Happy Wednesday! Today, I’m excited to share an exhilarating interview with Mr. Mayank Shridhar, the author of the book “Krishna at the Mansarovar”
Be sure to check out the full interview below and you can also find the link to buy this beautiful book.
1) The synopsis of your book “Krishna at the Mansarovar” sounds absolutely amazing, would you please tell us a bit about your book?
The key theme of my book is summarized in the first line of its blurb, that “Mythological tales are palimpsests”. If we consider our ancient books, the Rig Veda is the oldest known Vedic Sanskrit text, and its early layers are estimated to have been written around 1900 BC. However, prior to that, it was transmitted orally from one generation to another, and it is natural that there would have been deviations from the original version. Similarly, scholars estimate the texts of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata to have been written between 800 BC to 300 BC. There have been multiple revisions done to these texts by many gurus, sages over the ancient centuries and that is the reason why certain stories have differing versions. I am no guru, but I took the liberty to alter the often-heard plot and introduce a variation. Krishna, in my story, is not directly called out as an incarnation of God, but as an exceptional martial artist. This is an origin-story which fantasizes about how he could have acquired those skills.
2) How did you come up with the title of your book?
Firstly, the Kailash Mansarovar holds a special place in the hearts of Indians. Though it is geographically located in Tibet, there is no denying that it has an ancient link with India. Secondly, legends also exist that Bodhidharma taught the Indian martial art of Kalarippayattu to Shaolin monks, which evolved into Kung-Fu. Since martial arts is a key aspect of my book, I wanted to explore the historical relationship between Tibet and India. The advantage of writing fiction is that I can give a nod to these theories without the need to prove them. I did this by expounding the theory that Krishna visited the Mansarovar and learnt vital life lessons there.
3) How long did it take for you to write plot for “Krishna at the Mansarovar”?
Honestly, I started writing my thoughts about the divinity of our mythological characters in an article during my college days (around 2002-2003). I kept working on it and published it around 2015-16 as a blog. Later, I realized that if I had to popularize my theories amongst people, a blog would seem boring and documentary-like. It had to be interesting and exciting. I truly believe in giving time to my passion. So, I decided to start from scratch and write a novel which allows the characters and storyline to express my thoughts. I started my work on the book around September 2019. My writing picked up pace during the 2020 lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. I spent most of the weekends and late evenings during the lockdown on this project, and the outcome of that is “Krishna at the Mansarovar”.
4) Which section of your book was the most interesting to write?
The fifth chapter “The Mystery warrior” is my favourite part of the book, for multiple reasons. Firstly, it features a special appearance from a beloved and revered legendary character who is not named, but whom everyone would be able to identify. Let me not accidentally interject any spoilers! Secondly, this is the first incident where the martial-arts aspects come out. Describing the fight scenes is more difficult than one can imagine, especially for a peace-loving person like me. But I have tried to do that as vividly as possible. Thirdly, the plot in this chapter has reached a point where it feels like only a miracle, or a divine intervention can rectify the circumstances. But whether it is divine or not is something that I have left for the readers to interpret.
5) Being a mythological fiction, what perspectives or beliefs have you challenged with this book?
I have written the book from a historical perspective and refrained from directly challenging existing beliefs. The idea already exists amongst many of us that our mythical characters were real – what differs is the level to which people believe or suspend disbelief, in accepting the fantastic sequences described in our myths. I have adopted a grounded approach in which no magical events happen. The last chapter of my book discusses my theory through a debate between the protagonists. The theory I propose is that the divinity of our legendary figures is an ancient ploy devised to ensure people follow the virtuous and honourable path. An uber aim of maintaining peace and tranquillity across lands flows from ensuring people are God-fearing, if not God-loving.
6) What are the most important elements that you would like the readers to focus on, in Krishna at the Mansarovar?
The most important aspect that I would like readers to focus on is realism. I must inform everyone in advance not to expect enchanting mystical sequences in this (such as Krishna – a small child – lifting an entire mountain). Rather, this saga plays out how events could have unfolded five thousand years ago in the real sense, without any heavenly intrusions. There are deviations from the mythological texts to allow for the story to progress in a way that it seems believable.
7) What inspired the idea for your book?
While I had a leaning towards science as a child, mythological stories always fascinated me. My mother encouraged rational discussions with her when I was a child, and she mentioned it to me that perhaps all our mythical characters were great people in the past, who have been idolized over time as gods.
Also, I am very impressed by Christopher Nolan’s method of storytelling, the way he incorporates logic and reasoning into everything. So, I took inspiration from him and embarked on a journey to tell a tale like he does. I hope that I have been successful to an extent.
8) Considering your book is the mythological fiction, how important is research to you when it comes to writing a book?
Research is an essential part of my storytelling. I delved into various subjects pertinent to the period of Krishna’s existence: a scientific estimate of his birthdate, the kingdoms which existed during that timeline, the kinds of weapons that were used, etc. Mere footnotes in the book represent days of research. The events of the Mahabharata are estimated to have occurred during the time-period of 3300 BC – 3200 BC, or around 1200 BC – 800 BC, depending on the theory you trust. Choosing the former, I discovered that the corresponding historical epoch during that time was the early onset of the Bronze age. Hence, the weapons and armour that are described in my book are made of brass rather than iron or steel. Lastly, I have also created a map of kingdoms and cities of the time, which is derived from the Vedic accounts, although I have made modifications to it.
9) I am curious to know, what is your writing process like? What comes first for you – the plot or the characters?
Main characters, then plot and then secondary characters. I first decide that I need to introduce a particular character into a point in the story and then figure out how to do it. Being a software professional, I have the habit of writing bullet points, so my stories are first written as bullets which I expand into paragraphs.
10) How do you think being an author has helped you as a person?
Just playing with the art of expression, of giving form and shape to a plot and a deeply-believed-in theory has been a cathartic experience. The lockdown was not an easy period for any of us, and writing the book helped me overcome my stresses about the uncertainties of that time. Engaging and interacting with professionals during various stages of publishing – such as Petals Publishers & Distributors and my literacy agency The Book Bakers – has been an enriching experience for me, and I have made many new friends.
11) Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?
Yes, I have started working on another book in the crime genre. My experience in writing “Krishna at the Mansarovar” has taught me not to disclose too many details prior to the book getting published!
12) Last but not the least, what do you think is the best way to improve anyone’s writing skills?
The best way to improve one’s writing skills is to take the plunge and write! Start with a journal or blogs if you want to test waters first. During my school days, I have written several poems and short stories. I have published whitepapers, viewpoints and blogs on various topics including technology, music, and sports. But as a first-time fiction writer, I adopted a simple strategy for honing my skills. Firstly, I tried not to get too attached to words and expressions, and instead tried to convey my ideas in the simplest way possible. Secondly, I read my own write-up from a third person’s perspective. Thirdly, to improve one’s writing, one must stay humble, accept feedback (in my case I took my sister’s feedback), and as the story evolves, be prepared to go back, and let go of “a favourite piece of writing” or “idea” if it just does not sit well with the plot.
About the Author :
Mayank is a successful technologist and has published numerous white papers on Information Technology.
Despite a leaning towards software, Mayank has contributed articles and poems actively to school newsletters
and college papers, also serving as an editor of his college magazine. Mulling over fantasy stories from
mythologies across the world, Mayank’s curiosity is always piqued by historical details, creative imaginations
as well as scientific facts.
With a gold medal in Computer Engineering, numerous industry accolades, and several chess tournaments under
his belt, his ideas and creative writing zeal have found expression in the publication of this book, which is a
narration of how fact could possibly be the basis of fantasy.
Mayank lived and worked in several countries before striking roots in Bengaluru, India. To his friends, he
remains the same guy with whom they grew up in Ranchi – passionate about his beliefs, an avid fan of rock
music, animal lover, and an accomplished chess player.
Link to buy the book on Amazon :