Sinha, Indra 1950-
SINHA, Indra 1950-
PERSONAL: Born 1950, in India; son of Bhagvati Prasad and Irene Elizabeth (Phare) Sinha; married Viktoria Jane Yvette, September 9, 1978; children: Tara, Dan, Samuel. Education: Mayo College, Ajmer, Rajasthan, India; Oakham School, Pembroke College, Cambridge, B.A. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, reading, cybertravel, folk music, butterflies.
CAREER: Author. The Creative Business, advertising copywriter, 1976-79; Ogilvy & Mather, advertising copywriter, 1980-83; Collett, Dickenson, Pearce & Partners, advertising copywriter, 1984-95. Worked for Amnesty International.
AWARDS, HONORS: Voted by his peers as one of the top ten copywriters in the United Kingdom.
(Translator) The Love Teachings of Kama Sutra: With Extracts from Koka shastra, Ananga ranga, and Other Famous Indian Works on Love, Crescent (New York, NY), 1980.
(Editor, and translator) The Great Book of Tantra: Translations and Images from the Classic Indian Texts with Commentary, Destiny (Rochester, VT), 1993.
The Cybergypsies: A True Tale of Lust, War, and Betrayal on the Electronic Frontier, Viking (New York, NY), 1999.
Tantra: The Cult of Ecstasy, Hamlyn (London, England), 2000.
SIDELIGHTS: Indra Sinha was one of England's top copywriters before turning to writing full time. He has worked for Amnesty International and wrote of the problems of the Kurds in the Middle East and the Bhopal chemical disaster. His The Love Teachings of Kama Sutra: With Extracts from Koka shastra, Ananga ranga, and Other Famous Indian Works on Love is a translation from the original Sanskrit and was the first such translation to be accompanied by erotic Indian miniatures. Sinha and his wife collected many of the paintings in India, obtaining them from shops and private collections.
In The Cybergypsies: A True Tale of Lust, War, and Betrayal on the Electronic Frontier, Sinha provides an account of his cyberaddiction, which began in the 1980s. Linton Weeks wrote in Washington Post Book World that the book "is a clever, inspired tale of the pre-World Wide Web days when folks communicated via bulletin boards, companies charged hourly access fees, and mad hackers roamed the phone lines . . . . With Sinha as participant/guide, we tour the spooky electronic underworld and the equally eerie real world. And we delve into the most complex network of all—the human imagination." As "Bear," Sinha frequented bulletin boards and MUDs (multiuser dungeons) for ten years. Hester Lacey wrote in the Independent on Sunday that for Sinha, the "real hook was in role-playing fantasy worlds so finely conceived that they seemed real. 'It was fascinating, almost like a therapy,' he says now. 'An actor in a workshop could try out lots of different roles. For a writer it's even more tantalizing—you're having to improvise the character. I invented lots of them. It was absolutely as real as my real life—there's no question about it. Once you're in it, it's as real as anything around you.'"
Sinha spent hours each day on sites like Vortex and Shades, where he created up to fifty roles. Characters with whom he communicated included witches, pornographers, virus writers, and people with atom bomb plans for sale. Booklist reviewer Benjamin Segedin wrote that "like Thomas de Quincey's classic Confessions of an English Opium Eater, Sinha's book reveals an exotic subculture." At one point, while commuting one hundred miles a day to London, he came home to spend most of the night at the keyboard. When Sinha could focus only on his cyberlife, his marriage was threatened, and the responsibility for the house and children fell to his wife. Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote in the New York Times Book Review that when Sinha "speaks plainly" about his addiction and how it distanced him from his family, "he tells an absorbing and strange story. But too often he writes an overeager prose that puts the reader off." The per-hour charges for Sinha's online time added up, and he wrote Cybergypsies, in part, to recover the fifty thousand pounds his addiction had cost. Sinha quit Shades and his job simultaneously, on his forty-fifth birthday, to concentrate on his writing.
"Narrated with wit and moments of literary flair in the nonlinear style of the Internet itself, this book amounts to a sort of architectural dig," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Time reviewer Anita Hamilton called Cybergypsies an "engaging memoir."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 1999, Benjamin Segedin, review of The Cybergypsies, p. 202.
Entertainment Weekly, August 20, 1999, p. 120.
Independent on Sunday, May 2, 1999, p. 4.
New York Times Book Review, September 26, 1999, p. 21.
Publishers Weekly, July 5, 1999, review of The Cybergypsies, p. 46.
Time, September 13, 1999, Anita Hamilton, review of The Cybergypsies, p. 77.
Washington Post Book World, August 29, 1999, p. 9.*