Tale of a Shiva devout: Amish Tripathi

Tale of a Shiva devout: Amish Tripathi

Author Amish Tripathi idolizes Shiva at every step of his life. This IIM Kolkata alumnus never thought he would ever write a book, but today two of his books are national bestsellers and the final in the trilogy is releasing in Feb 2013.

Amish Tripathi is a simple man who is in love with two most interesting subjects – history and mythology. It is because of his interest in these two subjects that made him pen down the story of Shiva, a Hindu god, who devotees believe as the destroyer (Brahma is known as a the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva is the destroyer or the transformer). For those who don’t know much about Amish, here is a quick roundup of his life. Amish is an alumni of Indian Institute of Management Kolkata, a Shiva devout to the tee and his first book Immortals of Meluha, which was published 2010 became a bestseller the moment it was released.

On a humid afternoon when this not so simple man agreed to give to have a one to one conversation, I was overjoyed – mainly because I was about to meet the man whose first book became one of my favourites the moment I started reading it. I only knew him as the author of the unputdownable that I had read twice. But after the meeting, I was a satisfied soul because he charmed me like many of his readers with the deep-rooted philosophies that his books also talk about.

Historical flavour
The moment the conversation began, the author asked me to name my favourite character from the two books – Immortals of Meluha and The Secret of the Nagas – of the Shiva trilogy. As I named the character, he immediately deciphered which one of the two ways of life (that according to him guide all human beings) I follow and believe in. Elaborating on the two ways of life – Suryavanshi and Chandravanshi, Amish said, “I believe all of us have a bit of Suryavanshi and a bit of Chandravanshi qualities within us. It has nothing to do with men and women, it is more your way of life. Suryavanshi way of like is about honour, law and compliance while the Chandravanshi way of life is driven by free will, passion and creativity. If you ask me, I would say I am more of a Suryavanshi as I like order, discipline but at the same time I have a bit of Chandravanshi trait also.”

Suryavanshi at heart, Amish strongly believe in the philosophies of Lord Ram and Islam. According to him, only two ways of life exist in this world. “None of the cultures, off Suryavanshi and Chandravanshi, is right or wrong. They are simply different. Change is not an easy process for those who follow Suryavanshi culture. But Chandravanshi cultures can easily adapt themselves to the change, which is need of the hour,” the author says. Talking about the world scenario, Amish considers the two ways of life could also describe the pattern the world is following at today’s time and age.

While penning down the first two parts of the Shiva Triology, Amish highlighted the philosophical interface, which kept the readers engrossed in the storyline. When asked if he is philosophical at heart Amish was quick to answer, “ I am inspired by the one of the speeches that Steve Jobs gave somewhere. The speech talked about connect the dots, which states you can look back in life and feel the experiences you have had over the time. Somehow those experiences led you to what you are today. But when you are having these experiences, you don’t know where it will go. Similarly, I didn’t do any preparation or research for the book. I would say I was preparing for last 25-30 years because as long back as I can remember, I have been deeply interested in history. And I am a voracious non-fiction reader and historical books have always interested me. I am a lover of boring, dry archaeological and research books. In a sense you can say all that I have read over the years was somewhere preparing me for the book. When I was reading all the historical books, they were more of a source of interest for me.” Like every youngster, Amish also wanted an illustrious career. Writing a book was never in his scheme of things. “I couldn’t make history my profession. During my time, engineering and medicine were considered the most obvious choice for a profession”, he says.

Deciphering Shiva
In both Immortals of Meluha and The Secret of the Nagas, people will come across some symbols that are used to give a section breaks in the story. One of the symbols is a seal, which is earliest ever symbolism used for Lord Shiva. Discovered during the Indus Valley Civilization, the seal is called Pashupatinath seal. “If you see the original Pashupatinath seal, the bottom quarter of the seal is broken. I used my imagination of what it could have been there on the bottom quarter, and I created a clay model of it and that has been used in the book.”
When readers like me were reading the book, we didn’t know much about the symbols that came in between the pages. The author has given all the attention even to symbolism and minute nuances, which readers could not comprehend. In the Shiva triology, the cities, historical facts, flow of different rivers are technically correct. In the Secret of the Nagas, I talk about a place called Brangadarai. The name Brangadarai is inspired by Gangadarai, a name of the ancient city name somewhere in Bengal.”

“The second experience of connect the dots was my family. My grandfather Pandit Babulal Tripathi was a priest and a teacher at Benaras Hindu University in Varanasi. All my family members, including my parents, are highly educated and religious people. I grew up in an atmosphere where dinner conversations were about mythology, history, religion, philosophy and we had debates on modern issues. In my family we always had room for every stand of opinion. Most of what I know about mythology and religion is from these discussions I had with my family. When I was growing up, I didn’t know all that knowledge would help me subcontiously in writing a book some day. Now when I look back, I find Steve Job’s theory make sense. All those years were somewhere preparing me to pen down this book.”

Born in Mumbai, studied in Mumbai and Tamil Nadu, Amish did his MBA from Indian Institute of Management Kolkata. It would be surprising for all Amish’s fan to know before writing Immortals of Meluha, he had never even written a short story. “I had no creative bone in my body. The only creative thing that I did in IIM was that I was the lead singer of my band. Most of my friends are stunned that I have actually written something. I sincerely believe it is only lord Shiva’s blessings that made me write a book.”

The whole idea of writing a book started as a pure philosophical discussion that Amish had with his family. “Some eight years back, I was watching television with my family. We discovered an interesting thing. Gods in India are regarded as devas and demons are called asuras while ancient Persians regard their gods as ahuras and demons as daivas. It is the exact opposite. So the discussion began about evil and good. A philosophy occurred to me, which I discussed with my family. And they asked me to pen down whatever I felt – the philosophy thesis. I was working that time and used to spare some three hours a day and write this philosophy thesis, ” Amish says.

After a year, Amish presented this thesis to his family, who after reading said ‘It is very boring’. “I feel very few people are interested in reading philosophy as it could get a little dry. My brother and sister in law advised me to write an adventure, a thriller. And bring the philosophy along that adventure. That is how the journey to the Shiva triology began. ”

The inspiration
It took Amish four to five years to pen down the first book of the Shiva Triology – The Immortals of Meluha. Talking about the struggles that came across while writing the first book, Amish elaborates, “I feel I was approaching the story in an absolutely wrong manner. Since I had never written anything before, I had no idea how to write what to write. I did what most MBA types do; I read some self-help books, made a plan, made character sketches for each of the character, date plan, summary of each chapter, story structure etc. But, a big but came in between. And nothing seem to go the right way and the story came to a halt.”

Amish’s wife, Priti Vyas adviced him to follow one simple thing. “She said I am approaching the story in my corporate way of life. To write the book I must understand that all the characters have a life of their own and they are living in a parallel universe. I have just been given the privilege of entering that universe and recording what you see. She said don’t approach the story with arrogance of the creater, approach the story with humility of being a witness. And I gave up all the control, wrote what I recorded in my mind,” Amish informs. Since history is his favourite subject, Amish is now gearing up for his the third part of his trilogy – The Oath of the Vayuputras. After the Shiva Triology, he also plans to write books on Lord Rudra, Lord Ram, Mughal emperor Akbar, his version of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Amish’s fans can take a sigh of relief as he is releasing the final in the Shiva Trilogy – Oath of the Vayuputras – in February 2012