So you are planning to write a great Indian novel, an epic that will plumb the depths of Indian society and hold up a mirror to our souls? That's wonderful. I wish many more of our young writers had the same vaulting ambition. I really want to encourage you, but at the same time, in light of recent events, I would also like to give you a few words of advice.
The first thing to remember is that it's wise to avoid all mention of caste in your book. You don't want to end up like Ashis Nandy. Backward castes, forward castes, OBCs, SCs, STs, avoid the whole lot.
Please ensure there's absolutely no mention of religion in your novel. Sidestep all references to Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and Donyi Polo, a religion in Arunachal Pradesh. If it's absolutely essential to bring in a god, you could write about Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war and sacrifice. Although I haven't heard of anybody's feelings being hurt by a reference to this deity, please be careful, there may be secret Huitzilopochtli worshippers in Gummidipoondi waiting to take umbrage. You wouldn't want them to do a Vishwaroopam on your book.
Do not write anything about our great leaders, except to say they are great. Shivaji, Subhash Chandra Bose, the Thackerays, Modi are some such great men. As a matter of fact, it's best to avoid politics and history. Who knows, you might inadvertently write something about the Ram Setu or the Babri Masjid or some place of worship and that would be the end of your book.
When deciding upon the setting for your novel, keep away from tricky places. Please do not place it in Kashmir. It's best to stay away from regions that have ongoing tribal revolts. Never write about the North-east. It would be great if you could entirely avoid geography as well as history, but most writers find it impossible to reach that level of proficiency.
It would be a good idea if you do not have any women in your story. You can never be sure when some remark of yours might be seen as retrograde by the feminists or infringe some gotra taboo or affect family honour. Also, do not write about women's clothes. They are bound to be either too short or too long. That doesn't mean, of course, that people should go around nude in your novel - that would invite even bigger problems.
Sex is completely taboo, of course, bec-ause it can corrupt the minds of the young. Nobody should smoke in your novel, unless you think it is absolutely essential, in which case you should write, "Warning: smoking causes cancer", every time one of your characters pulls out a cigarette. Avoid all mention of alcohol. Ditto for all kinds of expletives. If you want to spice up your story, use murder, but ensure the murderers always say "please" and "thank you". Ensure the murders are environment-friendly.
Be careful about the names you give your villains. Avoid mainstream names, which might be construed as an insult to a community. Perhaps your villains could be Chinese?
Eh? You want to write a book on quantum physics instead? Better not, you should be careful of what you say about the God particle. Perhaps the best thing would be to write a serious, deep and profound social novel about silicon-based shape-shifting alien life forms in the Andromeda galaxy?
Views expressed by the author are personal