'Mythology is an area of passion for me'
Having received grand success with 'The Immortals of Meluah', 'The Secret of the Nagas' and now with the launch of 'The Oath of Vayuputras', Amish Tripathi is on a roll. The writer talks about life, religion and his belief in Lord Shiva in a candid chat with IBNS correspondent Shabarni Basu in Kolkata, a city where he spent his youth.
"The Oath of Vayuputras" has already been released nationwide. How is the third book of your Shiva trilogy doing?
From the figures I have been told by my publishers, I think five lakhs copies were printed, of which four lakhs have been already sold out in the last one week.
You have often said that it is Lord Shiva who has inspired you to write the novels. Is that the real inspiration and motivation for all the three books that you have written so far?
I know I sound strange. But I did not pick the subject...I think the subject chose me. I didn't really want to be a writer. I never planned on being a writer and the story began as a pure philosophical thinking, which grew to an adventure. I think things are driven by your areas of passion. .. so mythology is an area of passion for me. Philosophy is an area of passion for me...so naturally the story began emerging in that area.
You have written a lot on Lord Shiva and he is someone who is worshipped in Hindu mythology. Do you actually believe what you write?
I think any author who doesn't believe in what he is writing...shouldn't be writing. So you have to write with the purity and honesty of your heart. Some people will like it, some people won't...that's okay. You cannot bother about that when you are writing. So, of course I believe in it. But the point is can I prove it that these all happened? No, I can't! I don't know what the truth is...only Lord Shiva knows what the truth is. This is my interpretation and this is my path to the Lord.
This is the first time a music video is released along with a novel. What's your take on that? And how did you come across such an idea of promotion?
Yes, it is the first time a music video is released along with a novel, and an entire original sound track has been made. It has ten original sound songs. We have released it less than a month ago and it is doing well. I wish I could take the credit for the idea but I cannot do that...it was not my idea. It came from my ad agency. I liked the idea the moment I heard. I thought it was really original. I thought it was a great way to promote a book and fortunately by God's grace we have the budget now to produce a music album and music video, which is not quite cheap.
Now-a-day we see a trend that authors pursue corporate careers before writing, like we have Chetan Bhagat as well in this club. So do you feel aspiring authors should get hold of a corporate job or something alike before taking the passion call?
I say that for every single writer. Writing is not a well paying profession on average. There are a few lucky people who do make the money but most writers don't. And most of the Indians come from the middle class background. I don't come from a wealthy background... so we can't afford to be irresponsible with our career decisions. All of us have a responsibility, so I always tell writers that have a job on one side because if you are not worried about paying the bills at the end of the month, then you can keep your writing pure. If money starts entering that conversation and if you are writing for money, then an editor will tell you make these changes in the book and you'll say yes...why because you are worried about money but if money is not a factor in your life and you have job on one side, which is paying the bills, then you can tell the editor that boss I'll do what I like...you don't like you can get lost...don't publish the book, I don't care. Because freedom comes when you have the money to take care of you needs. You don't write for money, you write to give voice to your soul...that should be the purpose of writing.
What is your next project? Since you are interested in history and mythology, will you tread in the same area for your next book?
It's certainly in the mythology, history, spirituality, and philosophy field because these are the areas of my passion. Most of my ideas are in that space. What will be my passion ten years later I don't know...I don't know whether I'll be able to write love stories or not. You have to have knowledge, you have to have experience for writing...I have been with one girl since I was seventeen years old and I have been with her for twenty one years now. I don't believe in these one night stands and rebound relationships, so I don't have any idea what these things are. So I can't write stories on that. But I know mythology, I know history, I know philosophy, I have read about them, so I can write books in these fields.
So, tell me how important is religion in one's life? Do you think one needs to believe in religion and its practices?
Look I am a believer but I will not judge those who chose to be atheist...there's nothing wrong with it as long as you are truly a good person, that's what matters. You know in my experience having met an atheist, I think having faith gives you a lot of strength. Having faith in the divine, having faith in the greater power...whom you are deeply connected to, gives you an inner strength but I will not judge those who chose to not believe in a religion. We live in a free country and everyone has the power to follow their ideologies and their way of life.
You prefer to use just your name 'Amish' and have chosen to drop 'Tripathi'. So is this your way to tell you are secular?
I am a very proud Indian but pride doesn't mean to be blind. India has developed but there are things to be improved. First is the caste system, second is to improve the conditions of the oppressed groups and these are the most important issues in my knowledge. And we can't keep pointing at the government every time. The Government can't even build roads, so forget about this. We have to do these ourselves and for our society.
You have made youths read your books, believe in mythology and religion to some extent, which was not experienced a few years back. So what do you feel is lacking, that causes the youth's disconnection with mythology?
I don't think there is anything lacking because our generation for example learnt mythology from 'Amar Chitra Katha' comics, and by listening stories from our parents and grandparents, so every generation finds its own ways but I think that our myths have been alive for thousand of years and there must be something special...it's part of our DNA. So I don't think my books have not caused anything...my books are very, very small contribution to it. Our myths, our philosophies, our cultures are very, very deep part of who we are today as Indians. Sadiyon se raha dushmaan dohre jaha hamara...kuch baat hai ki hasti mitti nehi (we had enemies since centuries, but there must be something in our cultures, that our existences have not been abolished).
Is there any other inspiration in your life apart from your faith in Lord Shiva?
There are few things that are important to me in my life...my family, music, reading, writing, and praying. Is there anything else worth it in one's life? These are my passions.
So money is not of worth in your life?
I won't say money is not important but money cannot be the number one priority. Money helps to do things which you like doing. So for example that am earning money from writing means I can spend more time with my family, means we can take more holidays. So money is not an end, it is a mean to meet the ends.
Finally coming to Kolkata, you have completed your studies from IIM Calcutta , so what changes you find in the literary arena coming back here?
Kolkata has always been very passionate about literary arts, Kolkata books fairs are always very proud events, it's tremendous, it shows the deep literary connections, which all Kolkatans should be proud of. And I have completed my studies from Kolkata, so I consider myself to be a part of the city and I am very proud of that.
You have spent your youth days here in Kolkata, so what are the visible changes that you spot now?
I think it is reflected throughout the country today. I think the youths of today are far more confident than what we were. I think they are a brave new generation and will take India forward. --IBNS