interview Author Amish Tripathi says the final book of his Shiva trilogy, The Oath of the Vayaputras, was always a tragedy in his mind
The final instalment of Amish Tripathi’s Shiva Trilogy, The Oath of the Vayaputras , (Westland, Rs. 350) released on February 27, may have garnered mixed responses from readers, but it is still one of the fastest-selling books in India
What is really bothering some readers, more than the elaborate descriptions of almost continuously unfolding battles, is the “tragic” ending. “At the end of the day, the third book is where the real battle against evil was to take place. It’s not going to be a walk in the park. With due apologies to Dylan Thomas, evil doesn’t go quietly into the night; it rages against the rising of the night. So it would be dark in my mind,” says Amish, agreeing that the ending might not appeal to everyone.
He was in Bangalore to launch his book at Landmark.
“Some will say there needs to be more philosophy or love or war, but that’s no way to write a book. I just write the way it comes naturally to me. The book was always a tragedy in my mind. It’s a battle against evil — it obviously will be tough, people will die, it’s going to be difficult. But at the end of it, good will win.”
Amish says he doesn’t know why the book has garnered such a phenomenal response from Indian readers, having sold more than a million copies of all the three instalments.
“People have various theories. Some say the story is fast paced, some say the philosophy is nice and some say the book has been marketed well. If you ask me, I think it is a blessing of Lord Shiva.”
It might even be a combination of all three, but Amish does not discount the role of marketing in the success of a book. He had used effective strategies, creating a trailer and putting social networking to good use to promote the first instalment of the series, The Immortals of Meluha , which was initially self-published after being rejected more than 20 times until it was finally taken up by Westland.
“I think it’s a fallacy to say that a good book sells itself. It doesn’t happen. I’m a voracious reader and I can give you a long list of books which should have been best sellers but they aren’t. How can you buy a book if you haven’t heard of it?” he points out. “In my mind, there is no choice between the two. The book needs to be good and it needs to be marketed. A bad book with good marketing or a good book with bad marketing will not work.”
His success has now, as is being popularly discussed, landed Amish a five-crore advance for his yet to be announced next work. Some of the ideas includethe Mahabharata , the Ramayana , the story of Lord Manu, or even Egyptian mythology. Doesn’t the pressure interfere with his writing?
“When I write, I tend to be quite cut-off from the world. At that point of time I’m not thinking about editors, publishers or readers. I write the story the way it comes to me. So there’s no question of any pressure,” he explains. “But yes I do start feeling pressure during marketing. That’s when I put my pragmatic marketing hat on and I start thinking of all the money that publishers have invested and hope they recover it, because otherwise they will not back me the next time.”
Talking about his informal style of writing, Amish says: “At the outset I think that one should be natural, not just when it comes to writing but in every area of life. If you try to be something that you are not just to impress others then it’s a rather sad life. Having said that, do I think there is scope of improvement in my writing? Of course there is,” he says, adding that he is usually appreciated for his ability to bring out the philosophies of the Upanishads.
“My submission is that it’s not just my language…even my philosophical understanding needs to improve. There are so many areas I need to improve on. It’s like I have only just passed the first grade. But the good news is I’m human so I can keep improving. And in whatever improvements I make, I will do what appears natural to me.”
Amish feels that there is something to learn from every religion, drawing attention to the fact that public debate in India is largely controlled by two kinds of extremists: religious and secular.
“Both of them don’t have a liberal outlook, and by liberalism, I mean the ability to listen to an opposing point of view and see if you can learn something from it. I find their attitude of looking down on religious people, insulting. But the good news is that a vast majority of Indians from different religions see no contradiction between religiosity and liberalism, keep India stable. We religious liberals don’t talk loudly enough.”