. It will not bring even Rs. 2,000.

The competition does not guarantee the quality of the product. Multinationals and corporates have no conscience. They eye only on the profit and the greed of the people.

In like manner, I can narrate a number of incidents. So any soap, oil, and any pickle is okay with me.

No challenges.


New River Free Press International:

What needs to be done

to overcome these challenges?

JK Re-create, re-educate, and re-structure oneself and others to be happy and content with what is necessary for existence. One needs roti, kappada, and makhan--bread, dress, and shelter. Why should one need storehouses to keep bread, umpteen number of dresses, several houses all over the world?

There is no end for human greed.

Capitalism exploits human greed.

Communism adulterates human greed.

Socialism contains human greed to a great extent.


New River Free Press International:

What personal lessons

have you learned from the

devastation caused by

the Asian Tsunami?



Ocean womb of holy Mother Earth

Thou art our eternal source wealth

Of food for us there is no dearth

Thou art sometimes
Sita, sometimes Kali

Burnt and burst, beneath, thou art

[Verse by J. Kaval. Copyright 2005 J. Kaaval]

We should respect nature, God’s handiwork. Man should not meddle with it, never exploit it. She suffers from someone’s hands, she may react with other means.

In war, we are made enemies, natural disasters will make us brothers and sisters, members of same family.


New River Free Press International:

What personal lessons have

you learned from the

post-Hurricane Katrina

tragedies in New Orleans?


JK I feel the Bush Administration could have contained the damage, could have arrested the advance of Katrina had he paid more attention to his people’s welfare instead of policing the world's affairs and building towers of Babylon.

Let us look at it spiritually. Remember the story of Noah and the deluge. What’s the core of the story? God has given us enough carrot for our need, not enough for our greed. If we become crazy he will use the stick. Katrina may be another warning from God through nature to the people of U. S: Mend your ways. Take U turn to become pilgrims on earth.

Additional Communications:

Joseph Kaval Mourns

His Dog, Rex,

A Doberman Mix

September 21, 2005 11:19:26 AM PDT
To: Michael Daniels

. . . My watchdog, Doberman mix, Rex, of 10 years, a class boy, is seriously sick. I can’t take him to the hospital. No doctors nearby. My wife is gone to native place--Trichur. You may imagine my anguish and agony. . . .

Joseph Kaval

September 21, 2005 11:56:48 AM PDT
To: Joseph Kaval

. . . What is your dog's name. And what is meant by the term "a class boy"? That is an interesting term. . . .

Michael Chacko Daniels

September 21, 2005 11:41:17 PM PDT
To: Michael Daniels

Rex is the name of our dog. It is a mix of wolf and Doberman, three feet high and four feet long, red-brown, on the hands white patches, ferocious look, nine years old, calm and composed mood, majestic appearance.

He has been with us since 1996 when he was 1½- years old. I tried to get a puppy from him. No dog, male and female, will dare to approach him. I take him out twice in a day. All the street dogs will run away at his sight. At night he barks at every two hours. The whole village 2 km radius will hear him. He does not like motor vehicles horning or making sounds at night; he will be restive at the sound of crackers or gunshots at night.

He doesn’t like people on the street shouting at night. He will bark looking at the direction of the sound--a class boy. Like a class shot in volleyball, a class dance on the stage, class take-off and landing, etc.

Joseph Kaval

September 21, 2005 11:41:17 PM PDT
To: Michael Daniels

Rex breathed his last at 8 AM today, 22-09-2005. He died on my lap. Rex was sick for the last 2 days. Today morning at 8 AM, he stopped breathing. His head was on my lap. I saw him dying minute by minute. Whenever I called him he looked at me. At 7.50, I called him, that was the last. He raised his head and looked at me. His eyes were welled-up with tears. I cried in silence. He is gone ahead of me.

When I brought him home in 1996 (he was 1½-years old), there was no one at home--no wife, no son, no servant--When he left this home there was none at home, no wife, no son, no servant--he was a class boy!

Joseph Kaval

September 22, 2005 8:36:22 AM PDT
To: Joseph Kaval

I was saddened to hear the hear the news about your dog, Rex. He was very close to you and I am sorry for you.

Will you be getting a new dog?

Will it be a Doberman-wolf mix?

Why did you get that particular mix?

. . . My condolences.

Michael Chacko Daniels

September 23, 2005 3:19:48 AM PDT
To: Michael Daniels

Thanks for the good words.

The Dog Story:

Rex belonged to a doctor in Indira Nagar--a posh area of elders. Rex has been trained by the police. He did not learn very much only picked a few commands. Since he had in him traits of wolf he used to bark every two hours. Neighbors objected. The doctor handed him over to a shelter for the dogs.

Dr. Achuta Rao was the director then and was a friend of mine and he knew I was looking for a watchdog. Doctor immediately contacted me. I accepted him at the first sight. He was given all the vaccinations and brought to my farm house. He was 1½ years old. He was more than his age in size and outlook. He will not be friendly with all.

For two-three years he will take food only from me. I place the food. He goes and smells it and comes back and then smells my hand and goes and sits near the plate. I command: "eat." He then eats. While eating he does not like anyone near him. He will not urinate or excrete in the morning until I go and take him out.

I will never get one like him. I do not intend to have one like him. I am also getting old. . . .

Joseph Kaval

About the Editor: San Franciscan Michael Chacko Daniels, formerly a community worker and clown, and now a re-emerging writer and editor, grew up in Bombay. Books: Writers Workshop, Kolkata: Split in Two (1971, 2004), Anything Out of Place Is Dirt (1971, 2004), and That Damn Romantic Fool (1972, 2005). Read all about his Indian and American journey at He helped found the Jobs for Homeless Consortium in 1988 and was its executive director from 1995 till its closing in 2004.

All views expressed in the interview are those of the interviewee
and not those of the editor or this website.

  Interview Copyright 2005, Michael Chacko Daniels. All rights reserved.

Winners of Katha Kshetre
Short Story Contest 2005

P. S. Gifford, U. S., for 'Opening Night'
Suseela P. Ravi, Bangalore, for 'Matters of Life'
Doug Kelshaw, U. S., for 'Doctrines of Intimate'
Vandana Kumari Jens, New Delhi, for 'Revelation'
The winners will receive books worth $50.00.
Their stories will appear in Katha Kshetre, Vol. 7, No. 01, Jan-Feb-Mar 2007.
Want an electronic copy in MSWord?
Send E-mail request to J.Kaval: or
Panel of Judges:
Cheriyan Alexander, India
Dr. Joan P. West, U.  S.
Dr. Rob Parnell, Australia




PRIVACY STATEMENT: I always balk at the idea of registering, no matter where the location--on the street, indoors, or on the web. So I have designed this site
with no registration requirements.

DISCLAIMER ABOUT WEBSITE LINKS : When you visit or link to another site from Career Visions for a Small Planet or US-India Writing Station, you are no longer on the pages of Career Visions for a Small Planet or US-India Writing Station , even if the article written on the other website was authored by someone affiliated with, or mentioned on, US-India Writing Station or Career Visions for a Small Planet. The above Privacy Statement will not apply on these other websites. Be aware that when you link to another website, you are subject to the privacy policy of that new site.

This Interview Is Also Published On




Check out the May 2003 article on: 

Katha Kshetre, the Magazine

by Sophia Barkat

An Interview with the founder, Mr. Joseph Kaval  


______ * ______

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Anything Out of Place Is Dirt
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If not, please do and be sure to

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refer others to it, here's the URL:

Feel free to visit, and explore: Fiction, Poetry, Community Service, Homeless, Commentary, & Discussion On The Road To Remaking The World We Live In . . . San Francisco, Grand Rapids, Evanston, Bombay, Kerala, Oakland, Berkeley, Monterey, Bangalore, Calcutta . . .

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Posted on Monday, December 5, 2005 at 02:44PM by Registered CommenterMichael Chacko Daniels | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint