The vivacious author of the Mahabharat– based Aryavarta Chronicles, a Singapore-based writer and an academic, Krishna Udayasankar, talks to Zafar  Anjum about her journey as a writer and the future she sees for herself…

 

For a decade, Indian authors have been capturing readers’ mind space with reinterpretations of mythology. What keeps this genre ticking?: The Hindu

Krishna UdayasankarThere was a time when bookstores were filled with campus love stories set in IIT and IIM campuses. Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone – What not to do at IIT (2004) spawned many campus capers until readers were fatigued by the genre and the stories had little recall value.

Krishna UdayasankarKrishna Udayasankar is a graduate of the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore, and holds a PhD in Strategic Management from the Nanyang Business School, Singapore, where she presently works as a lecturer.

Govinda, Krishna’s bestselling debut novel and the first in the Aryavarta Chronicles series of mytho-historical novels, received critical acclaim. She is also the author of Objects of Affection, a full-length collection of poetry (Math Paper Press, 2013) and is an editor of Body Boundaries: The Etiquette Anthology of Women’s Writing (The Literary Centre, Forthcoming, 2013).

Kitaab presents an interview with this talented novelist and poet on the art of writing fiction and poetry.

You made your debut with a novel last year. What started you writing poetry?

I always wanted to be a poet. But, I was (and still am, in many ways) a really, really bad poet. And so, in order to spare would-be readers, I decided to write prose instead. Of course, the tale gets a little more exciting, because the poem I abandoned for prose was what you see today as my novel series: The Aryavarta Chronicles – At first it was a satirical poem, but when I reached a stage where I needed to explore the larger socio-political macrocosm of the story, I realized I needed a different device.

By Zafar Anjum

The Aryavarta Chronicles, Book 1: GOVINDA, by Krishna Udayasankar, New Delhi: Hachette India, 472 pp, paperback. $25.

I remember reading an interview of the late Chilean author Roberto Bolano in which he said that in the third world countries, blooming of literary fiction precedes mushrooming of genre fiction. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing in itself, I won’t go into that (perhaps one needs both?) but this is how the literary scene has evolved in India.

First, there were the R K Narayans and the Raja Raos, then there were the Naipauls, the Anita Desais, and Kamala Markandayas and then came the generation of new diaspora writers such as Rushdie, Vikram Seth and others. At home, the Stephanians ruled the roost for a time but with the liberalization of the Indian economy and the rise of a new Indian middle class, slowly and steadily Indian writing in English, largely an upper middle class phenomenon, went down a slippery slope.

Then came along Chetan Bhagat, the writer-prophet of this newly minted middle class. His novels found a bridge with India’s youth. Since his arrival on the scene, there has been a deluge of fiction from all kinds of hacks. Suddenly, Indian writing in English has become accessible to anyone who knows how to read a sentence in English. Today, home-grown Indian writers are writing sci-fi novels and thrillers and there are writers who specialize in chick lit and teen lit (I’m sure Clitlit will follow soon after the success of Fifty Shades of Grey). The number of books sold by these authors has jumped through the roof and publishers, both desi and foreign, are only too happy to encash this trend.

One of the genres that have bloomed during this revolution is that of mythology or the retelling of stories from India’s past. Today, there are many leading names in this genre. Amish Tripathi’s The Immortals of Meluha has become such a runaway hit that a famous Bollywood film director has bought its film rights. I am tempted to place Krishna Udayasankar’s debut novel’s Govinda (The Aryavarta Chronicles, #1) in this category but perhaps I should not.

This is not a junk-food-novel. A few pages into the novel and you know you are reading a well-researched work, a work of mytho-history.

Krishna Udayasankar is a Singapore-based Indian writer and Govinda, Book 1 of the Aryavarta Chronicles (a trilogy) is her first published novel. According to her blog, The Aryavarta Chronicles are a series of fast-paced novels; tales of adventure, conspiracy and politics, that delve beyond familiar Epic India lore.

Born in Bangalore, India, and educated in India and Singapore, Krishna currently teaches strategic management at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

In this interview with Kitaab, she talks about her novel, her writing process and what writing means to her.

‘Govinda’ is your first novel and part of a trilogy. Did you have to struggle as a first time writer?

Actually, the Aryavarta Chronicles is a series that extends beyond three books. Each novel, though set in the empire of Aryavarta, has its own story arc and plotlines. The process had its own challenges, though it was made easy, even enjoyable, because I have loved what I was doing!

In my not-very-humble opinion, I think the biggest struggle a first-time writer faces is to reach a point of no-return, a point where you are committed to writing, come what may. Not that the struggles end after that, but then they are not very different from what every other writer faces, first-timer or otherwise. At the end of the day, the stories we tell are bigger than us and faith in those tales is never faith misplaced.

At a more pragmatic level, there is a whole world of events that have to take place between writing a book and getting it published. However, I’ve been extremely fortunate, having had a whole host of people from wonderful agents to friends, mentors, my publishers and above all, my family, to support me. So it felt a whole lot easier than it probably was.