Satyarth Nayak uses myths, legends and historical events in his debut novel “The Emperor’s Riddles”
The concoction of mystery, thriller, legend and historical events is a bankable formula to launch one’s first novel. That is precisely what Satyarth Nayak has adopted for his debut fiction work “The Emperor's Riddles”. Asked what inspired him to choose this genre the author replies: “I have been always interested in mysteries, thrillers, historical fiction and mythology and grew up reading Sherlock Holmes by Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christe, Sue Grafton, Dan Brown and Ashok Banker, etc”.
A former health correspondent of CNN-IBN and a post-graduate in English from St. Stephen’s College, Satyarth has been passionate about writing from his student days. Besides contributing articles, he was the editor of his school and college magazine. In 2006 his short story “Eve” was published by the British Council in an anthology of short stories.
Having quit journalism with the intention of pursuing a course in film direction in Mumbai, Satyarth was so intrigued and captivated by an ancient enigma about an emperor and a religious community that he started reading about it. “It was extremely exciting and esoteric, convincing me that I can weave a story around it,” says the novelist. He started the book in 2010 and the final draft was ready by 2012.
Divided into three parts, each titled with a line from a Buddhist prayer, the sections are devoted to Buddha, dhammam and sangham. Keeping youngsters and adults – interested in “intelligent and entertaining thrillers” – as target readers, the novel deals with age-old sciences, cults, a mysterious number to convey that life is an unending journey and quest.
Explains Satyarth, “It is symbolic. Every human being is on a personal quest in search of answers which may or may not be as per their expectations.” He adds that “the answers are not important but the pursuit itself – with one ending and the other beginning.”
The story also underlines the existence of good and evil side by side since times immemorial and urges human beings to balance the negative by undertaking beneficial deeds. While highlighting the pros and cons of ambition and material needs of mankind, it stresses that the extreme of these traits leads to misery and evil – as epitomised by a female character in the book.
The narrative moves back and forth from the past to the present. The historical backdrop and the modern mystery running parallel in the novel are bound by two Buddhist monks who embody the knowledge of the past and present and intend to shape the future for the good of mankind.
The thriller has a number of riddles based on Indian history and mythology which become successively complicated and difficult to heighten the mystery and sustain the interest of the readers. Asked about these posers, the author says he was unconsciously inspired by Dan Brown’s usage of quotes in his stories. “I love riddles and I am sure everyone else does. Trying to solve a riddle is always good fun and adds to the mystery and intrigue which is why I have used riddles in the book. It also symbolizes man's eternal quest for answers,” he says.
Still keen to pursue the course in film direction, Satyarth has already formed the basic idea for his next book which may be about supernatural and fantasy. Asked whether he would like to direct the film version of his book, the novelist says a number of his friends had suggested this and he was not averse to it.