An IIM Calcutta graduate, an ex-banker, a voracious reader, a history lover, a Shiva bhakt - Amish (Tripathi) rose to fame on literary firmament through his brilliant Shiva Trilogy. He shares his experience of feeling the blessing of Lord Shiva while progressing on the journey of storytelling as he stays clear of the arrogance of being a creator and approaches it with the humility of a witness.
1. How is life high up there?
Life is good, God is kind. I am a full time author now. I am getting more time for writing. I am working harder than I did in my banking days, but I’m enjoying it.
2. What has this experience taught you? Do you think like a seasoned author now?
I don't think I'd ever be a seasoned author; it is for others to judge. I am enjoying the life. I get to make a living out of something that I love to do - writing.
3. How did the plot originate?
It all began as a pure philosophical discussion while I was watching a TV program with my family. In the program it was shown that in ancient Persia, Gods were known as Ahuras and Demons were called Daevas, contrary to what Indian mythology is based on. Obviously, if the ancient Persians and the ancient Indians had met, they may have called each other evil, because one person's God was another person's Demon.
While having a discussion over this topic, the first obvious question arose - 'Who is right?' - Both? Neither? The answer is neither is evil. It is just that the thinking is different. This then led to other questions - 'What is evil?' and 'How to identify the evil?' This triggered the idea to write on the philosophy of evil. But later, following the suggestions of my brother and sister-in-law, I transformed the philosophical writing into an adventure, a thriller. The hope was that along with an engaging story, I may be able to better communicate the philosophy as compared to a pure philosophy treatise which may be boring for many.
4. Are you satisfied with your creation or would you want to change anything in the story or its narration?
No honestly there are many things that I could have improved upon but I gave it my best shot. I have no qualms in accepting that the portions which are satisfying for readers are the ones which are blessed by Lord Shiva and the ones which are not up to the mark are due to my inability to do justice to that blessing.
5. Who are your role models - the authors (Indian and foreign authors)
I don't really look at any role models. I read because I like to read, more non-fiction. I am a voracious reader so it is difficult to list favourite authors. I simply enjoy reading and am not searching for role models.
6. How important is language vs plot for you?
It varies from person to person. Some authors are more focused on language, some are driven more by the story and some by the philosophy. I am driven by the philosophy and for me, story and language are mediums to convey that philosophy. I wanted to write on the theory of evil and who better to be the hero than the destroyer of evil Himself - the Mahadev, Lord Shiva.
7. Is there any deliberate attempt on your part to woo western audience by creating irreverence for God in your books?
First of all, there is no attempt to show any irreverence to God in my books. I am a staunch Lord Shiva devotee. I have not written for any audience - Indian or Western. I have written the story for myself. I believe, there are two ways to look at God - one is through fear and the other through love. I don’t say approaching God through fear is wrong but I do it through love and that is what I have tried to convey through my story.
8. You were able to create some of the frenzy that we have only seen for books like Harry Potter etc. What do you think was the reason for that?
Lord Shiva's blessing, undoubtedly.
9. There is a big contrast between your past corporate life and present mythology driven writing world, how do you see this transition?
There is a massive difference between the corporate life and my present life. I would say the corporate life was much more structured. Now I have to define my own structure so I have much more time to do things - travelling, reading and spending time with family. I am leading a far better life now.
10. How are you managing your time now - publicity commitments, interviews, talks on your books, your next piece?
I work in two phases - marketing and writing. I have been in marketing phase for 'Oath of Vayuputras' until now but I am pulling back from there to the writing phase now.
11. We as Indians are probably most religious, but are also most dishonest, corrupt and amoral. How do these two things coexist?
I don’t think we Indians are horribly dishonest. I just feel that we are a society in transition which may appear corrupt from one perspective but may not be so from another perspective. We are transitioning from a community driven, rural, agrarian society to an urban, anonymous and rules driven society. What may not appear corrupt in a rural agrarian society may appear so in an urban anonymous society.
12. Some people have natural flare for writing, in your opinion how much of this skill is acquired and how much is it a derivative of the basic nature of an individual?
I believe that every skill can be learnt. But there are two parts to it:
The 'What' part - the idea/philosophy that you want to convey. This is not in the hands of the author. He doesn't control it. It's a blessing. Some authors call it the product of their muse, some call it the generosity of a superior force. In my case, I call it the blessing of Lord Shiva.
The 'How' part - which can be learnt, the words, the phrases and the language that are used to give form to the 'what' part. The mode of conveying the idea can certainly be polished and refined. This is certainly in the hands of the author and regular practice will help him improve.
I think, specifically for fiction writing, no author can be so arrogant to claim that everything is a result of his genius/creativity. Because if that were so, we wouldn't have cases of writer's block.