Middle-path through history

Sudipto Das says he has tried to bring in a balanced perspective to Indian history through his contemporary thriller The Aryabhata Clan

Imagine a woman Indiana Jones or a Bond, working through a Da Vinci Code-like theme with history deeply woven into a contemporary thriller... it is that kind of a story that Sudipto Das has sought to create in his recent novel The Aryabhata Clan, following his debut work The Ekkos Clan.

Though both works delve into ancient Indian history, the present work combines a diversity of themes — from ancient Indian scriptures to linguistics, the lesser known histories of the Indian subcontinents, hidden histories in Persian carpets, contemporary ideological clashes in India and the spread of terrorism, pinned around his 20-year-old woman protagonist Kubha (named after the Sanskrit term for the river Kabul).

“One of the main inspirations behind the book,” says Sudipto, “was the Indiana Jones series, which presents Western history in an interesting format. If Western history can be presented that way, then I feel Indian history has a larger scope.”

This concept first evolved into The Ekkos Clan, which is set around Kubha’s mother Afsar Fareedi, a linguistic palaeontologist. “When it was time to write the second book, I knew I wanted to write about Aryabhatta because I was intrigued by him. I realized he was one of the most underrated ancient Indian scientists. Modern science owes its existence to his work in mathematics and the place value system,” he explains.

“I also read an article about the meanings behind the motifs on Persian carpets, that most of these designs are from ancient temples. This allied with my line of thought of looking out for hidden histories.”

Much of Sudipto’s research on Indian history is conducted on Google Books, whose vision of scanning every book ever published, he greatly admires, as well as through an online American archive. “The problem is that Indians, over the ages, have been bad keepers of history. Then the British came and recorded our history in such a horrific manner, making us out to be baboons who needed to be civilized. After independence, our history was hijacked by those who were left-leaning in ideology, who maintained the British notions,” he argues.

“Their accounts were full of battles and wars that collectively took place over two centuries. At the same time, there is also an article written by Rabindranath Tagore, in which he observes that through these 200 years of battle, there have been millennia of peace and prosperity. Why don’t we know about that? Tagore is also my favourite Indian author.”

Sudipto says he has chosen to highlight these long periods of discoveries of wisdom and knowledge in ancient India in his contemporary thriller.

“We also hear condemnation of all Muslims being terrorists. But why does nobody talk about a positive interpretation of the text, which people like Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (Frontier Gandhi) did. He advocated non-violence a few years before Mahatma Gandhi (the duo were not in touch). But who remembers him? Pakistan and Afghanistan have such rich histories that nobody talks about, it has been subverted by other agendas.”

He also believes that the present communal tensions in India, especially in the interactions between the right and left-leaning ideologies, have become aggressive because until recently it was only the left ideology that thrived. The Aryabhata Clan, published by Niyogi Books (Olive Turtle), is available for Rs 595 at leading bookstores.

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 4:32:44 PM |

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