1.First of all, congratulations on the completion of a successful year of ‘Asura’. So many accolades for your debut novel and then the release of the hardback edition of it earlier this year. How does it feel?
It is a dream come true to any author. When I was toiling for 6 years and was doubting about my skills about telling a good story over the pile of rejection letters I used to get, in my wildest imaginations, I had not thought about a success like this.
2.Tell us something about your upcoming novel ‘Ajaya’.
Ajaya again is about the power of perspective. What if the defeated have a story to tell. Ajaya looks Mahabharata from the view point of Kauravas and especially the Crown Prince Suydohana (damned as Duryodhana in popular telling) who was cheated out of his inheritance.
3.First Ravana and now the Kaurava’s side of story to the Mahabharata, both of which are perceived as evil. How challenging had it been for you to portray both Ravana and the Kauravas in a neutral light?
I believe it is possible only in India and only with the Hindu mythologies because of the open mindedness of Indians. It is not easy to write something that goes against the popular beliefs that have been held dear for the past three or four thousand years. The logic has to be compelling and the research meticulous. I may have shortcomings as a writer, but I hope no one would accuse me of not working hard and putting my heart into my writing.
4.I have read in one of your interviews that during your research for ‘Asura’ , you came across several versions/variations of the Ramayana. Was the experience similar in case of ‘Ajaya’ too?
The great epics of India are living epics. They are not canonical religious texts. They evolve with times and places. Since there is no organized religious bodies in Hinduism that says what should be followed and what should be said and what not, our culture has evolved with myriad hues and views. That is why the appeal of the epics transcends religious and linguistic differences in our country and most of Asia. This might be the only religion where I can be a fan of the so called evil characters of our epics and still be a Hindu. There are so many traditions and tales that add to the rich tapestry of our culture. The kind of variety in Ramayana and Mahabharata that I have come across while doing my research for Asura and Ajaya can itself become many volumes of books.
5.The cover page of ‘Ajaya’ says ‘Book 1’. So will the story unfold in a series of sequels?
The first book is Roll of the dice and the second and last one in the series will be called Rise of Kali.
6. What do you feel–did the Indian mythological stories really happened or are they mere fables?
Why should it matter? A good story is more real than any facts. The term mythology itself is misleading. Ramayana and Mahabharata are ithihasas for which there is no equivalent English word. For Indians they are history. That is how we have chosen to say history. That may be different from the western way of telling it. That should not bother us. Just like Indian classical music is different from the western one, our way of telling history is different. If what is told in history is all truth, then our way of telling history also contains many truths. We all know that history is written by the victors, whether it is in western way of telling it or Indian way of expounding it through stories, Our epics have as much truth as any history taught about in our schools. Nothing more and nothing less.
7.Other than Indian mythology, are you interested in foreign mythologies like Greek or Chinese mythologies?
A story is real, whether they are Indian or otherwise. However, my writing is deeply moored to my growing up and culture. I do not write for the sake of becoming famous, though I won’t complain if I become so in the process. Greek and Chinese mythologies may be having great meaning for their culture or like good stories, for humanity as a whole. I have no knowledge about them, other than peripheral acquaintance. When I write, I am not appealing to the western mind, nor I am looking at a western market. My writing is about our culture and our people. If it finds an appeal with western audience, they are welcome. If it does not, it does not matter.
8.Did you always wanted to become a writer?
My sister Chandrika is an astrologer. If you have read my books, you may be knowing that I am very critical of superstitions and try to bring rationality to thoughts. I am an Engineer by training and work in a public sector for a living. When I had started my research for my book Asura, she had predicted that if I am able to complete it, it would be a great success. I laughed at the idea. Those were the days when books got sold if it had the name of great authors like Amitav Ghosh or Arundhathi Roy, because of their talent in writing or they got sold if it had names like Chetan Bhagat written on it, for his deep understanding of what average reader wants and deliver it, packed in off the cuff humour. This was much before Shiva Trilogy had come to the market and changed the game. So, the idea of any one wanting to read about a few Asuras who may have been dead at least three thousand years ago in itself was preposterous. Even now, I do not admit to my sister about her prediction, but I think may be subconsciously, that prediction might have encouraged me to toil on in my writing and research when there was no possibility of it getting even published.
9.Who do you feel is your greatest critic?
My wife Aparna. Behind every man who is even moderately successful, there is a woman who keeps telling him you are not, at least not yet.
10.With ‘Asura’ you have acquired quite a fan following. Would you like to give a message to them?
Without your support, encouragement and criticism, I would not have had the courage to come up with another book within an year.
Asura is in the crossword popular award final list of five. The competition is tough, with big names of Industry like Amish, Aswhin Sanghi, Ravi Subramanian and Anuja Chauhan in the list. I request all of you to give the vanquished a chance. Please vote for Asura and please post the same in your blog/ fb/ twitter by spreading the message. Here is the link: http://goo.gl/nVkgS6
Guys, if you enjoyed ‘Asura’, do vote for it. And I wish the author all the very best for his upcoming novel ‘Ajaya’. I would also like to thank the author for taking out time to answer my questions.