In this interview with TNM, the bestselling author speaks about his latest book 'Raavan', his meeting with PM Modi, and views on offering alternative perspectives about religion and gods.

Vast majority of us is deeply religious but deeply liberal Author Amish Tripathi intv
news Interview Tuesday, July 16, 2019 - 18:13

It is often said that grief helps to bring in a different perspective. In bestselling author Amish Tripathi's case, his personal struggles served as an impetus to pen his latest book, Raavan - The Enemy of Aryavarta.

The book, which is the third offering in the Ram Chandra series, was released in the first week of July.

During a recent visit to Bengaluru, TNM caught up with Amish for a chat.

'Raavan is a character that suffers a lot'

In the book, Amish leaves it up to the readers to decode Raavan. It’s up to the reader to decide on whether Raavan was the greatest villain in our history or just a victim of circumstances.

But, the author has a personal perspective on the dark character as well.

“He (Raavan) is a character who clearly suffers a lot. One of the wisest things Gautham Buddha told us was that grief is a reality of everyone’s life. No one escapes it. How you react to it makes all the difference to your life. And, Raavan’s reactions to his sufferings were anger, hatred, and a host of other things which made it only worse for him. Add to it, Raavan was so capable that his anger and agony impacted the world,” says Amish.

His fans are in for a surprise— there’s a clear digression in the tone of the book from Amish’s previous work.

“There’s no question of changing anything in the book. It’s a really dark book. His character is as such, so it influenced the way the book came out. My readers are not used to an unrelentingly dark book from me. Writing on a character like Raavan, he’s such a dark guy, in some ways you’re happy the book is over,” he says.

Where the book came from

The book, which took a year-and-a-half to materialise, sprouted during a phase of personal turmoil.

“I passed through various emotional troubles in the past two years, which happened to coincide with writing a book on a character who suffered a lot. So, I guess it showed in the book. This is the longest gap I’ve taken to write a book – two years. There was a time in the middle when I had stopped, but I restarted it,” he explains.

And, penning this book offered him a significant takeaway: “If your reaction to shit that happens is negative - like hatred, unrelenting anger –you only make it worse for yourself. So, the biggest lesson from this book is to learn what not to do!”

On religion and politics

Given how intolerant people can get about alternative perspectives on religion and gods, Amish has been on a lucky streak.

Speaking of this, he says, “I am not denying that there are extremists in India. Fortunately, they are in really small numbers. I believe a vast majority of us is deeply religious but deeply liberal. We are not a violent country. On an average per capita, violence (in India) is one of the least in the world. If you write with respect, I don't think you have much reason to worry. Controversies don't happen, I'm a test case of that.”

Amish recently presented his book to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who’s seen as a Hindutva icon. Asked what he felt about mixing religion with politics, Amish chooses a safe answer.

“I never comment on politics. Never have, never will comment on anyone who holds a constitutional post – whether it is that of the Chief Minister or Prime Minister or President. Irrespective of one’s political affiliations, someone who’s the Prime Minister is the PM of all of us. I just handed over my book to seek blessings. That’s the way I see it. You’ll never find any statement of mine on politics.  I don’t comment or indulge in politics. My job is to present through my stories the wonderful, liberal, ancient wisdom of India and try and communicate that with a modern touch. That’s all I try to do.”

Witty and quite practical in conversation, you’d think Amish is naturally social. But, he disagrees. "I'm not the most social person around, I do it for marketing, which by the way makes me really nervous. If the book flops, the publishers will cancel the contract. In a way, I'm happy that the book is over. My readers are used to tragedy and wars, but those aren’t unrelentingly dark books from me. So, at one point, I was wondering how they’d react to it. Writing on a character like Raavan (he is such a dark guy), the book can kind of sink you deeper."

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