Even the heavy rains couldn't dampen the spirit of book lovers from gathering in huge numbers at a city bookstore for the launch of Scion of Ikshvaku. Amish Tripathi is certainly a crowd-puller. Sporting a white T-shirt with the cover of his book printed on it, and jeans, Tripathi enters the venue wearing his trademark smile. After obliging a room full of readers with autographed copies of his book, the author sits down for a lively chat.
The much-awaited Scion of Ikshvaku has finally released. How has been the response so far?
It felt great when readers got back to me saying that they liked the book as it is a fast-paced novel. (Smiles) Many were even able to decode a few of the philosophical messages. There are also many who have been able to find out how it is linked to the Shiva trilogy. In both the cases, some clues were obvious, while some were not.
Have you received any feedback from readers expressing their dissatisfaction with portions of the book?
I am not denying that there are a few extremists but a vast majority of Indians are religious and liberal too. My experience says that 95% cases of the controversies around books are created by the author and publishers with the help for their friends in the media for the sake of publicity. They are not genuine. If you avoid controversy, it doesn't happen and I have not faced anything till now. This is a free country and people may or may not like my book and I need to accept that.
So, you always remain prepared to face brickbats every time you plan to write a mythological fiction.
(Smiles) We are not living in China or Pakistan. India is a free country and people have the right to express their views and opinions. I believe both praises and criticisms are opportunities to learn. One should not get emotional about it. If I accept someone's feedback, it means I have learnt from it and if I don't, I won't implement it.
Why did you plan to start the story with a high drama showing Ram and Lakshman in vanwas busy hunting for food and Sita getting kidnapped?
I have used a technique called in medias res. Here you begin with one incident and then go into flashback mode. Here the story goes back 34 years. By doing so you get a deeper understanding of incidents. You will understand the reason behind doing so once you read the second and the third book in the series.
You had earlier told that when you write books, you have dreams about it?
Believe it or not, but when I write a parallel universe opens up to me. I can actually see it and I describe only 25% of what I see. It's much like a reverie with your eyes open. I even feel the emotions, see the characters, wars…everything. It happens every time. It may sound strange but that parallel universe is more real to me than our universe.
This book depicts Lord Ram as a great leader, son, husband and brother. Will the series highlight only his goodness or also have a critical point of view?
In fact, Lord Ram's story even in the traditional way is supposed to represent the advantages and challenges of leading a life of laws. And in our traditional Indian way we are supposed to learn from our Gods. We should also remember that there are benefits and challenges in leading such a life. Life of laws is very good for the society but not that good for the family where the rule of love is more important. What if there is a man or leader who is living a life of laws? So then what will his life be?
Your book also projects Ram Rajya as the perfect kingdom. How much is that relevant in the present times, when so much criminal activities are prevalent?
That had to be created because most people don't follow the laws and Lord Ram plays a rebel in that way. Unlike rebels who break laws, here we have a rebel who follows law living in a society where nobody follows the law. Also, in my books there is a core philosophy. The Shiva Trilogy was a discussion on what is evil and the answers weren't simple. The core philosophy in the Ram Chandra series is what an ideal society is and here too the answers aren't simple and many discussions take place within the book.
But what is an ideal society?
Every choice a society makes should have both positive and negative aspects around it. One should be aware of that. Adults must be able to make their own choices based on the positives and negatives that come along with it. So, the discussions have been kept open for all.
How much of the story is inspired from the current times?
There are issues we need a calm debate on. The problem in India is that we tend to sit on a debate when the emotions are running high. It's not right. One of the points that I have raised in the book is that we need to have a debate on juvenile crime. We need to seriously do something about the way it's on a rise.
Will the series also talk about gender issues?
Yes, I have talked about it, as by far, it is the biggest social problem we are facing. And I feel we get distracted on relatively minor issues rather than thinking about it. I have spoken on this issue in all my books. Even the Manusmriti, the text where I disagree on a few things, says that Gods abandon the land where women aren't respected. I have referred to that line in this book.
Have you started writing the second book in the series?
I will start writing it soon. But at this point I can't say by when it will be ready for release.