In a conversation with Social Ketchup, author of Bhumika: A Story Of Sita, Aditya Iyengar throws light on what made him write this book and the inspiration behind it.
Aditya Iyengar is one of the most well-known authors in the mythological genre. What makes him stand-out from the rest is his keen understanding of human nature and his capability to look at them from a fresh perspective. Aditya Iyengar has been acclaimed for viewing Indian mythological tales – a hugely popular category – through the eyes of often unexplored and peripheral characters. His talent isn’t restricted to writing larger than life novels, the gifted artist is also known to write screenplays and poetry.
My new book Bhumika releases on 25th July. It’s a feminist re-imagining of the #Ramayana based on a simple premise – What could Sita have been without Rama?
I hope you can read and enjoy it. Pre-order here: https://t.co/bZhsSXUXjR
— Aditya Iyengar (@adityaiyengar) July 14, 2019
His novels may be inspired by mythologies but his take on them is as contemporary as it gets. After his critically acclaimed debut novel, The Thirteenth Day, followed by Palace of Assassins and A Broken Sun, Aditya is now set to impress the audience with his next book, Bhumika: A Story Of Sita.
While his first three books were based on the idea of machismo and the need for manliness in mythologies, this one focuses on what it means to be a woman and the choices and judgements that come with it. Today, women across the globe face this very issue on a daily basis and Aditya’s mythological set up draws an exemplary parallel into the mechanisms of a woman’s life choices.
We recently spoke to the gifted writer to understand if and how a story based on a mythological female character stands relevant to today’s society and he shared quite an insightful take.
Here’s how our conversation went:
Your upcoming book, ‘Bhumika: A story of Sita’ looks very interesting. What inspired you to write it from a female character’s perspective since it is rare for mythologies no matter how strong the characters are?
I’ve always felt that Sita has had a very interesting perspective to her story and I think what happens invariably with Sita is that, at least in modern-day, judge her and judge the choices she made. As in a lot of people are trying to judge the choices by saying she followed Ram, she even went through an ‘agni pariksha’ and stuff. So, I’ve kind of juxtaposed it with the character of Bhumika which is a story of what Sita would have been like if she hadn’t met Ram. So, essentially the message that I want to bring out is, look you can be Sita or Bhumika. Both choices are acceptable as long as it’s your choice. A lot of people judge women for being both independent and not taking their decisions. It is a rubbish dichotomy. As a man or a woman, you should not be judged for the choice you make. Whether you want to be a homemaker or a professional, it’s completely up to you. So, essentially that is what my aim is with this story.
Do you think it draws any parallels to today’s society?
I think it’s basically being open-minded, for one being kinder to yourself, making the choices that work for you rather than going with what society’s choices are. Whether you choose to be a Sita or Bhumika both choices are relevant and good. As long as you’re convinced with what you do, nobody else should judge you or your decisions.
How did you develop an interest in mythologies?
I’ve written a trilogy on Mahabharata which basically focuses on machismo and the idea of manliness in mythologies. The very idea that you need to be manly to be a warrior and what does being manly really mean in society. So, my other books have focused on the question of manliness. This is the first one that focuses on what it means to be a woman and the kinds of decisions and choices a woman gets and has to make.
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Is your next book also a mythological story? What can readers expect?
I haven’t really thought that far since I’ve just finished Bhumika. The only thing on my mind is to take a break. But of course, mythology is a part of my life, I want to create more mythological work.
In your book, The Thirteenth Day, you’ve depicted Arjun’s vow to kill Jayadratha as a well-orchestrated PR strategy engineered by Krishna. What makes you come up with such a practical approach?
My books have a certain theme and I follow that. The theme there was, why is mythology defined by myths? What I really loved about Mahabharata were the characters. And at one level, this entire thing about nuclear potential asthras and all fantastical things took away from the story. There is also astronomical evidence that there was a war that happened at the off-set of the iron age which was huge for its time, which could be co-related to the Kurukshetra war. So, some sort of battle happened but over the years with its multiple retelling, it’s gotten inflated to what we know as Mahabharata. So, essentially, my basis for that story was that I wanted to tell the Mahabharata as it really happened rather than this over-mythologised version of it. That was the theme for the story which is why the explanations are also realistic. So it’s not so much a PR strategy but a ruse to win a battle. The characters, the fights, the weapons and the explanations for the supernatural events are depicted in real-life terms than fantastical terms.
The present generation has grown up watching Mahabharata rather than reading it. How do you think this generation will get back to reading it again?
There are different mediums and the pleasure derived from both mediums is completely different. My first exposure to Mahabharata other than hearing it from your own parents has been based on Rahi Masoom Raja’s Mahabharata in the early 90s. It was a beautifully written and televised version but it will never replace the joy I derive out of reading the stories from the book. So, they are completely different mediums and they will survive independently, I am entirely sure of that. I don’t think they are necessarily competing with each other. Like people might not watch the 90s version of the Mahabharata anymore, they might watch a 2019 version just the same way, people might not read the 1950s version of the epic, they might read something that a little more contemporary which is where writers like me and my peers come in.
After that insightful chat, we got to know a little more about the writer and his interests. Here’s how it went!
Which book are you reading currently?
Principles by Ray Dalio
Which is the one book on your shelf that’s for ‘comfort reading’?
The Mahabharata by C. Rajgopalachari
Who is your favourite author?
I am drawing a blank right now… Susanna Clark, Neil Diamond, Arun Kolatkar and so many more.
Which moment made you realize you wanted to be an author?
You know, I read this book by Kiran Nagarkar and it was after reading that book it hit me that I want to do something like this.
Lastly, which is your favourite out of the ones you’ve authored?
Currently, it is Bhumika!
There you have it, folks, Bhumika represents a contemporary woman just as much as it does Sita from Ramanyana. Keeping up with his style of deglamorized and defamiliarized
mythologies, Aditya Iyengar has created Bhumika with a unique and engaging take on the characters of Ramayana.
How excited are you to read Bhumika: A Story Of Sita?