Author Amish talks about his new non-fiction, Immortal India, which outlines that the ancient Indian wisdom can be our greatest ally in solving the ills that plague our society today
History, Sanskrit shlokas, symbols and their meaning, LGBT rights, replacement of caste-based society with merit-based model are some of the topics that are bound to crop up in a discussion with author Amish. Why not? His literary work has its genesis in Vedic civilisation, the gods and goddesses of Hindu pantheon and how this cumulatively defines our present and future.
We met him at his Mumbai office to discuss his new book, Immortal India — Young Country, Timeless Civilisation which marks his debut in the non-fiction genre. When asked how was it to venture into a new form, Amish says, “My fiction books begin as non-fiction; the step one is writing the philosophy, and the story comes in the second step. For eg, the philosophy in Shiva trilogy is ‘what is evil? In Indian way, how do we decide what is adharma? In Ram trilogy, we take a look at ‘what is an ideal society’. Here come in the policies and making choices, which will have some benefits and some negatives too. In my fiction work, the philosophies are couched in stories, while in non-fiction, I say it straight.”
Immortal India, which has been published by Westland, is divided into four main sections — first is ‘Religion and Mythology’; second is ‘Social Issues’ like LGBT rights, religious violence and casteism, democracy and ancient Indian approach to charity; third is ‘History’, talking specifically of how nonsensical Aryan invasion theory is; there is another chapter dedicated to Wajid Ali Shah, the nawab of Lucknow. Much of Indian performing arts and music that survives is because of this Shia Muslim; the fourth section is ‘Musings’ — which covers the author’s personal views on Lord Shiva and Lord Ram and why he respects them. There is also a segment on ‘Patriotic manifesto’ and what his concept of patriotism is.
Despite making a departure from conventional social mores, Amish’s writing hasn’t courted controversy. To which he replies, “Some of my readers living abroad often come up to me and say, ‘It’s so refreshing to read your books. You are quoting such a liberal take in your books’. But the fact is, I am not giving a liberal spin to the stories — this is how our society is in reality. Many liberals in India, don’t realise that our ancient culture is their greatest ally. In the 18th adhyay (chapter) of Bhagwad Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna — ‘I have given you knowledge most profound, now your task is to think upon it’. Our religion never told us not to question. The beauty of all Indian schools of thoughts was that they were allowed to co-exist, there was lot of questioning and debate; there was no violence.”
The author of Immortals of Meluha says that the present day India has lot to gain by looking at the past. Says he, “I think there is lot of wisdom in our past, which we can use to solve our problems in the present. One of the things that I have learnt is that our ancient Indians had a natural balance between rigidity and flexibility; perhaps we should try and imbibe that. There were times when we were in turmoil and there were times when we were in peace. How did we manage the turmoil, is what we can learn. It is said that India has lot of chaos. But I think that’s our biggest strength.”
The former banker has explored this line of thought in his latest work. Speaking about masculine and feminine way of life, Amish explains, “The masculine way of life is that of order, of compliance. The feminine way of life speaks of freedom, passion. Ram Rajya was more masculine. At this point of time, we are more feminine. Each way of life has its strengths and weaknesses. The strengths of masculine way of life (when it is at its peak) is that there is order, it’s very efficient and just. But when it’s in decline — it can be fanatic, violent, especially oppressive on the weak. The feminine way (when it is at its peak) is creative, innovative, especially caring of their weak; at its worst, it will be corrupt, debauched, decadent, irresponsible, claiming victimhood. In the present day world, some parts of the West are feminine culture in decline. India is a feminine culture which is rising. China is a masculine culture, which is rising. Japan is a masculine culture which is stuck. Many parts of the Arab world are masculine culture in decline.”
Having said this, the author, very pointedly says that ‘it’s necessary to be true to who we are’. “Many people say, ‘India should be like China’. But we can’t be like China, because we are not like China. We are not a compliant, polite race. We will not do anything just because our leader has told us. We are a rebellious race. Only a crazily passionate, police force would have fought terrorists with Ak47, with their lathis, and captured one of them alive. I think we have to work on our strengths,” he adds.
Some of the pieces in which he makes the arguments have already been voiced at various forums. Will he also be approaching the youth, to help them see the country with a rich past? Amish replies, “I have a few visits planned. But nothing extensive. Because my swadharma is to keep writing. I have to be true to my dharma. I also plan to write many books on history, Indian culture et all.” Amish is on a roll...