By Sukant Deepak
New Delhi, June 29 (IANS): In 2014, while author Dan Brown was in Mumbai, writer Ashwin Sanghi took him to the “Tower of Silence” in Malabar Hill. While they could not approach the ‘dakhma’, some priests were happy to show them the model of the region and
explain everything. This visit took place when the idea of a Zoroastrian mystery developed in Sanghi’s mind.
A few years later, during a visit to Diu, he met a Parsi tourist who explained to him firsthand how a tower of silence worked when the dakhma of Diu had been desecrated.
“I soon decided to find a copy of the Qissa-i-Sanjan which tells of the history of the early Parsis. It was clear that this subject deserved a book in the Bharat series,” the author, whose latest novel “ The Magicians of Mazda’ (HarperCollins India) recently hit the pits, tells IANS.
For someone who believes his job as a thriller writer is to entertain while making the story believable – and that’s where research becomes vital – he says that while the research process for the book started with ‘Qissa-i-Sanjan’, it quickly entered the allied tomes. “I was particularly interested in the ‘magi’ – the Zoroastrian priests and delved into ‘The Rituals and Initiations of the Persian Magi by Stephen Flowers’ and ‘The Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the Parsis’. Although I have visited Surat, Udvada and Navsari over the years, not Sanjan.Another shortcoming was a visit to Iran which was delayed due to the pandemic.
Tell him about the huge increase in popularity of books based on Indian mythology in recent years and Sanghi quotes novelist CS Lewis who said that a myth is a lie that reveals a truth. “The delicious question is ‘What if?’ Now what if Rama, Krishna, Shiva or Ganesha were real people – historical figures – who started to be worshiped because of their great deeds?I remember visiting a temple in Kolkata where Amitabh Bachchan is worshipped. Isn’t it possible that our Deities started like this? Some people ask me why mythology fascinates me. The truth is that it doesn’t. It’s the overlap of two words – myth + history which results in a new word – “mystery”. This is what fascinates me, and this single word describes the inspiration behind the Bharat series.”
In these highly polarized times where talking about ancient Indian civilization and culture can qualify a person as right wing, Sanghi laments that maximum exposure is garnered by far left or far right voices. “While the far left dismisses anything related to ancient India as totally irrelevant, the other group believes that nothing of value has emerged anywhere in the world but from India. Both views are seriously flawed.”
For a typical book in the Bharat series, the author spends between six and twelve months on research. While for some this involves multiple readings of texts — for example “Chanakya’s Chant”, sometimes the text requires him to go out and conduct interviews — as in the case of “Sialkot Saga”. “Then I spend about three months on the plot, which will usually have all the story twists planned by chapter. It’s only after those two stages that I start writing. A detailed plot ensures that I don’t I’m not a great writer, but I’m a decent rewriter, so I rewrite the manuscript several times before it’s published In total, two years is the average from start to finish . “
Sanghi, who writes in three categories – fiction related to history and mythology with the Bharat series, crime thrillers with Patterson’s books, and motivational and self-help books with the 13 Steps series, says that the series closest to his heart is the Bharat series which explores history, mythology, philosophy, religion, culture, science, politics and other topics through the lens of a thriller . “Each book in the Bharat series takes me about two years to research, plot, write and rewrite. But the knowledge I gain through each book is my greatest satisfaction. The journey of each book in the series has been exhilarating. “
Hoping to release his first independent crime thriller that will eventually become a series this year, he also plans to release another book in the 13 Steps series. “I am currently working alongside a producer for an original film script. At the same time, I will start research for my next book in the Bharat series which I hope to publish in 2024,” he concludes.