It’s hard to believe Amish Tripathi when he says he never set out to be a writer. The banker-turned-author of the popular Shiva trilogy recently won a million-dollar advance for a new series – and he hasn’t even finalized the topic yet.
Before his books took pride of place in shop windows, Tripathi was already living what some would call a charmed life. A management degree at one of India’s top business schools had led to a successful career in private and retail banking. But it was his admiration for Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, that catapulted him to literary stardom in India.
When 'The Immortals of Meluha' and 'The Secret of the Nagas' topped bestseller lists, the 38-year-old quit his job to become a full-time writer. 'The Oath of the Vayuputras,' the third book in the mythological fantasy series, was launched in March.
Tripathi spoke to Reuters about his unexpected success, why he chose to write about Shiva, and what he plans to do next.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
Q: What led you to retelling myths? What was happening in Indian society or in the literary market that made you think the timing was right?
A: The question has an implicit hint that I kind of planned this… I never even wanted to be a writer, frankly. When I was young I was an academically oriented guy like most academically oriented guys. I graduated in science, did an MBA. My dreams as a young boy were I wanted to be an industrialist or I wanted to be a scientist. I never really wanted to be a writer. I know it sounds strange but I honestly believe that I didn’t pick the story, the story has picked me. I’ve written absolutely no fiction before 'The Immortals of Meluha'. Not even a short story in school, absolutely nothing.
Q: So there was nothing like the right time?
A: No, it just happened to me. With due apologies to Shakespeare, some people are born writers, some people achieve it after a lot of hard work, some people have a writing career thrust upon them. I am in that last group.
Q: What led you to retell the Shiva story in the way that you did?
A: For that, I will have to give you the genesis of the books. It began as a pure philosophical thesis. A thesis on what is evil and that got converted into an adventure to convey that philosophy. And if you have to write an adventure to convey a philosophy on evil, well then the best hero is the destroyer of evil himself, Lord Shiva. And having said that, one must also say he’s a very exciting god to write about even in his traditional form. He’s a very democratic god, he never talks down to his devotees, he treats his wife with respect – something which many men, frankly, across the world can learn from. He’s a brilliant dancer, he is the god of dance, he is a brilliant musician, he’s the god of music as well, he drinks bhang, he smokes marijuana, he’s a fierce warrior. With due respect to other gods, Lord Shiva is a very cool god; he’s a fun character to write about.