Mandate - - Creative Minds -


“I am noth­ing. I have done noth­ing. It is all the bless­ings of Lord Shiva,” said Amish Tri­pathi, au­thor of the su­per suc­cess­ful Shiva tril­ogy. I nod­ded along as we sat in a cof­fee shop to dis­cuss the writer’s cre­ative process. But, I couldn’t help but be a lit­tle skep­ti­cal and think of his state­ment as an in­ter­est­ing mar­ket­ing ploy, the claim that his fic­tion­alised take on Hindu mythol­ogy was di­vinely in­spired would get the cash reg­is­ters ring­ing. Not that he needed any fur­ther mar­ket­ing till early last year, the tril­ogy had al­ready made ` 50 crores and he has man­aged to sell the movie rights to both Bol­ly­wood and Hol­ly­wood. Di­vinely in­spired or not, there was def­i­nitely a lot to learn from the young nov­el­ist.

“I was never cre­ative,” Amish de­clared, as he sipped his cof­fee and I won­dered a lit­tle at the ex­ag­ger­ated mod­esty. A com­pletely ‘left brain aca­demic type’, he grad­u­ated in math­e­mat­ics, did his MBA from IIM, Kolkata and worked in fi­nan­cial ser­vices for 14 years.

For Amish, cre­ativ­ity is a par­al­lel uni­verse, one he is priv­i­leged to en­ter, and feels no need to push him­self. He merely uses a few ‘keys’ to get into the zone, like lis­ten­ing to mu­sic that suits the mood of the scene he is writ­ing or eat­ing cream bis­cuits. He went on, “The an­cient Greeks be­lieved that your ge­nius was a spirit that ex­isted out­side of you, and your task as a cre­ative per­son was to help your ge­nius help you. So, some­times your ge­nius is busy some­where else… cool, no prob­lem, you just start the next day.”

Amish is one of the few writ­ers who doesn’t be­lieve in hav­ing planned word counts for each day. “I’ve seen peo­ple work them­selves into a tizzy. They worry about how many words they wrote to­day and how many they’ll have to write the next day to make up. But, when you start be­hav­ing like that…writ­ing blocks be­come fre­quent. So, if some days I just write 50 words and it’s not flow­ing…cool. I’ll just shut down my lap­top and go for a walk or read a book.”

Dur­ing the course of the in­ter­view, Amish of­ten spoke of pu­rush and prakruti to ex­plain his modes of work­ing. The for­mer rep­re­sents logic and con­trol, his pri­mary tools for mar­ket­ing his books once they are done, while the lat­ter rep­re­sents in­tu­ition and go­ing with the flow. He be­lieves that it’s a bal­ance of both that brings suc­cess. But, if you at­tempt them at the same time, you’ll end up in a mess. For in­stance, when he first started writ­ing his first book, he made chap­ter wise out­lines, char­ac­ter sketches and a well- or­gan­ised plan for how many hours he would write. “It was the kind of plan that would have looked fan­tas­tic in a board­room pre­sen­ta­tion. How­ever, like most board­room pre­sen­ta­tions, it flopped. I got stuck be­cause the char­ac­ters weren’t be­hav­ing ac­cord­ing to plan. I was so frus­trated that I gave up and scrapped the whole thing. Then, I just sur­ren­dered and that’s when the story started flow­ing.”

Amish started writ­ing the se­ries as a purely per­sonal project, just for him­self and his fam­ily, with­out hop­ing to get it pub­lished. He feels that cre­ativ­ity is some­thing you should at­tempt free of pur­pose or any spe­cific goal in mind. “I write for my­self. The ben­e­fit of peo­ple lik­ing it is that I get to spend more time writ­ing. But, I will never write for some­one else and I will never write keep­ing in mind what I need to do to be suc­cess­ful be­cause if I am go­ing to do it for the money, then I may as well be a banker.”

So, what prompted a sup­pos­edly non­cre­ative fi­nan­cial pro­fes­sional with no pub­lish­ing am­bi­tion to write a book? The an­swer lies in Amish’s own jour­ney with faith and reli­gion. From an ex­tremely de­vout fam­ily, in­clud­ing his grand­fa­ther, who was a pan­dit, Amish grew up with var­i­ous holy scrip­tures. How­ever, while he was in col­lege dur­ing the ’92-93 ri­ots in Mumbai, he de­vel­oped an aver­sion to reli­gion and be­came an athe­ist. It was writ­ing the books that brought him back to faith and it was faith that brought him to write the books, each feed­ing and grow­ing on the other. “I think I was sup­posed to go through be­ing an athe­ist, so that I could ap­pre­ci­ate faith as some­thing I chose rather than just some­thing I had grown up with. I was al­ways re­bel­lious, so Lord Shiva was the ideal God to pull me back into faith be­cause he him­self is a rebel and an out­sider, he doesn’t dress per­fectly, he treats his wife as an equal, he dances, he plays mu­sic, he smokes mar­i­juana and en­joys bhang.”

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