THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Anita Shirodkar’s fourth book, following up on her previous titles, Secrets and Second Chances, Nights in Pink Satin, and Adriana’s Smile, is the first part of a trilogy titled, Guardians of the Blue Lotus. Laying the grounds for an epic mythological fantasy, Aryavir is set in a fictional world that harks back to Indian mythology, leading readers through a fascinating illusory world in ancient India with fictitious kingdoms and races, where Aryavir is the crown prince of the kingdom of Kamalkund. In an email interaction, the author speaks about her fascination with the Mahabharata, and her take on new interpretations.
How would you explain the spurt of books based on Indian mythology lately?
To me, the success of the genre lies in our indelible ties to our Indian mythological roots, to the ethos that is so irrevocably ingrained in our DNA. You can’t quite take the epics out of us — we love our sanskars, our traditions, our history, our grandiose, invincible warriors, and our complex yet subtle philosophy.
We identify at a visceral level with our mythological heroes and tend to give them a demi-god status. Having exhausted the original epics, we are hungry for more, and the explosion, if you
can call it that, of such literature is naturally being voraciously consumed!
How did you settle on the character of Aryavir?
I’m among the more passionate fans of the Mahabharata, and my inspiration started there. I wanted to re-create some of that magic, albeit with a more contemporary twist in terms of characters and their motivations, so that I could appeal to a modern-day reader.
Aryavir is the first of the trilogy, Guardians of the Blue Lotus, and the story follows the fictional Kamal Akshi people and their kingdom of Kamalkund. There is a wealth of inspiration to be culled from our classics, and writing this genre is a labour of love, as far as I am concerned.
Tell us a little about the research that went into the book?
My study of the Advait Vedanta led to the creation of Ishv, The Formless One, who has no shape, form, characteristics or attributes, and is considered the god of the universe I write about.
I stayed with the basic tenets of the moral code outlined in our epics, touched upon dharmic duties and accepted the moral behavior, but ditched the pluralistic Hindu pantheon of gods. Some of the characters have fantastic back stories, like the long-haired Kesakuta warriors, descendants of the fictional Panjataraka constellation, or the Maheshwari Masters, who are the spiritual keepers of the Three Worlds.
How do you view the blatant exploitation of characters from the Indian epics in popular culture?
This is a good question, and I must admit I have mixed feeling about new interpretations. I enjoy reading re-told versions, and loved the way Shiva was humanised in the version by Amish Tripathi. But then again, I have a tough time reconciling with a Draupadi who is in love with Karna. I’ve read scores of Mahabharata versions, and honestly, Karna is my favourite character. It’s a thin line, I feel, and very subjective.
I would love younger readers to read the original stories in their entirety before embarking upon the adaptations. Our epics are too precious to be diluted into so many versions. Before long, the lines will become so blurred that future generations will not know which is the original, and which
is the newer interpretation!
How do Kamalkund’s tales evolve?
There’s plenty more to come in the Guardians of the Blue Lotus trilogy. There’s the great war in book two, and book three will be a partial flashback into the story of Ambujakshan and Madhumalli. The mysteries and secrets unfold with each book.