Sudipto Das’ debut novel weaves Indian history and fiction. He attempts to unravel interesting historical facts
Ancient linguistic fossils, secrets passed down over generations, a murderous plot and a frantic journey across continents to uncover the truth; this is not a description of the next Robert Langdon novel, but of The Ekkos Clan, penned by debutant author Sudipto Das.
An IIT alumnus, Sudipto finds himself in the same boat with other writers like Chetan Bhagat and Khaled Hosseini, with the urge to write slowly making itself known to him about six years ago. The product of five years of research and writing, The Ekkos Clan tells the tale of a young college student named Kratu and his friends as they try to decipher hidden meaning in the tales that have been passed down in his family for generations, all the while escaping the attention of fanatics that are determined to wipe the tales from existence.
Sitting near racks of books bathed in late afternoon sunlight at the Just Books outlet at Panampilly Nagar in the city, Sudipto is possessed with a manic energy as he states that his influences are many and varied. “I have been a huge fan of Indiana Jones and more recently, the works of Dan Brown. For me, Jones is the original adventurer, and Dan Brown has woven history and fiction in a way never done before. This got me thinking that Indian history is so much older and no one has really tapped into it in a similar manner, which is how The Ekkos Clan came about,” he says.
Much like Brown’s globe trotting adventurers, Sudipto has gone with a character whose family hides mysterious secrets, accompanied by a female companion who is a linguistic palaeontologist, and helps Kratu uncover ‘linguistic fossils’ in the stories of his grandmother. The novel has its fair share of Bengali culture and customs, which Sudipto states is a result of drawing from the familiar. “Being a Bengali, it was easiest for me to set some of the characters there, though there are exceptions. Also, Kubha, who is Kratu’s grandmother and the one who passes on the family stories to him, was caught up in the Partition riots, with the early part of the book being set in the Partition of Bengal, which I think is often overshadowed by the partition of India and Pakistan. In fact, since my family also came from Bangladesh to Kolkata, the first few chapters of the book are loosely based on real incidents,” he says.
Sudipto explains the historical elements in his book fondly, clarifying that while Kubha’s stories are his own; they are based on aspects of Indian history. “I have always been fascinated by our culture and heritage, and I believe studying at the Ramakrishna Mission and having read Tagore in his own language has contributed to that. While researching the book I also read the Rig Veda, which is believed to be the oldest written text, and was surprised to find that for a book considered to be of religious significance, it is quite secular, talking about love for mankind and Nature. To be honest, history is always coloured by people in power, and fascinating details are sometimes buried. It is details like this that Kubha’s stories hold that set off the chain of events in the book,” he says.
On future projects, he says that he plans to write a sequel, but as that may take another five years he is working on a romantic novel in the meantime. “I have already completed the first draft of a romance story, but I have realised my strengths lie in research and fact, while a romance needs smaller details. So I’ve decided to look for a co-author, someone who can provide these details. It’s like music, which has aalaap and jhala. I have the aalaap, now I need the jhala,” he smiles.
Sudipto is currently vice-president of design services at Mirafra Technolgies and lives in Bangalore with wife Trinita and son Hrishav. He plays the violin for ‘Kohal’, a band he started with his friends.
The Ekkos Clan is published by Niyogi books and is available at bookstores and on online retail sites.