QUEEN’S ROAD:Author Amish Tripathi certainly has a thing for numbers. His Shiva Trilogy has sold 2.5 million copies since 2010, and grossed over Rs 600 million, making his books the fastest selling book series in the country.
The author gave up a career in finance after 14 years and has now come out with Scion of Ikshvaku, the first of the Ram Chandra Series.
In an email conversation with City Express, Tripathi shares that when he signed a contract with his publisher in 2014, he had at least five to six well-developed ideas. He zeroed in on one at a literary festival, where a woman walked up to him and spoke rudely about Lord Ram.
While the Shiva Trilogy was based in 1900 BC, the Rama Chandra series is based in 3400 BC. The book is Tripathi’s exploration and re-imagination of the story of Ram, the ‘misunderstood prince’ who built a kingdom and eventually acquired the status of a god.
You only have to look at the trailers preceding the book to understand the premise. Yes, this author’s website has trailers and even music. Which brings us to the question of marketing.
“I think it plays an important role in the success of books. I read a lot and I can give you a long list of books that should have been bestsellers but are not, because they were not marketed properly,” he explains.
Talk of marketing and one can’t help but draw parallels with the other best-selling author, also an IIM graduate, Chetan Bhagat.
“Chetan is a friend. I have always said that he was the first one to show the Indian publishing industry that books can be sold in large numbers. And I respect him for that. And I think the market is expanding.”
Tripathi is however not all marketing. His knowledge of religion, philosophy and mythology runs deep.
“My greatest influence has been my family. Most of what I know about our scriptures, mythology and philosophy was taught by them,” he says.
We ask him about Hinduism and his thoughts about how it is being practised today.
“I think there is tremendous wisdom to be learnt from the ancient cultures around the world. Much of our old wisdom has survived till today, which is very good. Our history is at the root of the inherent liberalism of the Indian way.”
Explaining how the liberal Indian way needs to be safeguarded, he says we need to fight the birth-based caste system (“which, fortunately, has been weakening in the past few decades”) and the oppression of women. Amish points out that in ancient India, women were deeply respected. “In the Rig Veda, our oldest and holiest scripture, 30 hymns were written by rishikas, (female rishis). That was the status of women in ancient India. And look what we do today!” he remarks.
Tripathi is a voracious reader, and has recently read and enjoyed B R Ambedkar’s works, M T Vasudevan Nair’s Bhima and Sam Harris’ Waking Up.
As an author who is constantly delving into the scriptures and philosophy, Tripathi is also deeply religious. He visits a Shiva temple on Mondays, does Mahamrityunjaya japa every morning and even wears a kada that says ‘Om Namah Shivaya’. And it is not just Shiva, but a range of other symbols and pictures from several faiths that hold pride of place in his puja room.
But it was not always thus. At some point in the early nineties, he was an atheist.
Writing his first book, about 12 years ago, restored his faith and this seems to have stood him in good stead. Sometime in the future, we might see Shiva Trilogy being made into movies. Filmmaker Karan Johar’s company, Dharma Productions, now has the movie rights for the books.