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Interview and tour: Vasant Davé

Today I have Vasant Davé visiting The Life and Lies for a virtual book tour!

Why and when did you begin writing?

I began writing during my first year in secondary school in Kenya. My parents had emigrated there from India before WWII. We had gone on a school trip during my final year in primary school, wherein we had visited Mt. Kilimanjaro and two wild life sanctuaries. We enjoyed it so much that I decided to record it so that I could mentally re-live the experience again and again. I wrote an account in my mother tongue Gujarati, and embellished it with black and white photos that I had taken using my father's Kodak Brownie box camera. My effort was lauded by my class teacher Mr. BC Patel and Head Master Mr. Hassan Ali. That encouraged me to write beyond what was required in school, and by the time I reached School Certificate, I was writing short spoofs in English.

What inspired you to write your book?TourLogo_HighResolution

Although a technical person, I am very interested in archaeology. India and Pakistan are el-Dorado of archaeological discoveries, starting from the Bronze Age culture of Indus Valley. I was awed when I read about the structures of granary and great bath discovered on the sites of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro in Pakistan. I saw the water conservation techniques used by the Indus Valley people in Dholavira in the Rann of Kutch, and the remnants a port in Lothal. The engineer in me cried out to tom-tom about them to the Indian youngsters, most of whom are blissfully unaware about these achievements of our ancestors. I thought that the best way to get them interested was to inform through entertainment, to write an interesting story about a young man and his girl in the Bronze Age. With that inspiration, I commenced writing Trade winds to Meluhha, but when I finished I discovered that the novel held a wider appeal on international level.

How did you come up with the title?

Two matters went behind the title Trade winds to Meluhha. The port that I mentioned earlier, Lothal in Western India, used to trade with Mesopotamia where they knew Indus Valley as 'Meluhha'. I was excited that commercial and cultural links between two ancient civilizations offered a breath-holding plot. I imagined a Mesopotamian youngster traveling to Indus Valley, overcoming obstacles and falling in love with a local damsel. During the Bronze Age, only a reed ship which could sail with the seasonal winds could take him there.

Secondly, it appeared from the available evidence that trade was skewed in favour of the Indus Valley. I reasoned that some mysterious 'product' might have balanced it off but it was not recorded in history for some reason. I imagined that 'product', and when I sought the opinion of experts, they unanimously rubbished my suggestion. I told myself "I'm a story teller, not a historian," and went ahead with 'balancing' the trade with the hypothetical 'product', which was also essential to make my narrative interesting. Those are the two reasons behind how I came up with the title of my book.

What books or people influenced your writing? Was it positive influence, or negative?

My English teachers in secondary school, particularly Mrs. HC Davies and Mr. A. Bullock, improved my writing in no small measure. Constantly encouraging, they made the learning of a foreign language enjoyable for the entire class. I remember that once while discussing John Buchan's Thirty-nine Steps, Mr. Bullock remarked in our Literature period: "If you ever write a narrative, create suspense at the outset just as the author has done in this book." I still wonder how that casual comment sprang up in my mind when I decided to write Trade winds to Meluhha.

How do you go about researching for your books?

I read as much about the specific historic period as possible, and jot down points which interest me. I go deeper into those aspects and collect more details. I visit archaeological sites and museums, and try to understand how people lived then. I try to find roughly similar people who might be living today, e.g. the 'adivasi's of India many of whom still live in forests and probably follow certain customs which our common ancestors did four millenniums ago. I also try to find co-relations between past events and places. All that goes into creating a convincing backdrop against which my characters push the plot forwards.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

You simply can't escape doing that, can you? You see, the reader expects the fictional character to be far more interesting than any real person could possibly be. So I mould different characteristics of various real people into a composite character. Something like those pictures we all enjoyed deciphering in childhood -- an exotic animal having an elephant's trunk, a lion's mane, a giraffe's neck, a camel's hump, and a kangaroo's tail.

What’s the most exciting part about being a published author? What is the hardest part?

The most exciting part about being a published author is when people start discussing your work in blogs and social circles. You feel a deep sense of satisfaction that your writing is making readers sit up, shake with laughter, or reach for a hankie.

The hardest part is the realization that book reviewers see a room for improvement in certain aspects of the narrative which you considered was your best output. They know well the pulse of their segment of readers, and an author would be missing an opportunity to polish his narrative further if he were to brush them off lightly.

Do you have any other books planned in the future?

Before embarking upon another three years of research and writing, I wish to know how much the readers like Trade winds to Meluhha. All the same, I have formed a rough idea about a sequel. It would be a similar adventure-thriller-suspense story set in two ancient civilizations. In the sequel, it would be Egypt instead of Mesopotamia. Some characters from the first narrative might reappear.

Just for fun:

What are your favorite foods?

I am a teetotaler and a vegetarian, so readers might find my tastes a bit eccentric. My favorite dish is one called 'Handwo'. It is a sour cake concocted from a mixture of rice and gram flour, curd, fine potato chips, fried onion pieces and all the spices of the Orient. A whiff of its aroma makes me leave everything and head for the kitchen like one under spell. I relish it with tea, but not the wishy-washy drink that's prepared by adding milk and sugar cubes to water boiled with tea leaves. The 'proper' way is to mix everything together and boil till the concoction attains a reddish brown tinge. Then strain it, finally squeezing the tea-leaves to ensure that no trace of tenin goes waste! Try it, and you'll agree that 'Handwo' and hard boiled tea imparts an exotic kick :)

What book are you reading right now?

I am re-reading 'Older & Wiser' from the Chicken Soup series. Each of those real life stories is so inspiring that you never regret your retirement and advancing age.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

Our five-year old grandson is a fan of Enid Blyton's Noddy. He shares his toys with me. He plays Noddy and has Big Ears and Mr. Plod in his team. I play Sly cum Gobbo, and we battle on land, water and air. Needless to mention, Sly cum Gobbo always gets thrashed ;)

Thanks Vasant!

 

About the Book

In the year 2138 BC, circumstances bring compelling characters together in Babylon and discover the stark reality of trade between Meluhha and Mesopotamia, and the brain behind it. A trial before Babylon's Council of Elders ended in a serious counter-allegation that jeopardized the lives of the judiciary itself.

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1 comment :

  1. Thank you, Haley, for providing me the opportunity to reach your readers through this Blog. I hope that they liked reading about my novel and a few tit-bits related to its writing.

    ReplyDelete

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Copyright 2016 Haley Mathiot. All reviews are 100% honest and unbiased. One or more items featured in the blog post may have been free or discounted. Receiving free or discounted product does not affect review. For more please see my disclaimer page.