1] What sort of research has gone into this book, did you actually visit the places mentioned or was it references from history, archaeology that you have used to create your Meluha?
I didn't do any specific research for this book. Or another way of looking at it is that I have been researching this book for 25 years! I love history and have been a fanatical reader of the subject for many years - and my sources of knowledge for The Immortals of Meluha range from Graham Hancock and Gregory Possehl to the Amar Chitra Katha series! I have visited many places of worship of Lord Shiva. But most of the historical places in the book have actually not been visited by me. Their descriptions are drawn from my readings of history books. Most unfortunately, I have not visited Kailash Mansarovar as yet. I would love to visit it someday. I hope I’ll have the heart to handle it!
2] Your premise of Vikarma, as mentioned in the book, is an interesting concept wherein a person with anything unfortunate happening to them is supposed to not contaminate another with their karma, through touch. Do you correlate it with any modern day concept?
Yes I do. The way the untouchables and dalit are treated in India is very similar to the way the Vikarma were treated in The Immortals of Meluha. We as a society have improved our behaviour with the Dalits. But it is still not good enough. We have a long way to go. Every single person, regardless of their caste, sex, religion or nationality, deserves to be treated only on their karma, their deeds. Nothing else.
3] Was the dialogue deliberately written in modern idiom to make the book something modern readers could relate with?
Yes absolutely. I wanted to make the language such that modern readers could relate to it. But it wasn’t only that. The book has been described as a fast-paced page turner. I think a key part of that was the modern language. Classical/mythical language would have slowed the story down. Since the book is long (The Immortals of Meluha is 400 pages), I think the modern, easy language helps people read it quickly and the focus remains on the story. I have got feedback that most people have read the book in one or two sittings
4] Meluha is an ideal state, but by showing the opposite nature of the Chandravanshis and their Ayodhya, you show that no way of living is ideal. What is the message you are putting out here?
What is ‘ideal’? People could have varying interpretations of it depending on what drives their character. Meluha is an ideal state for those that seek order. But for those who love freedom, Meluha is not ideal. They would probably prefer Swadweep. Nothing wrong with that - with having different requirements from life for yourself. Where the problem begins is when we confuse being different with being evil. Just because someone has a different way of life that we abhor, it does not make him evil. Evil is something much bigger. I will be expanding on this theme and the way of life of the Suryavanshis and the Chandravanshis in the second book of the trilogy, The Secret of the Nagas.
5] This book takes religion and myth by its horns, were you afraid of raising any hackles by your portrayal of Shiva as a mortal?
I don’t know if the book takes religion by the horns. I don’t think it does. The beauty of Hinduism is that there are so many interpretations of the truth. For example, there is the Valmiki Ramayan and the Tulsidas Ramayan – which most of us are aware of. But there are many other versions like Kambaramayanam in Tamil Nadu, Kotha Ramayana in Assam, even a Jain version called Kumudendu Ramayana from Karnataka, each with its own unique take on the story. In the Indonesian Ramayan, characters are very different from what we Indians are used to. It is the same with all our gods. Hinduism allows order and freedom to coexist. Mine is only a small addition to the rich tapestry of our religion – a story which transformed my life for the better. Writing this story converted me from a non-believer into a devoted shiv bhakt.
Also, in Hinduism, we have always had 3 concepts of god. One is the nirgun-nirakar god, another is that god comes down in human form or avatar and the third is that humans discover the god within them through the force of their karma. Lord Buddha for example was a human who is respected by many Hindus as an avatar of Vishnu. He achieved godhood through his karma. I have only followed the third concept of god because I find that the most empowering thought.
6] You are working on the sequels to the book, when is the first sequel likely to be published?
The sequel should be out in a year. It takes a bit of time because I also have a day job which keeps me busy.
7] What has the response been to The Immortals of Meluha? Are there plans to publish it abroad?
By god’s grace, The Immortals of Meluha is doing quite well. We are already # 1 in the bestseller lists of the major national chains like Crossword, Landmark, Odyssey and Oxford. We have also entered the all time bestseller list of Flipkart, one of India’s largest online book stores. And yes, we do hope to publish the book abroad also in the near future.
Read Kim's review of The Immortals of Meluha, published at Desicritics.org here.