Controversies in India are given greater prominence than pressing issues like the oppression of women that need to be brought out in public, says best-selling author Amish Tripathi, who "approaches the subject with a heart" to avoid unnecessary trouble while writing on religion.
"Please don’t misunderstand me… but I fear that we don’t focus on real issues that I have spoken about many times, and it is the subject of women’s oppression," Tripathi told IANS in an interview on the sidelines of the Jaipur LitFest.
"Our society behaves in a horrendous manner with women. I am not just talking about rape, but about mass murder through foeticide and systematic malnutrition," he added.
Religion is a dangerous territory to tread in any country, but the author of the "Shiva Trilogy" has been successfully retelling mythologies without getting into controversies.
"Let’s be honest…95 percent of the controversies are generated and are not genuine controversies. They are generated with a hope of creating publicity to sell books and movies or anything," he said.
"If you write from a position where your heart is approaching the subject with respect, it will show in your work and would reflect what you believe in," he added.
Tripathi, 40, announced at the recent Jaipur Literature Festival that his next series of books will be on Lord Ram and the first one, "The Scion of Ishkwaku", will be released in October.
According to the banker-turned-author, he had signed a deal with his publishers (Westland) in 2013 but wasn’t sure about the subject till a woman at a literature festival spoke bitterly about Lord Ram.
"The way that girl spoke about Lord Ram was deeply disrespectful and that upset me greatly. And this is how I decided to write on this subject," recollected the author of "The Immortals of Meluha", "The Secret of the Nagas" and "The Oath of the Vayuputras".
"I would like to look at him holistically and completely. Practically all Indians love and respect him for what is known as ‘Rama Rajya’, but I wonder how many people would have actually thought through what ‘Rama Rajya’ is. That is the thing I want to write about and how he built that society," he said.
But aren’t the characteristics of Ram and Shiva different? If Shiva’s dynamic personality has many layers to be discovered, Lord Ram’s character doesn’t offer many shades of the rainbow.
"Through Lord Ram, we might learn that it is cool to follow rules. And that is something I think modern Indians might need to learn," he said.
Tripathi doesn’t like to be labeled as the "pioneer of retelling mythologies". He said myths and other such stories have been popular for over 1,000 years in India, but the mainstream publishers never took serious note of this.
But things have changed now and in the Indian literary landscape, the retelling of mythologies has become extremely popular. Writers are approaching the topic by reinventing the story for modern readers.
"Mythology in the Indian language publishing space never ran out of popularity, but it came a bit later in English literature. It was probably because people making decisions had a westernised way of outlook," he concluded.
(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at [email protected])