Amish Tripathi is as passionate about mythology as is he dispassionate about food

Half a dozen grapes and four small slices of cheese lie on the plate opposite mine— filled with croissants. I meet Amish Tripathi at The Claridges in Lutyens’ Delhi. In town to launch the final book in his Shiva trilogy— The Oath of the Vayuputras, Amish sits through a series of interviews and photo shoots, before we meet for breakfast.

His publisher Westland Press has given him an advance of Rs.5 crore for his next book, even though Amish hasn’t decided yet what his next book is going to be. According to Westland, 4 lakh copies of The Oath…. have already been sold.

He declares, at the outset, that his trilogy is fiction, with religious references. “I have written it from the position of a devotee of Shiva,” he says.

His first two books, which have sold more than a million copies, have moulded Shiva into a superhero for contemporary readers. Amish says that this is not a new phenomenon as Indian mythological characters have constantly evolved for millennia. “My books are a very small contribution to Shiva’s greatness. While our myths and folklore are vibrant for thousands of years, Greek, Roman and Mesopotamian myths have died out. This is because we have constantly modernised our myths.”

The Shiva Trilogy takes the reader through mysterious locations of ancient South Asia. Amish himself is an avid traveller, although he admits food isn’t one of his many passions.

“My wife jokes that if she gives me some tablets which have the day’s nutrition, I couldn’t be happier. She is an awesome cook, sadly I can’t differentiate between flavours. I just eat to live. My comfort food is home cooked stuff like khichdi or sabzi-roti-dal,” he says.

When he travels, he sticks to the local food. “I usually explore outside the touristy parts. When you travel you must immerse yourself in local culture and food is a part of that. Even though I’m not interested in food, I like to eat whatever people over there eat. I don’t insist on Indian food, though I don’t have red meat or fish,” adds Amish.

The Shiva Trilogy will be remembered for its unique marketing strategies. Before the first book The Immortals of Meluha was released, its first chapter was distributed for free. The second book The Secrets of the Nagas had a trailer which was screened in multiplexes. The third book has a music video and a soundtrack by artistes like Taufiq Qureshi, Sonu Nigam, Palash Sen and Bickram Ghosh. There are editions being planned in larger font to cater to senior readers.

He says he doesn’t think of these while writing. “I don’t think of readers or anyone. It corrupts the flow. After this draft is sent in, we think of marketing strategies. It’s childish to think that a good book sells itself… Frankly, I did not think my book would sell, let alone become a best seller,” he explains.

His method to success is to write on what he is passionate about. “I am interested in history and mythology. I am also excited about genetics and the universe. I pick up on theories on these. My future work too will be in this field.”

When it comes to food though, the eclectic works best. “I order the thali if I have to eat out. Some one else makes the decision. It’s too much of an effort going through a menu,” says Amish.