Satyarth Nayak’s bestseller debut novel Emperor’s Riddles, a perfect thriller mystery paired with history, is a hit with young readers and opened a completely different avenue for budding writers to experiment with. While in India, reinterpretation of mythology has been a leading theme, Satyarth’s experimentation has been praised by well known authors like Amish Tripathy and Ashwin Sanghi.
The 33-year-old Odia writer has executed the emperor’s (protagonist) evolution parallel to the main track of murder intrigue and has laced it with Buddhist philosophy. The Asian College of Journalism (ACJ) alumnus and Delhi-based author was always fascinated by the writings of Agatha Christie and Dan Brown and took up the challenge of writing a thriller, which is not common in India. “If you love riddles, if you can solve murder mystery, then the book is for you,” says the young author. His short story ELIXIR has been selected by Penguin for its upcoming anthology of 20 inspiring real-life stories.
Satyarth who completed his schooling from Seth Anandiram Jaipuria School, Kanpur in 1998, graduated in English from Sri Venkateswara College, New Delhi in 2001 and did his postgraduation from St Stephen’s College, New Delhi in 2003. In 2005, he completed his Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism from ACJ, Chennai. “College is a platform to strike a fine balance between freedom and responsibility. My interest and love for writing took a new shape during my college days. Treating teachers like friends, while keeping the respect intact, helped me gain knowledge.”
Ask him about proud moments in college, he immediately recalls one when he topped graduation examination and also when he made it to St Stephen’s.
His short story Eve won the British Council Writer’s Circle Prize in 2006. “While standing in a queue to participate in a music contest in college, my English teacher dissuaded me and asked me to participate in a creative writing contest instead. Though it was an embarrassing situation, I won the first prize”. The incident has been mentioned in his story Music & Lyrics featured in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. He recalls the girls in his class teasing him about his dreamy eyes. He was one of the gentle boys among his classmates and bunking class was never a regular affair.
As his father was in Central Government service, they had to frequently shift to different places of India and Satyarth regrets not picking up his mother tongue Odia. He was mostly into debating, creative writing, moderating and quizzing during his college days. And all that helped him take part in several literary festivals in the country.
He also remembers his tiff with the Dean of St Stephen’s College when he was denied hostel accommodation. “I hail from Faridabad and asked for accommodation. They told me that Faridabad comes under Delhi NCR Region and that accommodation was only for outstation students. In the end, they didn’t give me accommodation,” he says.
Recalling his regular hangouts, the author says, “I was fortunate to study both at North Campus and South Campus of Delhi University. So Narulas and PVRs were usual places to spend time with friends besides Connaught Place and Old Delhi.”