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Everything isn't hunky-dory in India, yet I'm optimistic: AmishIndia Blooms News Service
Tell us a bit about your connection with the Tata Lit Live fest which is going to start in Mumbai.
Well, I had attended the first Tata Lit Live fest, in fact I have attended most of them, so I have seen it grow from a very small beginning to the festival it is today. It is one of the biggest lit festivals in the country. There are many lit fests in India today, but frankly only eight or nine of them can be called big, where you have a large audience participation, large author participation and Tata Lit Live is certainly one among them.
The last time we spoke, you said you have enough material to last 20-25 years but there was no mention about anything non-fictional. By announcing your next book as a non-fiction, did you just increase that storage by a couple of years more?
(Laughs) No, no, my non-fiction book will run parallelly, it does not end up taking as much time, whereas writing a fiction takes time. I also say that all my books begin with a pure philosophy, and I communicate many of my philosophies and thoughts through articles and speeches as well, so there is a plan to write various non-fiction books. It will not extend my time at all.
What's the non-fiction book about?
This will essentially be on all my articles and speeches.
What compelled 'India's first literary pop star' to venture into the non-fiction genre? Is it a move to avoid typecast?
See, there are various thoughts that I develop and even my fiction books are driven around philosophies and concepts that are at the heart of it. So, Shiva Trilogy for example had various concepts that we discussed, like women rights, the caste system and various such issues, which has a relevance to the modern world. You can say that my fiction books are stories that are wrapped around philosophies that I want to communicate, my non-fiction books are the philosophies and concepts directly. My non fiction book also emerged naturally from the way my fiction books are.
Since you decode mythology, do you by any chance watch the existing TV soaps based on the same?
Honestly, I haven't seen too many of them. I have seen 'Devon ki Dev Mahadev' and I liked it, but it's over now regrettably. I liked what they had done. I really liked the actor (Mohit Raina) playing lord Shiva. I feel Shiv ji has blessed him.
If approached, would you write screenplays for soaps/movies? What happened to the IOM (Meluha) movie?
I'm not so sure, because at times I am busy with the books I'm writing. That's where more of my credential is. I don't know honestly if I'll have the time to take up script writing for a television series.
There are discussions that are on...let's see. I guess it'll happen when it's meant to happen.
So you are not giving us anything concrete, some more details perhaps...
No, at this point of time it'll be difficult to say...to give out anything concrete.
Is Karan Johar's offer still on?
No, I guess that is on hold for now.
What interests you apart from mythology?
I read a lot. I read from various genres...science, spirituality, mythology, economics, politics, sociology...mainly I read non-fiction. I love listening to music, I love travelling a lot, my wife and son also love to travel...so, we travel a great deal. And, I love to spend time with my family.
Many authors have spoken about the hardship they face to get their first book published. What's your story? How many people looked at the Immortals of Meluha manuscript and called you crazy?
In fact my first book (The Immortals of Meluha) was rejected by every publisher I had sent to. I actually self-published my book. They said 'look this is based on a religious theme' and according to them religious books will not sell, because, the main market, which comprises of the youth, were not into the religious subject. I did not change any part from the book, I just self published it. later it was transferred to Westland (the publisher of his books).
Do you miss your banking job at times?
(laughs) No, no, not at all. I get to do what I love to do and I actually get paid more money for it then I did as a banker. But honestly, I don't regret my banking job. It was a good job, it paid the bills, but obviously I enjoy my second life a lot more.
Tell us a bit about your writing process. Since you work with so many characters at once, how do you keep track? Do you use a spreadsheet?
I am an instinctive writer. I discover the story while writing as much the readers, who discover the story while reading. So, I just follow the story, I don't control it at all. That's the way I write. I try not to be too complicated. Let's say for example, the Shiva Trilogy is connected to the Ramchandra Series, but somehow the connections gets established in my mind, so, I don't make spreadsheets and all that, I don't do that. I cannot just explain it. I just open my laptop and there is this parallel universe which just opens up. I believe it is Lord Shiva's blessings.
Are you a party animal? What will I come across if I ever get invited to Amish's party?
Yeah, yeah, of course I party. I am a Shaivite yaar, and we Shaivites party man.
Most of my party is with family and close friends and someone had wisely said that your close friends are someone with whom you don't have to think twice about what you are saying, you can be completely relaxed. So we sing at our parties, we chat...many of my friends are also Shaivites.
What was your reaction when you heard Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize for literature?
I am biased, because I'm a huge Bob Dylan fan, but I know there are some people who had concerns...I was very happy. I think he's one of the finest singers we have had, finest thinker we have had.
Do you reckon the Nobel Prize for Literature just lost its exclusivity?
See, this concept of literature or science being elitist is a relatively new Western concept...In the ancient world, even in ancient India, the greatest pieces of literature (the epics) were for the masses, it goes for everyone. I'm not a fan of this elitist project...I'm a Shaivite and we are naturally anti-elitist. There are some books which are elitist which are actually of very low quality and vice versa. The only true judge of the quality of a book is time. What critics or the award committees or even the public think about it is irrelevant in my mind. If a book is alive even a hundred years later, it's a high quality book.
Coming to the Ram Chandra Series, you speak about 'Ram Rajya' and what it means, which is quite contrasting to what's happening in the country right now. What according to you is ailing the nation today?
I think India passed through many crisis over the last few centuries, but primarily among them were the lack of confidence and internal divisions...which is what led us to this state. Having said that, I'm actually an optimist today. I believe that post 1991, post economic reforms, India is rediscovering its ancient self confidence, we are rediscovering success once again. This is like the 'churning of the ocean', Samudra Manthan'. When that happens, a bit of poison is bound to come out, but you'll get the Amrit (Elixir) as the end result. So, any process of change will have some negative consequences, but I believe India is moving in the right direction.
So, are you saying that you're happy with what you're witnessing now?
I am happy with what I have witnessed in the last 25 years...I am not saying that everything is perfect, of course not, but, many things have improved. Poverty has reduced drastically and that is something we don't really celebrate enough. I am 42 years old and I am old enough to remember how poor our country was...I have experienced it. Everything is not hunky-dory yaar, but we have managed to pull around 115 million people out of poverty in the last two and half decades and that is such a huge number.
Fav Book: (After thinking for a while) Mahabharata
Fav Author: Ved Vyas
Fav Movie: Sholay
Fav Dialogue/Quote: The true opposite of love is not hatred, it's apathy
A job you'll never take: I'll never be a politician. It's the toughest job in the country today.
A job cut out for you: Writer (laughs).
Comfort food: Dal Khichdi
One thing you would like to change about yourself: I've put on a bit of weight again, so I need to lose that.
A book you wish you had written: I never think that way. If there's a book I love while reading, well. I just respect that book.
A subject you'll never write about: I don't know. I don't think there's any subject I'll not write about. If I get some thought, I'll write on it