The fierce-looking man staring at you with his one good eye, his forehead smeared with ash and red tilak, on the cover of The Pataala Prophecy, is bound to give you goosebumps. The story, which unfolds inside, beginning from Napoleon spending a horror-filled night in the Great Pyramid in Giza, to a bunch of kids endowed with special powers admitted in a gurukul in Panna National Park (not seen to outsiders because of illusion), keeps you on the edge of your seat. With prets floating around the protagonists, Nagas invading the gurukul and a Garuda coming to their rescue — the atmosphere crackles with energy.
We catch up with the writer Christopher C Doyle ahead of the book launch in the city. Here’s what he says about Son of Bhrigu — the first book in The Pataala Prophecy series.
Was it planned that you would explore the netherworld after The Mahabharata Quest series?
It was totally unplanned. The Mahabharata Quest series has not concluded yet and I had no intention of writing another series. It was only last year that the idea came to me for a number of reasons. First, the research for The Mahabharata Quest series is very extensive, and is continuing, so the next book will only release in 2019. I thought it would be good to give my readers something new and different while they wait for it.
Moreover, over the last few years, I have realised that there is a deep interest among readers of all age groups, to know more about Indian mythology and our ancient texts. So I thought that a new fantasy thriller series would be an ideal platform to share what I have learnt from my research into the Mahabharata and other texts over the last 12 years. This is how the idea of The Pataala Prophecy series was born. I wanted to write something different from what I have written so far.
How did you go about researching it?
Writing The Pataala Prophecy was not as extensive or time consuming as the research for The Mahabharata Quest series; but it was not easy either. I am no expert on the ancient texts that I had to read, but I had the help of experts on the Bhagvad Gita and the Srimad Bhagvatam — my friend and author Shubha Vilas, who has been studying and teaching the Vedic texts for two decades.
I also read ancient books like the Kathasaritsagar, the Rajatarangini and Kadambari during my research for the new series.
Weren’t you scared of writing about the prets?
I think I was more excited than scared writing about them. And, probably, quite sympathetic to their predicament given the reason why they exist in the first place.
Can we say that we have our desi teenage heroes, seven of them, through The Paatala Prophecy?
I guess you could say that, though every character in the series will have a significant role to play. In that respect, this series is quite different from any other book or series in Indian writing — you have teenage as well as adult protagonists, and the story of each character will be quite interesting as the series unfolds.
How many more books in the series?
I don’t usually plan ahead that far. But I think the series will have around five or six books.
Was it difficult to write about the mystical and modern world, especially when the gurukul and the Rishis and Kshatriya warriors too are set in modern era?
It was never easy to weave the fantasy of the gurukul and the secret society called the Sangha, into the reality of our modern world. On the other hand, the concept of the secret society and people among us, who have powers that we would never suspect of, would never be credible without the deep linkages with the verses of the Bhagvad Gita, the Srimad Bhagvatam, the Puranas, the Vedas and the Mahabharata. Moreover, many of the concepts and philosophies from the ancient texts are amazingly relevant and topical in our modern world.
For example, the classification of people into rishis and kshatriyas is not on the basis of birth, but on their abilities, just as it is described in the Mahabharata, the Gita and the Srimad Bhagvatam; as described in the Vedic texts, both men and women are rishis and kshatriyas — a very topical theme for our present times.
I believe that drawing inspiration from the verses in the ancient texts and the scriptures enabled me to create a detailed world of fantasy that feels very real, and one that readers can connect to.
What are your thoughts on supernatural forces? Are you convinced that they exist?
I won’t say too much about it at this point, because if supernatural forces exist, then you can be sure that I will feature a scientific explanation for them in a future book of The Mahabharata Quest series.