Writer Amish Tripathi, who stopped by the TOI office on Saturday, sat down for a no-holds barred conversation where he spoke on topics that ranged from Hindu extremism to the Game of Thrones and his penchant for eating cream biscuits while writing. Excerpts:
What is your position on recent controversies over claims made by certain ideological sections about ancient India's greatness?
The debate has been hijacked by two groups of extremists. On one hand, you have the left wing elite that reject all theories of ancient Indian greatness, even when these theories are well-documented. For instance, the theory of performing a rhinoplasty can be found in the Sushruta Samhita. A much later account by a British soldier corroborates this (he describes the operation being performed on a soldier of the Maratha army). These are credible, verifiable sources yet some people refuse to believe there was anything of merit in India before the advent of the West and India's colonization. On the other hand, there is another group that goes about saying things like ancient Indians had already found their way to Mars, etc. The truth lies somewhere in between.
Do you believe this ancient wisdom can guide us today in the modern age?
Absolutely! Our ancient cultures are the strongest allies of liberalism. If you go through the Rig Veda, you will find that it is a strong supporter of women's equality and women's strength. Yes, people often question tracts such as the Manu Smriti. But you have to understand that the ancient texts are di vided into two groups: the shrutis and the smritis. While the shrutis are supposed to be divine in origin the Vedas and Upanishads fall into this category the smritis are clearly written by men. They were es sentially guidelines and they were restricted to a certain period in history .
Smritis are expected to evolve. I would say that the smriti for our age is the Constitution of India.Would you write a fantasy novel such as the Game of Thrones with all its bloody violence and ambiguous moral landscape?
As it is people tell me my books are quite violent. But I quite like the Game of Thrones what really appeals to me is that it is more real and morally ambiguous than, say, the Lord of the Rings, where good and evil are much more clearly demarcated.
How do you handle criticism, especially the one that harps on your English not being highbrow?
I write in the language that I think and I am an Indian who speaks Indian English. When it comes to mistakes in grammar, I accept them and am willing to learn because I am human. Other than that, the critics, by and far, have been kind to me on the ideas and the philosophy front.
Do you suffer from the writer's block and what's your daily writing routine?
I have never suffered from the writer's block. I am an early morning person; so after my exercise and puja, I get down to writing by 9 or 9.30am. Some days the writing just flows and I find myself writing for seven hours. On other days, when I get stuck I dis tract myself by watching a movie or reading because the key for me is not to get agi tated or frustrated. Music is an important part of my routine. And oh! When I write, I eat a lot of cream biscuits .