31
Aug

“Shiva is the most appealing God for the modern man.”

By Shana Susan Ninan

Amish Tripathi, author of The Immortals Of Meluha, is a lover of history and historical books. His other job – the bread-wining one – is as the National Head for Marketing and Product Management, IDBI Fortis Life Insurance. His debut novel was an instant hit and is a national bestseller now. This bubbly author speaks:

How does it feel to have just published your debut novel?

Shocked and surprised! I’d never written anything in my life. Except a try at poetry that was universally disliked by the few who read it. I was more into sports and singing in school and college. The only ‘creative’ thing I did was when I was the singer for our band, Baro C, in IIM-C. The English band was called Joka Bandstand, after one of the bus-stops near our Institute. Ours was called Baro C, after the bus plying on that route.

How did The Immortals Of Meluha take shape?

There’s an interesting story on how The Immortals Of Meluha came to be.

I was once watching TV with my family. And we discovered an interesting fact. We of course know that for Indians, gods are called devas and demons are called asuras. However, according to ancient Persians, the word ‘ahura’ means god and ‘daeva’ means demon, which is absolutely the opposite of that believed in Hindu mythology. This sparked an interesting debate – if the ancient Persians and Indians met, they would call each other evil. I thought about who would be right. Both of them? Neither?

And then it struck me that we often confuse someone who’s radically different from us as evil. However, that doesn’t mean that evil doesn’t exist. It does exist; it rises again and again and we need to destroy it over and over again.

I first wrote it as a long philosophy book. But my brother and sister-in-law advised me on how to make it commercially viable. They told me to write a story and let the philosophy flow in.

And the actual writing, how did you take that on?

(laughs) Well, you won’t believe me. An MBA that I am, I created an Excel file, replete with a timeline, plans for characters and summaries of each chapter. I hoped to flesh out the characters in the first three months; the next six months for the summaries; and later to expand to the novel. I even read books and articles on “how to write” and “how to be an author”! Writing like this turned out to be completely disastrous. Totally disjointed pieces of work. I was struggling.

Seeing my misery, my wife shared an idea. She told me, “You’re not the creator of this story. You are only a witness. The story already exists in another world. You’ve been given the privilege to watch it. Enter their world, watch it, and write it down, but don’t try to control it.” Writing as a ‘witness’ benefited me – the story flowed and the characters evolved. Sometimes I felt that certain characters’ fates were too extreme, but I didn’t interfere. I let them live it out into the story. This also gave rise to many thoughts and ideas for the book and for future books.

So, I guess after the Shiva trilogy, you’ll be writing on other themes and individuals?

Oh yeah! I’ll be writing more books. On an ancient middle eastern empire, on Mahabharata, on Ramayana, on Akbar.

You’ve grown up listening to mythological and historical legends. Did that make your job of writing your first novel easier?

I’ve grown up in a religious family. Both my parents are very religious. My wife, too, is a religious person. My grandfather was a pandit, besides being the HOD of the Math dept in BHU. So I have heard a lot of myths and stories about our religion all my life. But my family was also a liberal one. So we never hear nonsense like one religion is better than another.

I personally was a non-believer till about five years ago. So I heard many of these myths as stories and philosophies rather than gospel. But today, primarily because of the experience of writing my book, I am a very devoted Shiva bhakt. I have also discovered faith in Gods of other religions as well. So, just like my father, in my Puja room, I have pictures of Jesus Christ, the Kabba, Zarathustra and many other Gods of other religions besides idols of Lord Shiva and other Hindu Gods.

So this book is a turning point in your life, then?

Yes certainly. I’m a dedicated Shiva bhakt now. I wear an Om Nama Shivaiy kada; I carry a picture of Lord Shiva in my pocket. Now I’ve learnt that, as my father used to say, every religion has beauty and ugliness. It’s up to us to see which of the two we want. Think of fire – it has the capacity to give light and comfort as well as to burn and chafe. It’s not the fault of the fire. It depends on how humans use it.

I’m doing the same things I did earlier, but I’ve found a balance in life. My faith has made me much calmer.

And the research for your book?

No specific research. But you could say that I’ve been researching for the last 25 years. I’m a voracious reader. I love history. If it’d paid well, I’d have been an historian.

Why Lord Shiva, and not any other God?

The story is about evil. So, who better than the destroyer of evil to be the protagonist of my book.

Also, I think only Lord Shiva could have made a non-believer such as me to turn to God.  As a God, Lord Shiva is extremely appealing to the modern man. He’s down-to-earth, and more like an indulgent elder brother.

And most importantly, I love His liberal attitude to life. For example, we see that in ancient Hindu mythology and most other religions, the inferior status of the woman is made very clear. It doesn’t matter even if she’s a Goddess. Most often we find Goddesses sitting lower than their consorts, or even at their feet. But Lord Shiva is different. He treats lady Parvati as His equal – She sits alongside Him, shoulder to shoulder, with their children usually on His lap. He gives lady Parvati the right to question Him; and She often does things that go against what Lord Shiva says or believes in. But still He doesn’t punish Her – in fact, He continues to love Her almost obsessively. He’s the ultimate modern God.

Did you have any audience in mind when you wrote the book?

No, I didn’t. I wrote the book the way it came to me. But once it was released, it was amazing to see people of various ages and backgrounds writing to me about their experience of reading my book. I had a 12-year-old boy writing to me about how cool a dude Shiva is. Another teenager said, “Shiva is that rare God who is awe-inspiring and at the same time like an indulgent elder brother.”

So how did you market the book?

I finished up the book first and did not let any thoughts on what will work in the market interfere at that time. Once the book was ready, I put on the marketing hat and took it from there. My wife’s idea to give the first chapter of the book as a free booklet worked well. Pre-release, we gave away such booklets at Crossword, Landmark and Odyssey outlets, and soon, people flocked to buy the book. So the shopkeepers had a huge list of people wanting to buy the book even before it was released!

Then there was the You Tube trailer film. The idea was my close friend Abhijeet’s. It was directed by adfilm maker Atul Manjrekar, and the music was made by Taufiq Qureshi. That worked well as a marketing idea.

We had many PR events, too. One I enjoyed a lot was held two and a half months ago, at Vashi, in Mumbai. We had invited children under 18 to come and share the stage with me. Five children were chosen; they read out parts of the book and I’d ask them some questions. The PR events gave the book its initial push.

Did you ever feel that the average Indian reader might be stunned to read about a very flesh-and-blood type of Lord Shiva?

Hinduism has a history of liberalism. There’s no concept of heresy here. Also, I don’t believe that I have created a new genre or something, but wrote about something that’s already there. In Hinduism, there are four concepts of Gods: Nirgun nirakar Gods – Gods without form (similar to the Semitic concept of God); Akaar Gods – Gods with forms, such as Lord Vishnu or Lord Brahma; Avatar Gods – Gods that take the form of a human on Earth, like Lord Ram and Lord Krishna. And then there are humans who become Gods. Lord Buddha is a classic example. So the concept of a human discovering the God within already exists.

Do you believe that each one of us is actually a Mahadev?

Of course, yes. All human beings have a God within which we can discover through our Karma. We don’t need to wait for some supreme power to come and help us. The supreme power already exists within us. All we have to do is bring that power out and we will discover peace.

Will this story appeal to non-Indians as well?

Of course, Shiv bhakts all over the world comprise Indians, South East Asians and even foreigners. A Parsi lady wrote me about how much she followed and worshipped Shiva. She calls him “the dude of all Gods.”

There are foreigners ordering The Immortals of Meluha online. We plan to publish in a few select countries abroad soon.

Social networking sites are totally giving a platform for authors to launch and promote their works.

Social marketing and E-books have democratised the world. Twitter and Facebook have allowed authors to reach out to potential readers at zero cost. All you have to do is be yourself and hope that people like who you are!

In fact, there is an interesting story about the power of social networking sites. After reading our free first chapter, someone created a Facebook account in the name of the book, and about 150 members soon joined it within a week. I came to know about it only after the book, when I was invited to join it! It just shows how much tools like Facebook have changed the world, allowing people with common tastes to come together and create a community, regardless of distances.

And, the second in the trilogy, when can we expect it?

It will be out by mid-2011

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Rating: 9.2/10 (12 votes cast)
“Shiva is the most appealing God for the modern man.”, 9.2 out of 10 based on 12 ratings

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 31st, 2010 at 9:12 pm and is filed under Historical Fiction, Interview, Mythological Fiction. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

comments

6
  1. September 1st, 2010 | Murli Melwani says:

    Shana, you asked the right questions. The answers reveal Amish as a person who can be the central character in a novel, particularly his transformation from a non-believer to a Shiva bhakt. Amish will have to credit me with the idea, if n when he writes the novel!!!

  2. September 10th, 2010 | dareen says:

    Wow! This thing has surprised me a lot. Carry on this work to lead a successful life. You have really captured a reader’s imagination and senses. Best of luck.

  3. September 13th, 2010 | meriam says:

    Good work. though am not much into literary fine tuned questions and was able to view good and bad in a different way.

  4. October 18th, 2010 | lakshmi says:

    I loved the part of this blog which read “Only Lord shiva can make a non-believer to turn to God…n he is more appealing to modern day man!! “……

    We both are on same boat..in this regard!!!

    And to talk about your books…

    I will definitely try to read them….and Wish you all the Best!!

  5. December 30th, 2011 | Rupam says:

    Certainly it is a great piece of work. I have never been involved in mythology except some brief ideas about it. But after reading this book I have gained inspiration and boost to my self-confidence of my ability to do various things in life. Thank you, Amish.

  6. April 4th, 2012 | shreepal jk says:

    i never had a habit of reading any books,until my sis gifted MELUHAS , DO U belive , it made me sleep late at 4am , same in nagas too, dont know about v.puthtra, tho i loved this book and i have gifted more than 26 books each to my friends, i have a strange feelings that i and u together make others loose faith on Hinduism . i love my country as much as my religion.

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