Growing up in south India at a time when the West was not as accessible as it is to Indians today, my first glimmerings of the wild life I (delusionally) believed all Americans and Europeans led was via the thrillers of writers like James Hadley Chase. Yes, I read Agatha Christie too, and more sedate authors, but it was the paperback thrillers I found most addictive, for they spoke of hippies and drugs and scarlet women pouting at bad guys and getting murdered—and of course there was always the unwary bystander or canny detective who got dragged willy-nilly into the spicy stew.
Oh, how exciting it was to get one of those books in my greedy hands and to devour it at a single stretch! There were times I’d read a book a day, and since it wasn’t easy to find this kind of material lying around then, I’d woo anyone who had a home library and was willing to share his/her hoard with me.
It was my brother-in-law, an academic and professor, who dourly pointed out to me the effects that reading what he called ‘trash’ would have on my impressionable mind. It’s a hard addiction to break, he warned, and when you need to digest serious stuff, you won’t be able to. I dismissed his warnings since I was doing very well in academics myself, and believed, with all the raw arrogance of youth, that I knew better than preachy fuddy-duddies how to separate study from fun.
Years later, life got really hard for me and I was forced deeper into the study of Easternphilosophy—and so my tastes naturally changed. Looking back on all those thrillers I’d devoured, in retrospect I found the experience to be similar to tossing down three cocktails in quick succession—great during the high, but inevitably, for me at least, followed by a dreary emptiness. So I began to devour spiritual books instead, anything I could lay my hands on, and living in Manhattan, with access to the great New York Public Library and a plethora of funky bookstores, I was in book heaven. Ah, I used to think smugly, I could easily live alone on a deserted tropical island—just so long as some benevolent soul regularly ships me cartons of good books.
Today I work hard at my spiritual novels and absolutely love the process, right from the time an idea pops into my head to the endless plotting, weaving and reweaving that can take decades—yes, my first novel, Whip of the Wild God: A Novel of Tantra in Ancient India, took me twenty years to complete. Of course I was travelling all over the globe at the time, and this book went through seven major revisions—mainly because the philosophy embedded into it kept changing as my own path led me back to Advaita, the ancient teaching on Oneness.
But even today, in between enjoying novels that have won awards and critical attention, I will still dive into bed with a thriller and relive those early days when a fast-paced and wicked tale made me forget the mundane world as it sucked me into the vortex of a simmering saga.
Perhaps it is my addiction to thrillers combined with my passion for eastern philosophy (bizarre combo, right?) that led me to write Krishna’s Counsel, the second novel in my Moksha Trilogy (moksha = freedom/liberation from suffering). The title is inspired by that powerful scene in the Bhagavad Gita that played itself out on the ancient battlefield of the Kurukshetra in ancient India, when Lord Krishna convinces Prince Arjuna to fight his enemies for the good of our suffering planet, and no matter the consequences.
Krishna’s Counsel climaxes in a ghastly crime and its protagonist Pia, a hyper-empath who openly acknowledges her cowardly streak, is forced to metamorphose into a spiritual warrior in order to fight the good fight. I trace my own obsession with the archetypal battle between good and evil (both inner and outer) to my innate nature sparked by the effect of those thrillers on my juvenile mind; as I plan to inform my brother-in-law some fine day, good can emerge even from a bad habit.
Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a hill of fire and light, who vows to destroy all our darkness so that we can know ourselves as the immortal and blissful Self!