‘My books are about how man discovers God in himself’

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 21 Nov 2016 09:53:26

By Ishani Pankule,

“We, Indians, have suffered an insult unparalleled in history. Just 1 lakh Britishers ruled a country of over 350 million for 200 years! Why were we not outraged? Why did we not think of throwing them out? India lost confidence as a nation during the British rule. The subsequent education system failed to celebrate our own rich past. Our medical students are not taught the Shusruta-Samahita, the oldest treatise dealing with surgery; our architectural aspirants are unaware of our rich heritage, those pursuing higher courses in mathematics are clueless about Aryabhata, Bramhagupta, Bhaskara and such is the case in every field! Is it no wonder that generations after another have no interest whatsoever in our ancient text?” Celebrated writer, Amish Tripathi, the author of the best-selling Shiva Trilogy, discussed this fallacy of our system and many more issues during an interactive session. Tripathi was in the city for the pre-inaugural session of the ‘Kalidas Mahotsav’.

For a man who calls himself a ‘fiercely proud Indian’, Tripathi sure has harsh words for our education system which, he says, has still not been de-colonised. Being a graduate in Mathematics and an MBA degree holder from IIM (Kolkata), Tripathi has gone through the ‘system’ and understands its pitfalls very well.“Though I loved history, I did my MBA and took up banking as a ‘pragmatic’ career choice. Even after discovering the writer in myself, to be on the safer side, I quit my job only after the royalty from the first two books became higher than my salary. Also I made sure I quit on very good terms with my seniors so that there was some cushion lest I fail,” said Tripathi, while recounting his journey from a reliable banker to a budding writer.

On his obsession with Lord Shiva, Tripathi said, “He (Lord Shiva) chose me. I am but a vessel. My writing does not come from planning and research, it stems from within”. But coming back to his outrage at the shallow education system which fails to recognise our own past, isn’t it precarious to weave an entire fictional series around a deity, giving history a twist, weaving an exotic tale? It is hardly believable that the youth, the core base of his readership, which is already estranged from the Vedas and Puranas, will find the ancient texts fascinating after going through his racy, thriller-like narrative. To this, Tripathi can only wish that his writing inspires youth to study the ancient texts and understand the Indian philosophy and our glorious past. Hardly convincing.

But the writer had deep faith in our abilities as a race. “Hindu philosophy, which is actually a way of life, has survived over 5,000 years as it is like a swaying tree which weathers the storm by adapting itself. Our culture lies in our stories. These stories could be adapted and hence they remained alive. There are many versions of our texts, from the South to the North East to the West, and people respect and accept all of these. This adaptability, all the while keeping the soul intact, has been the foundation of our culture.”
Tripathi has compiled an interesting list of things that we need to bring back from the past. These are the rules that we have forsaken leading to the gradual decline of our glorious civilisation.

The first is, we need to go back to the time when the caste system was based on ‘Guna and Karma’ (attributes and deeds). This system of the yore allowed Valmiki, a Shudra, to pen the Ramayana and Ved Vyas, a fisherwoman’s offspring, to narrate the Mahabharata. Any man could elevate himself through study and where he was born was inconsequential. “Lord Ram’s head priest was the son of a single Shudra woman. What could be a better example!”

The second rectification that the society needs is in its treatment of women. “Even Gods abandon the land where women are disrespected. Do you know that many hymns in the Rig Veda where written by Rishikas (women saints)? And today, by ignoring half of our population, we are running on half engine. It’s silly and stupid.” And the third aspect that Tripathi would like to regenerate, is our spirit of questioning. “The word blasphemy does not exist in Vedic Sanskrit. Why? Because it was earlier considered one’s duty to question. Creativity comes from questioning. We, Indians, are meant to rebel, question, and that is why we are a difficult country to manage. Our downfall began when we started to submit. But now we need to be true to ourselves, learn from our ancestors, go back to the roots,” Tripathi emphasised.

One thing that is obvious in the interaction is that the writer’s precise answers, the many anecdotes, the knowledge of India and its history, stems from continual reading. And this is only the advice he has for budding writers. “Read, read a lot. I have been reading since 5 years of age. This means, at 42 now, I have been reading for close to 36 years. And at the rate of 2 to 3 books a month, you can do the math.”

Amish’s historical lessons began early with his grandfather, a pandit in Kashi, making sure that the boy knew his Vedas and Puranas. Later, Tripathi developed a taste for Wilbur Smith and other western writers.
Those who have read the trilogy have questioned the way the saga ends. To this Tripathi has a logical explanation. “That every book, movie or story should end with a sense of conclusion is a western concept. Indian stories have never been meant to ‘conclude’. Remember how the Ramayana and Mahabharata end? My contention was to leave the reader with questions in his mind. Questions that would trouble you for the rest of your lives and the philosophy that you derive from searching for the answers will help you grow.
My purpose in writing the Shiva Trilogy has been three questions: What is evil? What is justice? Does anger serve the cause of justice?”

Answering a question on the continued neglect of our own literature, Tripathi said, “we celebrate 400 years of Shakespeare but what about 600 years of Kalidas? Why don’t we have regional litfests? We now need our past with quiet confidence.”
“My books have celebrated Lord Shiva’s innate coolness. They are about the journey through which a man discovers the God in himself. Was not Gautam Buddha a simple human before He became God? We worship these very men and women who have discovered the eternal power.” His upcoming series starting with ‘Scion of Ishvaku’ will focus on Lord Ram, the creator of the land of Melluha, where Shiva’s journey started.

The interactive session started with welcome of the young writer by noted litterateur and playwright, Mahesh Elkunchwar who was, in turn, accorded welcome by Divisional Commissioner and Kalidas Samiti Patron Anup Kumar. CP K Venkateshan and MLC Anil Sole were also special guests during the session. District Collector and Chairman of Kalidas Samiti, Sachin Kurve, MTDC Assistant Manager, Mhaiskar and Swati Kale were also seated on the dais.

The session was attended by a limited number of people but those present seemed well-versed with the subject and peppered the guest with pertinent and incisive questions. The CP and Divisional Commissioner also could not restrain themselves from asking the author some searching questions about mythology and the philosophy gleaned from it.