We meet at the Indian Oil Corporation’s headquarters in Bandra. The ID card slung around his neck and the crisp formals tell you that 41-year-old Anand Neelakantan is an executive at a corporate giant. However, what sets this unassuming man apart is his highly successful career as an author of mythological fiction. Neelakantan’s bestselling debut novel, Asura: Tale of the Vanquished (2012), turned Ramayana on its head. Was the 10-headed demon, Ravana, really evil as we’re led to believe? Was Lord Rama divine? In his book, Neelakantan questions our age-old notions and depicts Ravana as an ambitious person oppressed by the system. Then, in Roll of the Dice (2013), part one of the Ajaya series, he re-tells the events leading up to the Mahabharata war, from the Kauravas’ point of view. Now, in the second and final part, Rise of Kali, he takes the story ahead from Duryodhana's perspective.

    You’ve said you were fascinated by mythology while growing up. How did epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana shape your childhood?
    Bards would often visit my village, Thripunithura (near Cochin, Kerala). We looked forward to their oral retellings of all the Puranas. It was a major source of entertainment.

    You’re drawn to anti-heroes. Why do you choose to write their side of the story?
    They appear more human. It was easy to identify with Ravana because, like most people, he has a lot of flaws. Rama is an ideal. One is a god, the other is a man. This is the case with Yudhisthira and Duryodhana too. 

    In Rise of Kali, you voiced some of your own misgivings about the Bhagvad Gita.
    I’ve expressed some of my doubts through Arjuna’s and Balrama’s. For instance, Balrama asks Krishna, “If Duryodhan is evil, why not kill only him? Why create a war?” Krishna doesn’t have a convincing answer to that.

    How do you go about researching for your novels?
    I speak to people from back home who keep the oral tradition alive. They have different takes on some of the smaller aspects in the same story. Then, I refer to a Puranic encyclopedia written a hundred years ago in Malayalam. It has a whole list of characters, in alphabetical order, and their stories. It’s quite phenomenal.

    How do you re-imagine a scene that’s been written about endlessly and read with reverence?
    When I sit down to write, I get into the skin of the characters. It’s like an actor playing his part. That kind of schizophrenia is required for a writer. For instance, I might have prayed half an hour ago, but Krishna is not a god when I start writing.

    What’s next?
    I am working on a young adult book series about the age old story of Kacha-Devayani (story of how Kacha, from the Deva clan and Devayani, daughter of Asura guru Shukracharya, fall in love). My daughter, who is nearly 13, is a big fan of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. She finds Indian mythology boring, which is very offensive to me (laughs). So, I'm writing this fantasy love story for her.

    Rise of Kali by Anand Neelakantan is out now.
    Price: Rs 399 (Leadstart Publishing)

Muzaffarnagar riots: FIRs likely against 2 BJP leaders, ex-MP

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Muzzafarnagar
  • |
  • Updated: Sep 09, 2013 12:11 IST

An army trooper during a flag march in the curfew-hit areas in Muzaffarnagar. Army was deployed in the area after intense communal clashes on Saturday. (PTI Photo)

The Muzaffarnagar administration is set to file FIRs against two BJP MLAs, a former MP now associated with the Congress and two farmer leaders for allegedly fanning unrest in the district. 

According to police sources, BJP leaders Hukum Singh and Sangeet Som, former MP Harinder Malik and farmer leaders Rakesh Tikait, Naresh Tikait addressed the mahapanchayat (meeting) where provocative statements were made on Saturday.

Singh is the leader of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh assembly, while Som is the MLA from Sardana. Rakesh Tikait and Naresh Tikait are top Bharatiya Kisan Union leaders.  

It was not immediately clear what charges these leaders would be booked under, but a police official who did not want to be named said there was a clear case of violation of the administration's prohibitory orders clamped under section 144 CrPC. 

Locals fear the FIRs against the leaders could stoke fresh unrest.

Violence erupted after people returning from the meeting held at Nagla Mandor village under Sikhara police station were attacked.   

The meeting had been convened over the  murder of two people of a community. The two murders followed the killing of a man from another community on August 27 over alleged vulgar remarks passed at a girl.

Meanwhile, Shamli adjoining Muzaffarnagar witnessed a flag march by the army on Sunday evening. Several villages in Muzzafarnagar and Shamli districts saw violence and arson.


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