Anuja Chandramouli, a young best selling author and new age classist, spoke excitedly about her highly acclaimed novels, different perceptions of mythology and created waves with her opinion around the hall.
Q: Why mythology?
A: Right from childhood, I loved mythology. Arjuna is the love of my life. When I wanted to write, I chose to write about the things that I know and I care about. Also, I didn’t want to do research on market, numbers and statistics to write something. Mythology fascinated me. The choice is simple.
Q: As a child, what are the mythology books that you read?
A: I really need to thank Amar Chitra Katha for making my childhood wonderful. I loved Mahabharata. And in Amar Chitra Katha, I used to read the stories of different characters separately – Arjuna, Abhimanyu – and try to put them together like a necklace. Later I read Mahabharata in three volumes and I was able to connect with all the characters.
Q: Did you see the same stories differently at different periods as you grow up?
A: I got more knowledge as I went through the stories. If you follow my books, each book of mine has a connection. I started with Arjuna and Pradyumna was part of it. I explored more about him and it led to my next book. From that book, I learned a lot about Kamadeva. Then Shakthi happened where I wrote about the guardians of angels and it was the foundation for my recent book Yama.
Q: Do you think that there were different perceptions regarding the mythology books?
A: Yes. I am always opinionated and I never hesitated to argue about the things that I believe in. People think that mythology is all about culture and the women are modest. But it is ridiculous. Whatever we call taboo now, those are all under the sun in mythology. When I dug into it, it is so raw. Homosexuality was there way back. Our mythology has assimilated information from all the fields and people need to stop being myopic about it. Somebody can still dispute my views and I am welcome to it.
Q: If you think that there is one flaw in Arjuna, what would it be?
A: Arjuna is arrogant but I don’t think of it as a flaw. It is kind of cool. That’s what helped him excel in whatever he did. When Urvashi cursed him to be a eunuch, he shone in singing and dancing. Whatever situation he finds himself in, he did an exceptional job. Not just Arjuna, I do not think that any character in my story is flawed. Take, for example, Mahisasura, the buffalo demon, if you read his backstory, you would really love him. His mother loved him with such compassion and he doesn’t deserve to die like that. You can’t hate them when you know them. At the end of my every book, I love them all equally.
Q: Tell us about Shakthi and the controversies
A: I did my research thoroughly. Kartikeya is the child of only Shiva and he is all masculine. But Ganesha is a child created by Prakriti and he can’t be a man. That was my perception that Ganesha was born as a girl. Only when Shiva cut his head and later had to fit him with an elephant god, he emerged as a male. My publisher was reluctant about this in the beginning, but I convinced him to put my opinion in the book. Thankfully there wasn’t anyone after me for that.
Q: What are the popular misconceptions in mythology according to you?
A: Moral policing. Homosexuality is still illegal in India and not a much-discussed topic in mythology. We wrote Kamasutra and when did we become so purist?
– Take Kali for example – she is uninhibited. She drinks and does things that please her. When she dances, you will see the orgasmic satisfaction in her face.
– When Shiva takes Mohini form and makes love with Vishnu to give birth to Ayyappan, it shows the lust of Shiva towards Vishnu.
– There are even mentions of incest. It was written that Brahma lusted after his daughter.
– Also Yama and Yami – the twins – she loved her brother and convinced him to be with her.
These are the things that interest me. In Mahabharata, the characters feel that it is impractical to be satisfied in monogamy. People should feel free to express their sexual desire.
Q: Has the British education influenced our views?
A: When I was young, my mom told me the story of the birth of Krishna and how Hamsa came in and smashed the baby’s head against the wall. That story wasn’t horrifying to me. But now we analyze too much into the details and call the scene as too violent for children. This is the kind of refrainment that we do and I believe that we should give the chance to children to decide for themselves and let their imagination grow.
Q: Do we label everything these days?
A: I hate so much censorship. Brahma’s lust to the goddess of dawn – I figured that it can’t be consensual. We are talking about a rape here. But people didn’t pick up a big fuss over it. Recently in Kartikeya, when the sex between Shiva and Shakthi were interrupted and Shiva’s seeds were released, he was born. My publishers wanted me to tone it down.
Q: Clamping down sex – is that what is happening?
A: People are unwilling to listen to others’ opinions if they are not in line with what they are thinking. I wish that people should be more open to different interpretations. To quote Evelyn Hall, I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
Q: So there is a huge turmoil over freedom of speech. Were you ever afraid of writing something?
A: No, this is my artistic space and I am never afraid of it. I will not allow the hooligans to tell me what I should think and what I should write.
The audience erupted with loud claps when she concluded. She answered the questions about Kunti, Kartikeya and Arjun from the spectators with the same enthusiasm till the clock permitted her.
About the Author: Lavanyaa is a fiction writer, published author, wannabe dancer, and voracious reader. To support all these fun activities, she works in the software industry. She currently writes for Bookstalkist.