From different windows

Talking about the genesis of his latest page-turner, Keepers of the Kalachakra (Westland), Ashwin Sanghi says, “It was the result of a conversation with my wife. I wondered aloud whether my waking life was my ‘reality’ and my sleeping life a ‘dream.’ Or possibly could it be the other way round? Could it be that my waking life was someone else’s dream? This conversation took place in the hills of Sikkim (we were surrounded by Buddhist monasteries) and I realised that the only spiritual path that could possibly answer this question was Buddhism.”

From different windows

The novel follows geeky Vijay Sundaram as he uncovers dreadful secrets involving the fate of the world, string theory and the beginning of time among other things. Admitting to feeling overwhelmed by the research, Ashwin, who was in the city for a lit fest said, “I am not a scientist, not a quantum physicist. Before writing this book, I had very little idea about the fundamentals of quantum theory. I used the assistance of an IIT engineer to teach me the basics. While I knew enough about Hinduism, I did not know enough about Buddhism. Frankly, this has been the hardest of all my books to write so far.”

Talking heads

The novel has stretches with theories being propounded. The 49-year-old author says sacrificing pace for detail “was inevitable. My readers of The Rozabal Line and The Krishna Key were hankering for another book in this space, one that was not like Chanakya’s Chant or The Sialkot Saga. I knew that this segment of readers would love the material that was presented and hence I made a conscious choice to present it even if it slowed down the pace.

From different windows

After writing Keepers of the Kalachakra, Ashwin says he is a believer in quantum theory. “I also believe our ancient seers were getting at the same phenomena as quantum physicists. Their understanding was through perception whereas modern science learns through experimentation. The windows through which we see the phenomena are different but the scene is the same.”

Connecting thread

Keepers of the Kalachakra is an addition to Ashwin’s Bharat Series. The connecting thread in the series according to Ashwin is “Bharat. What do I mean by that? Indian history, mythology, spiritualism, religion and culture when blended together like a protein shake. The narration styles are different and that does cause me and my readers problems. Those who love Chanakya’s Chant may not like The Krishna Key. Those who like The Sialkot Saga may not care for The Rozabal Line. But that’s fine. You can’t please everyone every time.”

When asked which genre in fiction is his comfort zone, the Mumbai-based author said, “The genre that excites me is the one that asks the What if. What if Jesus came to India? What if the Mahabharata actually happened? What if Hanuman could still be walking the earth? What if Chanakya’s strategies could still be applied in modern politics?”

Talking pictures

Keepers is an illustration-heavy book. “Like The Krishna Key, this book too required around 50 illustrations. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. There were many scientific concepts or religious symbols that could never be translated adequately into words. My work with the illustrator was painstaking because I gave him my scribbles and source images to draw and improve upon. The aim of the illustrations was to enhance the readers’ understanding of the concepts explained.

After Private Delhi, (Ashwin’s collaboration with James Patterson) the onion router (TOR) makes a brief appearance in Keepers as well. “I find TOR absolutely fascinating. On the one hand, it is filthy and depraved because it deals with drugs, counterfeiting, human trafficking, paedophilia, pornography, illegal arms and organ trade. On the other hand, it also has some immensely-useful stuff. For example, it offers perfect anonymity to whistle blowers who would otherwise not be comfortable to talk about government or corporate malfeasance.

In the book, the US president bears a fairly close resemblance to Donald Trump.

Ashwin says, “It was by design. I wanted characters that people could identify, without actually naming them as such.”

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 3:19:44 PM |

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