Why did I start writing historical fiction?

Like every young Indian boy, growing up in the 70s and 80s, I heard stories from my grandmothers. Those stories were mostly from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Naturally, the next stop for any young boy in those pre-TV, pre-internet days, was the Amar Chitra Katha. I read voraciously from them, keeping track of any issues that I might have missed. That was my first brush with history. With kings and queens about whom I might otherwise never had heard.

History that I was taught in school didn’t really grip, though. The teachers either didn’t know much or were completely uninterested in the topic that they were supposed to teach. Until, Class 7. We finally got a young teacher, probably just out of college, who actually loved history. She went from Haldia, the little town that we lived in, to Calcutta, to the National Musuem and copied down the entire Ashokan inscription there (the same one you see at the top of this article), got its translation and wrote the entire script out on the blackboard. She made us learn it and even quizzed us on it in the exam. Now, that, was a teacher, with passion for her subject.

The other reason for my interest in history has to be the Big Temple in Thanjavur. My father hails from there and everytime we used to go there, no visit was complete without the obligatory trek to the temple. While I was awestruck by the architecture and the huge Nandi in front, I was even more interested in the slanting, bent-out-of-shape, Nandi to the left of the temple. My mind would start making up stories about why that Nandi had been abandoned by the kings.

I would imagine Raja Raja Chola walking through those precincts and up the stairs to the garbagriha. Tamil Nadu, of course, is FULL of such old and ancient temples and visiting some of these old temples became an obsession with me. I wasn’t (and am still not) a believer, but, a strange sort of calmness would descend on me in these old, ancient temples.

I have always been a voracious reader and historical fiction, was a genre that interested me. Les Miserables, The Count of Monte Christo and The Man in the Iron Mask were the first three that I had read in this genre. However, it was only when I managed to read Kalki’s Ponniyin Selvan, Sivagamiyin Sabatham and Parthiban Kanavu, that I truly got besotted by this genre. Kalki brought to life that distant era. I hated for those books to end as I bid adieu to the many characters with whom I had spent days and months.

However, the switch from reading to writing historical fiction, only happened after I read Amish’s Meluha series. An irresistible urge to write came over me. That urge, luckily, shows no signs of dying down.

One response to “Why did I start writing historical fiction?”

  1. You have a given nice twist to that beautiful song “Kalliley Kalai Vannam Kandaan” and made it instead “Kalliley Kadhai Vannam Kandaan, AK Avan yezhithinaal engalukku Kaanum vagai thandhaan”

    Keep it going !! I have started Book 1 again to enjoy Book 2 more thoroughly !!

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