Mythology is often a way of looking at issues that afflict present reality and ‘wonder’ writer Amish Tripathi, described as ‘India’s first literary pop-star’ by film director Shekhar Kapoor, says he has always raised women’s issues in his books by making his female characters very strong. Besides, issues of violence and caste, among others, are also woven artfully through the stories of Shiva or Rama Chandra.
“What pains me most is the mass violence against women in Indian society with 500,000 women killed in the womb every year. This is something that all of us have to fight against,” says the youth icon. The writer, who is known to have a love for history, says, “This is appalling and for a moment I will leave aside myth and speak of history. In the Rig Veda, 30 hymns were penned by women known as ‘rishikas’ and the status of women was very high and see what we have done to them now.”
He further quotes surveys of gender ratio to say the girl child is killed in the womb or by systematic malnutrition in India.
Would the girl child be the protagonist of his books in the times to come? To this question, Amish’s reply is, “Certainly, this issue is very important to me.” That would certainly bring the issue centrestage because he is hailed as the overnight publishing phenomenon with his Shiva Trilogy – ‘The Immortals of Meluha (2010), The Secret of the Nagas (2011) and The Oath of the Vayuputras (2013) – that has over 2.5 million copies in print with gross retail sales of over Rs 70 crore, making it the fastest selling book series in Indian history.
His next book, titled ‘Scion of Ikshvaku’, the first book of the Ram Chandra series, released in June 2015 and has topped national bestseller charts since.
Listed among the 100 most influential people in India three years in a row, Amish is proud to talk of his humble background. “My grandfather was a pandit in Benaras and I learned much about Hindu theology and religion. I went through an agnostic phase when I saw communal riots in Mumbai in the 1990s but writing the Shiva triology made me a believer again.” How would he describe his journey from Shiva to Rama Chandra? “It is manifestation of the same force and in the ancient texts of the 1,008 listed names of Shiva, one is Vishnu and vice versa Vishnu too has been called Shiva.”
How does he feel about the labels given to him such as ‘literary pop star’? Amish’s reply is, “Well my publishers seem to like them and put them on the book jackets. I just count it all as Shiva’s blessings. I feel I am living a dream and don’t wish to rise from it.” Amish, who is an IIMKolkata graduate and worked for 14 years in financial services before becoming a full-time writer (with Goddess Lakshmi’s blessings), says, “I am highly pleased to see the tremendous confidence in the youth of India today.”