You wouldn’t believe me if I said that a historical fiction based on a Hindu lord, written by a person who graduated in mathematics, that too, rejected by every single Indian publisher, would top the best-seller charts, would you?
As strange as it sounds, such an incident did occur in 2010!
A book on religious philosophies with the author’s own take on religion, that too in plain lucid English, much to his surprise hit the best-seller charts in the first week of its launch. Such was his writing that the Indian youth, who once didn’t care to read anything mythical, have now become the greatest fans of his.
If you guessed it right, the author being talked of is none other than Amish Tripathi, whose debut novel, The Immortals of Meluha brought about quite a revolution in the literary world.
Amish, an MBA from IIM-C quit a 14 year financial career just for his love of writing. And at the Odisha literary festival, I had the chance to interact with him. His contagious smile, awesome sense of humor, calm disposition and super-friendly attitude, let me have the most amazing interviewing experience ever! And such was his commitment that he showed up at the event, even with a fractured arm!
Here’s how he replied to some questions put forth:
TBS: A boring banker turned happy author goes your self-description .But how much has your life changed since The immortals ?
AT: I am less bored and I am more happy. (He laughs).
I mean it’s a 180 degree change. In my banking life I would go to work every morning, I was used to coffee hazed meetings, glass walled cabins. But now office is at home, I have turned one of my rooms into an office, I can just step out for lunch ,I can play with my kid whenever I want to…(he pauses).. At a personal level it’s a completely different life. More importantly the sense of meaning that I derive from my work is a lot more. I absolutely love writing. I can’t say that my job in insurance was as passionate. It’s not that I woke up in the morning and said that Yayyy I am going to make some insurance products today, it wasn’t that exciting as life is right now. So, it’s a blessing, God’s been very kind.
TBS: You suddenly let go of a 14 year financial career to become an author, which was quite a risk. Who or what motivated you or inspired you to do so?
AT: Firstly, Lord Shiva inspired me to write the book. The first two books were written along with my job ,I hadn’t resigned. I don’t really come from a privileged background, hail from a middle class family .So I can’t be irresponsible. Say, mere biwi bacche bhookhe marenge because I am discovering myself. That’s utterly irresponsible. By the time, my books started doing well, my wife and my elder brother told me that my royalty checks were becoming more than my salary, so now it wouldn’t be irresponsible to do this full time. So it was more of their encouragement.
TBS: Before the publication of your novel, did you have any apprehensions that mythology wouldn’t interest readers?
AT: Forget about readers, I didn’t think it wouldn’t interest publishers. It was rejected by every publisher. Most of them said that it’s a religious topic, nobody would read it.
TBS: You choose mythology as your genre but why just Lord Shiva?
AT: See, the book began as a pure philosophical thesis to explain what is evil, which got converted into a story to convey that philosophy. Now, if I have to write a story to convey a philosophy on evil, then who better a hero than the destroyer of evil himself. It’s kind of natural that he would be relevant…(he pauses).
Even as a character Lord Shiva was a very exciting character, he’s fun, he’s very passionately in love with his wife, he’s a fierce warrior, he’s a brilliant dancer, so he makes for a very exciting, very interesting character. I guess which is why he became a natural choice.
TBS: The attention to details in your descriptions are fascinating, the symbols, the architecture, the picturesque environment .Is it that you like working in such an environment? What is you work environment like?
AT: It depends, some part of the third book at Banaras, I had hired a place at BHU and wrote it out there…Some parts, I wrote in Singapore, I spent some 3-4 weeks, used to go to some cafe, and wrote it there. Some parts I wrote in my office itself.I will just say jahan pe bhagwan Shiv hain wahan pe main likh sakta hoon. You just have to be in the right frame of mind, that’s it.
TBS: There are remarkable similarities in your descriptions with the ancient Aryan, Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa civilizations. Is your inclination towards once being a historian is the reason of such composition in your books?
AT: Yes, most of the historical things you will find in the book are close to being historically accurate. Their interpretation, like the flow of Saraswati for example, the way of description of the cities, it’s the way the cities were. I am deeply passionate about history from a very young age but I didn’t choose to become a historian. Like I said I come from a middle class family, and being a historian isn’t really a good career option..leave alone good it’s a stupid career option. I did the practical thing by doing an MBA and joining banking, but I was deeply passionate about history and kept reading history books. So all that knowledge, was there somewhere in the back of my mind and it emerged while writing.
TBS: When is the Oath of Vayuputras coming up?
AT: At the end this year, Inshallah!
TBS: What next after the trilogy?
AT: I have various other book ideas, like my interpretation of Ramayan,my interpretation of Mahabharat,story on Lord Manu, story on Lord Rudra,story on emperor Akbar. These would be fictions which would be interpretations of history and myths.
TBS: So you would stick to the mythological genre rather than switching genres?
AT: I guess most of my knowledge; my passion is in that area. Naturally the books will emerge from there. Also I am not really sure that I can write books on my college days. It’s not that my college days were that exciting that anyone would want to read about them. I don’t have much experience with love stories (he giggles), I have been with one woman since I was seventeen years old, which would also be a boring story I am sure.(laughs)
TBS: How would you describe the skill of creative writing? Pure genetics, imbibed or as a cultivated one?
AT: Let me paraphrase Shakespeare ~ some people are born good writers, some people achieve being a good writer, some people have good writing thrust upon them!
TBS: Where do you stand a midst these categories?
AT: I had a thrust upon me. I don’t know if I am a good writer, but I didn’t plan on being a writer, I didn’t choose it. I think writing chose me! I never planned on being a writer, honestly.
TBS: Do you think your MBA at an IIM was an upper hand at your marketing skills?
AT: Certainly, certainly, my MBA and my work experience really helped me in marketing, no doubt in that. But I can’t say if it helped in writing because the IIMs don’t have a creative writing course. I believe good marketing is important, because it doesn’t sell itself. It has to be marketed
TBS: Lastly, do you want to give any tips for budding writers like, where they go wrong and what should they actually do?
AT: If they stick to what they think is the right thing to do, then they can do it. It doesn’t matter if someone else buys it or not. You shouldn’t be attached to what others think of your work. So, what I tell them is be true to yourself. If you have heard about Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor, more importantly a brilliant philosopher of the stoic school of philosophy. He said this wonderful philosophy that It’s obvious that men love themselves more than they love other men, and yet as isn’t it strange that they are bothered about the opinion that others have, rather than what they think of themselves, correct? So, he’s absolutely spot on. Do be bothered about what you think of yourself. That’s what an author should be bothered about. Someone else buys it or doesn’t buy it doesn’t matter. If you are happy with it, then you are a good writer!
The interview concluded, not without leaving a profound effect on me and some onlookers there.
There are some other things in Amish’s writing that have a subliminal effect on any individual. I don’t know whether you have noticed it or not, his name on the covers of his novels is mentioned just as Amish and not Amish Tripathi as he is against the caste system .Amish in fact, doesn’t just write, he aims to incorporate a social message in each of his writings.
Interviewed by: Swagata Misra.
Swagata is a Staff Writer with the Broken Scooter. Despite being the topper in her batch and complete with a placement offer from Infosys Technologies, it was very gracious of her to hang out with us and volunteer for us. Doesn’t that make us A-W-E-S-O-M-E? 😀