BANGALORE: Here is a mythological story that represents the contemporary political system in the country and across the globe in a satiric manner. Nilanjan P Choudhury’s novel, Bali and the Ocean of Milk, which brings into foreground the politics, romance and conflict between two Kings, Bali and Indrah, the ultimate power of Holy trinity.
The author who was recently in town to launch his book at Oxford book store spoke with City Express and about the characters, the storyline and future plans.
Nilanjan who has brought the element of politics in the mythological context said, “The book is certainly a political satire which touches upon contemporary political issues such as the formation of unprincipled alliances for personal gain, ideological conflicts between liberal and fundamentalist forces and the growing presence of women in politics.”
Indrah, who is considered to be the King of Gods, is the central character in the novel but is presented as meek and insecure. When asked about this characterisation, the author said, “While Indrah is ‘officially’ the King of the Gods, the real power centres are the Holy Trinity. My portrayal of him is that of an ambitious yet deeply insecure man who resents the control that the trinity exercise over him. Indrah’s weaknesses and insecurities have been used for comic effect but the overall portrayal has been done with empathy and love which elevates him beyond a caricature.”
In his book, Nilanjan attributes the credit to an Indian scholar of minor repute who requested him to publish it. Speaking about the inspiration, he said, “Like in many murder mysteries, the answer to this question has three parts — motive, opportunity and means. I wanted to write a black comedy or a political satire, the literary equivalent to that of a Dr Strangelove, or a Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron which I thought was not really available in Indian literature.”
He added, “It also struck me that the myth of the ‘churning of the ocean’, in which two opposing forces come together for selfish gain is a recurring theme in contemporary politics.” Fantasy, comedy and detective genres are some of his favourites. Speaking about his future plans, he said that the future projects could either be based on Greek mythology or a novel set in World War II in which the elements of comedy, suspense and strong characterisations will continue to remain. He opined, “I love stories that grab hold of readers from page one and do not let go of them until ‘the end’. Subtle, sensitive and delicate literary fiction is beyond me.”
Vikram Seth, R K Narayan, Hemingway, Jhumpa Lahiri, Steinbeck, J K Rowling, Tolkien, Conan Doyle and Asimov among others are his favourite reads.
Excited about the audience response, he said that book lovers in the city have accepted the novel very well. He concluded, “Many people have said that they have loved the book and the book even made it to a couple of bestseller lists soon after its launch, almost purely through word of mouth.”