Author Amish follows his instincts: It could be calling out JK Rowling for a factual error, turning atheist, dropping his last name ‘Tripathi’ because it declared his caste, or writing in a genre that wasn’t as “cool” till he made it so. He has six books to his name till date, five fiction from two series, and one non-fiction released in 2017, Immortal India. The five-book Ram Chandra (the epic Ramayana retold) series has seen two releases till date, (Ram and Sita) with Raavan slotted for a mid-year launch.
All this after he had invested 14 years in a successful banking career.
Though he loved history as a subject and was a voracious reader, he took up banking as a safer career bet after an MBA from IIM Kolkata. He was more “left brain”, as he chooses to describe himself.
When he wrote his first book in 2010, The Immortals of Meluha, he was still working as a “boring” banker. It’s massive success was followed a year later by The Secret of the Nagas. That’s when he got the confidence to quit his banking job and devote himself to writing full time. With The Oath of the Vayuputras in 2013, the Shiva Trilogy was complete and had done business of 3.5 million copies in print and gross retail sales of over Rs 100 crore. With talks of a film in the works, it is exciting times for Amish fans.
Finding balance is key to happiness
And yet, Amish is no stranger to failure. “My first book was self-published,” he says, “all the publishers rejected it and I stopped counting after the 20th rejection.” He had the last laugh though when …Meluha hit the right chord with readers, many of them the same millennials publishers presumed had no interest in ancient Indian culture, and within the first three months, many of the publishers returned to bid for its rights.
Success, though, is immaterial to him, says Amish. “I’m in this wonderful space of swadharma (duty of self to the world, to fulfil the unique purpose of being).” Fluent as he is in the ancient Indian scriptures, he quotes shlokas to explain his ideas frequently. In the Bhagavad Gita, he says, Krishna puts it succinctly for Arjuna but it is often misunderstood and misinterpreted. “What Krishna is telling Arjuna is to be detached from the fruits of labour (though not be resigned to fate) and thus become unstoppable. Because you love what you do so much that nothing is able to distract you from your goal.” While failure demotivates, success is more dangerous, according to him.
“Our ancestors had said divinity is in balance, any form of extremism is not good. It is always nice to believe that you are your own person but in real life there has to be a balance. There are things that you may not like to do but you have to do,” he says. “It is alright as long as you don’t go to any extreme, that you are so much your own person that you end up hurting others. On the other extreme, if you only live out what others expect you to do and not live out your own dreams then that is not good either. I always strive to live a balanced life.”
Everything in the world, whether good or bad, exists for a reason; even evil has a role to play
Lessons to learn from Shiva
Spirituality was a concept that Amish grew up with. His grandfather, who he was very close to, was a pandit in Varanasi and narrated stories from the Puranas to a young Amish. However, what was underlined was the need to keep asking questions. “It is natural to have doubts, he said, but faith does not mean blind belief.”
Today, as an avowed follower of Shiva and an anti-elitist himself, what appeals to Amish the most about Shiva is “the fact that he believed that everything in the world, whether good or bad, exists for a reason; even evil has a role to play.”
How different are we from ancient Indians
A firm believer in brand India, Amish points out the importance of the legacy that has been handed down. “Ancient Indians had a very different worldview from the belief system we see around us today. They were very different from us. They were humble, liberal and believed in equality. They believed in a concept of multiple truths able to exist at the same time which is at the root of ancient India’s liberalism driven by a love for variety.” Our culture is our best ally, he feels, and there is a need to include more of this culture in the education system.
Our scriptures say that even gods abandon the lands where women are not treated with respect.
“It is this thought process that made India great,” he says pointing out why this 5,000-year-old culture continues to thrive while the curtains have come down on most ancient civilisations. Our ancestors designed it very wisely, he adds, India has that balance between strength and flexibility in times of rapid change.
The women in his works, be it Sati or Sita, are not just merely decorative but help the story move forward. They are progressive, have an opinion, are fearless and indomitable. The thought process, he says, is the result of his research into ancient Indian culture as well as his view of women.
“Our scriptures say that even gods abandon the lands where women are not treated with respect. How can a society prosper when 50 per cent of the population is oppressed? In ancient India, women had a larger role to play. Our ancient scriptures teach equality between men and women. The oldest Indian scripture, Rig Veda, has hymns written by rishikas (women scholars). That was the status of women in ancient India.”
On finding motivation
By nature “very disciplined”, Amish does not need motivation to write. “I switch off totally when I’m writing. Once the book is out, in the marketing phase, I feel a little more pressure, anxiety creeps in but that nervous energy gives the momentum as well.”
Though the last two years were very difficult for him personally, he has managed to stay focused. “Only thing one can do [in such times] is to work on being positive,” he says adding the value of having a regime. “I meditate and do yoga, practise pranayama every morning. I also read a lot of non-fiction.”
Years of practice and research have taught him this: Allow your heart to pick the destination but use your mind to plan the journey. And yes, dream more and dream big. That is, in fact, his message to his many millennial fans who, happily, have choices that must be explored.
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