Ashwin Sanghi on his new book The Sialkot Saga and giving history a contemporary edge
Author of bestselling novels such as The Rozabal Line, Chanakya’s Chant and The Krishna Key, Ashwin Sanghi is known for delving into history and mythology. In his latest offering, The Sialkot Saga (Westland, Rs 350), a story of two rivals, Arvind Bagadia and Arbaaz Sheikh, Mumbai-based Sanghi writes about the business environment in post-independent India, and the quest of immortality from the time of king Ashoka, taking the readers on journey that begins in Sialkot. Excerpts:
You come from a business family. How did you start writing?
My maternal grandfather was a voracious reader. He would send me a book very week, and I had to send him a letter after reading them, describing what I liked or disliked. My mother was also a voracious reader. She was more into paperbacks while my grandfather preferred classics and autobiographies. Over a period of time, I gathered the content from my grandfather’s books and the style from my mother’s.
What went into writing The Sialkot Saga?
I wanted to do a story on the lives of businessmen, the environment of business in India, and how it has evolved over the past 60 years since independence. I began working on it almost three years ago.
What kind of research did you do?
See, the age of the material is inversely proportional to the need of accuracy. So the ancient track, which is less than 10 per cent of the book, was easier. I got most of my information by reading appropriate reading material. From 1947, I became very cautious as these events were very much alive in the memories of the people. Here, I got the information from newspapers and national archives. But the most important and also the most difficult was the historical drive. For instance, if a person was standing at the Marine Drive in Mumbai in 1957 then
what was the scene like at that time, in that era.
Did you base Arvind and Arbaaz, on real life people?
If you see an average business family from the Marwari community in Kolkata, you will find thousands of examples of someone like Arvind. There were many like him who were working hard and also pursuing wealth where they felt they could stretch the boundaries. I mean they had no option due to the strict License Raj. For Arbaaz, I drew elements from underworld dons, like Dawood Ibrahim and others, to pick up the correct characteristics.
The Sialkot Saga reads like a Bollywood movie. Should we expect a movie based on it?
Honestly I don’t know. I don’t write my stories cinematically. Of course the scenes are visual but the story is complex with the plots and the sub plots, converting that into a screenplay is a challenge.
What other projects are you working on?
I am in the final stages of editing a crime thriller, which should be out by the year end. 13 Steps to Bloody Good Luck is going to be made into a series and will have titles such as 13 Steps to Bloody Good Cook and 13 Steps to Bloody Good Health, written by people who have expertise in these areas.
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