Monday, 3 October 2011

HERE COMES THE SHIVA, AGAIN...



HERE COMES THE SHIVA, AGAIN...

Today he is a god. Four-thousand years ago, he was just a man.” So reads the blurb on the back flap of The Secret of the Nagas, the second part of the Shiva Trilogy by Amish. “That’s what I thought when I began reading about the mythological characters. Just as we exist today, they too possibly existed in the past,” says the author. Time possibly chiselled out divine characters out of them and Amish banked on this idea to create pure fiction that is set in the ancient period.

As the readers would know, the first book, The Immortals of Meluha, sees how the ancient imaginary land of Meluha is saved, by a nomad named Shiva, in their war against the Chandravanshis who had joined forces with the group called the Nagas. Meluhan king Daksha had invited different tribes to stay in his country, including the one to which Shiva belonged. Soon Shiva is recognised as the saviour called Neelkanth. The second book sees Shiva’s hunt for the sinister Naga warrior who has killed his friend Brahaspati and is stalking his wife Sati.

Like the first book of the trilogy, the second book too has lot of philosophical elements. “Philosophy is relevant even today,” says Amish as he recalls how the idea of the trilogy germinated. “In our ancient texts, Devas are gods and Asuras are the demons. But in the ancient Zoroastrian text, Devas are the demons and Asuras are the gods. It all made me think about the concept of ‘evil.’ So I began with a thesis on ‘evil.’ Later, my brother and sister-in-law told me to turn the entire thing into an adventure fiction. So came about the idea of this Shiva Trilogy,” the author explains.

Amish is now working on the third book, The Oath of the Vayuputras. “All the three books have a continuum of the concepts on how Shiva became a great figure, the fight against evil and a case for the philosophy about what constitutes ‘evil’,” the author informs. “Along with them, the stories of life, romance, lust and the rest continues.”

A finance professional, who studied at the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata, Amish had fascination for history from his childhood. That helped him a lot as he began writing the trilogy. “I researched about mythology, ancient history and the characters without actually thinking that I was researching. All that I had read and seen were at the back of my mind,” he reveals. His upbringing in a religious, liberal family was helpful too. “Interestingly, I was an atheist. And I questioned a lot. But over the years, I have understood the importance of religion that makes us become a more grounded, calmer person, as I am today,” says Amish, who is “happy” with his place in the world.

The events in the books bear stark similarities with the happenings in the modern world. I wonder whether he was inspired by the present. “This is a pure work of imagination. Actually, modern world can always learn from the past and that’s what I have tried to show in the book,” he explains. “However, a few of the characters have slight resemblances with some of the people I know or have come across,” he reveals.

I ask Amish whether he ever worried about the impact of moulding mythological and godly characters, more so when ‘religion’ is often made a tool to propagate hatred, or religiosity is looked upon as a sign of being ‘non-secular’. “Not really. All religions are good and we need to have mutual respect for each other,” he replies. “The idea has been to tell a story and no one had any issues with it. I have readers across the faiths — Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus and the rest — who have enjoyed reading the fiction.”

When asked about his take on acclaimed literary works versus bestsellers that may not be considered as masterpieces, Amish says the debate is prevalent within the publishing industry. “As a reader, I am open to all kinds of books. As a writer, I write what comes naturally to me,” he says. “A writer must write for himself or herself,” Amish adds with a smile before signing off.

QUIZ ON FANTASY FICTION AND WRITERS

1. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien’s epic fantasy, Lord of the Rings, began as a sequel to his 1937 fantasy novel. Name this novel.

2. Name the the main antagonist in J K Rowling’s Harry Potter fantasy series. He is often referred to as the “Dark Lord.”

3. Who created the famous fantasy fiction character of Conan the Barbarian?

4. How many books comprise the fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia, by C S Lewis? The first book was published in 1950.

5. Who created the famous fantasy character of Peter Pan?

Answers:
1. The Hobbit.
2. Lord Voldemort. He is also referrred to in the series as “You-Know-Who” or “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”
3. Robert Ervin Howard. He created the fantasy series in 1932. The stories were published in the Weird Tales magazine.
4. Seven books: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; The Silver Chair; The Horse and His Boy; The Magician’s Nephew; The Last Battle.
5. Sir James Matthew Barrie.