Amish Tripathi: There aren't many extremist in India, it is a miniscule number; we are not Syria or Pakistan
Tripathi spoke to IBNLive about India's liberalism, books and the sudden burst of new Indian authors.
Jaipur: One might think that Amish Tripathi, author of the hugely popular Shiva trilogy, took a big risk when he decided to write on mythology in his first book- but the author himself doesn't feel so.
An IIM Calcutta graduate, Amish Tripathi's first book 'The Immortals Of Meluha' - narrating the adventures of Shiva, instantly struck a chord with the young and old generation alike. At the recently-concluded Jaipur Literature Festival, Tripathi spoke to IBNLive about India's liberalism, books and the sudden burst of new Indian authors.
Amish also revealed the title of his second book series, which will be based on Lord Ram. The first book of the new series, 'Scion of Ikshvaku' is expected to release later this year.
Excerpts from the interview:
Your first book was on mythology. And it is counted as one of the best selling series by an Indian author. No eyebrows were raised, considering you wrote about Lord Shiva and how you made him sound 'cool'?
Why should any eyebrows be raised? 95 per cent of the controversies are generated, I believe. They are not genuine. Even for my first book, I had a PR agent who had suggested this route to me. Since I had published my own book after being rejected by every publisher, I had contacted a PR agent as well. And he had said 'we can easily create a controversy, gather some 10 people, burn a few copies of the book and shoot it from low angle. And some news channel will pick it up for sure.' Both me and wife were appalled by the idea! If I have to sell my book through a controversy, I'd rather not sell it. If you avoid controversy consciously, they do not happen. By god's grace, my books have sold some 2 million copies till now and there hasn't been any controversy around it -- why should there be one? I think if you write with the perspective to generate controversy, it will show in your writing, in your book. I have had elders, who after reading my book, have told me that my interpretation is different but it shows that I respect my faith, and I'm quite proud of it.
Number of extremist in India of every faith is miniscule. Lets be honest, India has several problems, women empowerment is one of the major issues -- but liberalism is not one of them. We are not Syria or Pakistan. Indians are deeply religious and deeply liberal as well.
But don't you feel religion sometimes becomes a censor on free writing? Look at Tamil writer Perumal Murugan's case. He, after all, decided to quit writing due to religious censorship.
I am not saying there aren't any extremist in India, it is a miniscule number. Murugan's case was a cast conflict than religious one -- I recently found out. There are people in India who raise their voices but they are tiny in number. We liberals in India don't have to be genuinely brave; a liberal in Pakistan has to be genuinely brave because he is putting his life on the line. Lets celebrate the things that are positively genuine in this world.
You were in a cushy corporate job for a long time and your book was initially rejected by most publishers. Surely, it was a risk to take up writing full time?
I would really love to give a dramatic and a romantic answer to your question but reality is different (laughs). I quit my job only after my second book came out when my royalty cheque became more than my salary. I don't come from a privileged family so I can't afford to be irresponsible. You might call me boring but I call it pragmatic.
How important are these literature festivals for young authors?
They are fantastic, I think. In ancient India, literature was never the preserve of the elite. It was for everyone. It is only in the last 100-200 years, it became something to do with the elite. What the lit fests are doing is restoring the historical balance. There are 60 lit fest in India now and what is amazing is the kind of crowd it attracts. It is phenomenal.
Javed Akhtar is of the opinion that people don't read books anymore. Would you agree with him?
I am a big fan of Javed Akhtar ji and his poetry but I would have to respectfully disagree with him. 15 years ago, selling 5,000 copies of a book was a big deal -- not any more. We sell millions of copies now and only then can a book be called a best-seller. So actually there are more people reading now.
Karan Johar has bought the rights of your book series 'The Shiva Trilogy'. Are you part of the scripting team? Also, is 'Shuddhi' based on your book?
'Shuddhi' is not based on 'Shiva Tilogy', which Karan (Johar) and I have both clarified on Twitter. Yes I will be a creative consultant on the team; I will go through the script. Not write the script of the film, though. I am busy with my books.
Chetan Bhagat and your success has inspired a lot of Indians to take up writing full time. Any message for them?
Chetan and my genres are different. He writes of India as it is, I write of India as it was. I respect a lot of what Chetan has done. All of us, who are now publishing our books, are walking on a path he built. Before he came into the scene it was believed books don't sell and Indians don't read. He proved them wrong.
Having said that, writing is bit like how things function in the film industry. You might find few cases of people who are lucky and can make a living of it but vast majority don't make a living out of writing. Writing is not the best way to make a living. I always tell people to have a job on the side unless you have a rich dad to support you. If you write for money, your writing gets corrupt. So have a job on the side and keep your writing pure. Write from your heart- if it succeeds great, if it doesn't, no harm.
What is that one quality every aspiring writer must possess?
You must be a good reader. I don't know if I am a good writer but I am a good reader. I read 4-8 books a month and I have been reading at that pace for a decade. And everyone in my family is a reader. I grew up on that culture. So I feel to be a writer you need to be a good reader.