Millennium Post

‘Thriller is a niche waiting to be filled’

What prompted you to write The Treasure of Kafur?
Indian history presents an enormously rich treasure trove of events and personalities spanning thousands of years. For someone interested in history, like me, it was natural to pick on one of its most interesting periods – the Mughal period – as a backdrop to my book. Added to this is my love for crime, thriller and adventure as a genre. The Treasure of Kafur evolved naturally as an outcome of this mix of influences. It is a tale of high adventure set in the Mughal era at the time of Akbar and is filled with action sequences against an authentic backdrop – that will hopefully transport the reader to a different time and place.

As per common analysis, it’s not easy to venture into the thriller genre. What made you?
I do not believe it is difficult to venture into thrillers as it is into literary fiction. In fact, I think it is safe to say that if you get your thriller right, it is easier to succeed in this genre than it is in literary fiction which is current a very crowded space. The fact is that that we hardly have any Indian thriller or adventure writers in English; readers wanting to read these kinds of books inevitably have to turn to Western authors. This is clearly a niche waiting to be filled.

What are your literary inspirations?

I guess as with most writers occupying the ‘popular writing’ space, my aspiration is to be read and appreciated as widely as possible. I’d like to use constructive criticism from readers to build a strong following of Indian and international readership and establish a reputation as a writer of high quality thriller and adventure novels.

How is Aroon, the writer different from Aroon, the person?
I tend to think of myself as wearing four hats: that of a businessman-entrepreneur, that of a consultant-advisor to business and NGOs, that of an outdoorsman with my trekking and travel interests, and finally that of a writer. The nice thing is that all these interests complement each other: experiences gained in the one influence the other. I feel that life is a large canvas and having a breadth of activities and interests that span a wide arc make it all that richer. But that is of course for each one to decide for himself or herself.

The market seems to be flooded with all sorts of books these days. Every person wants to get his work published. Do you think, in the process, the quality is being compromised?

Yes, this is true. Where there is massive quantity, quality can be variable. But I believe this big outpouring of books is good for Indian writing. Even in the West, the same is true. You have works of all qualities. This period of churn may continue for the next many years.

What next? One more thriller?
The Treasure of Kafur is my second book. The first, The Shadow Throne, was a spy thriller set in the Indian sub-continent and went on to become a national best seller. Reader response has been overwhelmingly in favour of a sequel and that is what I have started to work on – to be released sometime in 2014. Parallely, I am also contemplating on writing non-fiction.

Narrate your favourite extract from the book...
This extract is from the prologue, just after the treasure has been hidden. Kafur’s men who have placed the treasure in an unwater cavern, take their own lives to preserve the secret.

The land, hitherto shrouded, began to acquire form and character. Soon life would stir to the beauty of a new day. But the general saw none of this. He had eyes only for his men kneeling on the bank, their hands raised in prayer. ‘We are ready, Sire,’ said the leader of the five. The general embraced each in turn. He tried to speak, but his throat clogged and no words would come. ‘We are indeed the chosen ones, Malik Saheb,’ the lieutenant said. ‘By His grace we have lived a full life in your service, and He receives us into his arms gloriously. We pray that He will keep you always. Now please give us your permission.’

Malik Kafur, Scourge of God, commander-in-chief of the most feared army in Hindustan, trusted general of the sultan of Dilli, Alauddin Khilji, and battle-scarred veteran of countless campaigns, could not still trust himself to speak.

The men saw his emotion, his misty eyes and they swelled with pride. They spread a cloth on the ground, stepped on it and drew their daggers. Ram Din smiled and nodded.

The leader held him close and plunged his blade deep into the mahout’s chest, then lowered the body gently. The four embraced a last time. At a word from one, each stabbed into the man opposite, aiming exactly for the heart. So strong were the men and so expert the thrusts that death was instantaneous.

For a long moment the four shapes stood rigid, held erect by the lattice of knives and the hands that gripped them. Even as they started to fold to the ground, Malik Kafur’s arms were around them. He laid them side by side with the mahout and draped each body in white muslin, then tied the bodies onto the horses.
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