In a lazy afternoon, my friend and blogger, Rafaa Dalvi called me up to ask if I'd like to go to attend an event the next week.
I was too sleepy to be excited about it. I said no. He, then, explained that the event was not a regular one but an exclusive meet with author of Chanakya's Chant, Ashwin Sanghi.
A year back, I had participated in a story-writing contest and Ashwin Sanghi was the judge. My story bagged a position in the list of top 25. The memory of the book, Kaleidoscope, where my story was published, was the first thing that came to my mind when I heard the name, Ashwin Sanghi.
I changed my lazy mind and said, "yes, I'd love to attend the event."
The next ten minutes was spent telling all my colleagues that I'm going to meet Ashwin Sanghi at Vivanta by Taj, Cuffe Parade.
Proper Invitation (including mails and phone-calls) by the Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest Team followed. The feedback on their way of inviting - great! They did not make calls just to ask if you're coming or not. They made calls to connect to people the way one should. It didn't seem like a forced conversation at all. After each follow-up phone-call from their side, you feel more excited about the event you're going to attend.
On the 20th of October 2014, I landed at Vivanta at 4:45pm; the event was to start at 5:00pm.
The host of the event was the director of Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest and famous journalist - Anil Dharker.
The next hour was spent discussing the present and the future of literature in India.
I was in class 8th when I had first questioned the epics - the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. A discussion with my sister about the same led us both to the conclusion that ages back there were some great novelists who wrote these novels and now people pray to the characters. It was , to me, like praying to Harry Potter for the well-being of our family. Makes sense? No way.
I never did any research on the conclusion above yet I had been sticking to it.
It was only when Ashwin Sanghi explained that there are around 300 versions of Ramayana, a fact unknown to me till that day that I mentally confirmed my conclusion.
But what made me open the doors of my mind was his question that may be, just may be, those character were not entirely fictional at all. What if the stories were inspired by real characters and then played upon? What if there actually is history behind the myths?
No one can know for sure what is true and what is not. But we should always be open to possibilities we might have never thought of before.
Ashwin quoted an example by talking of temples created for the veteran actor, Amitabh Bachhan. What if some ten thousand years hence, when such temples flourish across the land, people consider Amitabh too as a mythical character?
This statement reminded me of my discussion with my sister some ten years back. She was in class X and I, in VIII and, while reading her history book about Mahatma Gandhi, she questioned, "What if after a few hundred years, people consider Mahatma Gandhi as too good to be true? What if we consider history to be a myth?"
History, after all, is written down by people with whatever content they have in hand, whatever they know to be true or whatever they have heard to be true. How much of that is actually true is known by none.
We went deeper in the conversation and when it was time to end the discussion we all felt like we should talk even more. So after Ashwin descended from the dais, we crowded him with our questions and our books to sign.
I got my "Rozabal Line" signed and a friend's "Chanakya's Chant" signed. Another hour passed informally discussing about books and publishers.
What inspired me was the fact that Ashwin never gave up. After facing tons of rejections from traditional publishers he finally chose self-publishing because he believed in his work even when nobody else did. He took the bad reviews with a pinch of salt. He did everything he could to get his books be on the top-shelf of the book stores. And now, he who started like a just-another-writer has become not only a best-seller but a source of inspiration to many.