Rise of the Indus Valley Civilisation ‘booked’
Was there an Aryan invasion of white-skinned riders galloping into India through the Khyber? Did the Saraswati river really exist? Why is the Harappan script un-deciphered till date? What was the truth behind the fall of the mighty civilization? These are few of the questions dwelled in a new book Harappa: Curse of the Blood River, authored by Vineet Bajpai. Let’s know more about this book from the author itself. Vineet Bajpai is a first-generation entrepreneur. At age 22, he started his company Magnon from a small shed. Today Magnon is among the largest digital agencies in the subcontinent, and part of the Fortune 500 Omnicom Group. He has led the global top-ten advertising agency TBWA as its India CEO. He has also won several entrepreneurship and corporate excellence awards, including the Entrepreneur of the Year 2016. He was recently listed among the 100 Most Influential People in India’s Digital Ecosystem. Vineet’s second company talentrack is disrupting the media, entertainment and creative industry in India. Before, Harappa: Curse of the Blood River, he has written three bestselling management and inspirational books – Build From Scratch, The Street to the Highway and The 30 Something CEO. Here, Vineet shares more about his new book Harappa and more.
AABP: Tell us something about your new book Harappa. What kind of research did it entail?
Vineet Bajpai.Vineet: Harappa is a book that takes you on a journey spanning 3,700 years, right from 1700 BCE Indus Valley to modern-day Delhi and Paris. It spins a thrilling tale around some of the unanswered and haunting questions of the Indus Valley Civilization.
But more excitingly, the story traces the bloodline of the greatest man of Harappa. There is a deeper, darker conspiracy around the fall of the civilization, which connects several dots from Harappa, to Kashi, to 5th century Constantinople, to 16th century Goa and to the Vatican. The story oscillates from history to mythology, from occult to religion, from exorcism on one side to gunfights on the other, from taantrics to warriors, from love to ambition.
Yes the research was long and arduous. But it was also most gratifying. It took me about two years to complete Harappa.
AABP: What was the inspiration for the book? Is it based on real/fictitious characters?
Vineet: One of the profound opportunities missed by our great country has been our inability to creatively exploit the rich history, mythology and heritage of India. Whether it is in filmmaking, gaming, tourism or literature, we have not even leveraged 1% of the content underpinning available to us.
Harappa is an effort in that direction. To give you an example, when we read books of brilliant western authors like Dan Brown and we read say, the Da Vinci Code or Angels and Demons, we love them. A book like Inferno takes you on a mysterious trip based on the western classic Dante’s Inferno or The Divine Comedy. But why hasn’t a book ever taken us on a fantasy ride through say the great warrior-saint Parashuram’s battle with Sahastrabahu Arjun, the Kshatriya king with a thousand arms? Why hasn’t a book explored the dark and terrifying narratives of the Garuda Puraana? I cannot even begin to imagine what kind of mesmerising and spectacular literary work can be done around our own heritage.
When we watch movies like Ben Hur or Avatar, we are left wondering what would have emerged if someone tried to make a film on the Mahabharata at a scale as grand as Lord of the Rings. It was this quest for creating a high-quality book based on our own Indian heritage, our own unanswered myths and mysteries, which made me envision Harappa.
The second part of your question is very pertinent. Even the work that is being done today in the historical and mythological space can hardly be called fiction. Authors are writing about established and revered characters like Shiva or Rama or Sita or Karna or Ashoka etc, and are simply reinterpreting (or even mis-interpreting!) well-known figures. Harappa goes several steps ahead. While it uses intense historical and mythological backdrops, the characters are all sculpted afresh and will grow on the reader.
The characters of the story are intricately sculpted and are very powerful. I cannot wait for you all to get acquainted with Vidyut – the leading protagonist of the story, a modern-day entrepreneur based in Gurgaon, but with a hidden side to his life and his bloodline. I can’t wait for you to discover Vivasvan Pujari, a demi-God worshipped as a devta back in 1700 BCE. I want you to quickly find out why a mysterious monastery in Banaras is called the Dev-Raakshasa matth or the God-Demon clan. What is most exciting for me is that the female characters in the novel are very strong and have a defining role. There is so much I want you all to pick-up as you read Harappa.
AABP: Who are your target audience?
Vineet: Everyone, really. The book is meant for everybody; from housewives to students (recommended for 13 and above only), to working executives, to the general populace at large. The book is easy to read, racy and exceptionally exciting. A lot of young female readers that are writing to me are falling in love with Vidyut, the powerful, supremely gifted yet sensitive protagonist of the story. The men are loving the action-packed sequences and the well-chiselled male characters. The elders are deeply appreciating the vivid picturisation of Kashi. We will be releasing the Hindi edition also soon. That will further expand the reach of the book.
AABP: From business/management books to fiction…the transition is significant. What prompted you to get into fiction?
Vineet: I wrote business books because over my entrepreneurial and corporate journey I truly felt I had learnt things I ought to have shared with readers around the world. And I am glad I did. My business books have been deeply loved. But just as I wrote management books to share my experience in the industry and help my readers build better and stellar careers, I also felt a strong urge to also express the creative storyteller in me. I wanted to write about India’s ancient mysteries, our rich heritage, our profound myths and more. Therefore, Harappa.
But the writing of a business book is a completely different ball game than writing a fiction novel. Being a management ‘guru’ so to speak, is a very different role from that of a storyteller. And it was during the writing of Harappa that I discovered the intensity with which the storyteller in me was waiting to emerge.
Secondly, it was only when I spent nights and days in penning down the manuscript of Harappa, that I understood the emotional connection needed between a fiction writer and his work. We can’t say that writing a business or management book takes no emotional energy, of course it does. But after having written three of them and then writing Harappa, I can assure you that a storyteller has nearly an umbilical cord connected with his work. I know this might sound silly, but every time I read some of the more intense parts of Harappa, especially the last four or five chapters, my eyes well up. I could not believe that I was crying every time I was reading what I had myself created and written! But believe me, that is the intensity of a fiction writer’s relationship with his work. And hopefully, that is the intensity of Harappa as a book. I am sure you will all find the book very gripping and very forceful.
AABP: Describe your journey as an author and what are your future plans?
Vineet: It has been a great journey, with the love being showered from one’s readers being the greatest reward. Starting from my first business book Build From Scratch was a dream come true. I was only 25 then, and had built a small but successful company, Magnon Solutions, from scratch. I wanted to share this start-up knowledge and learning with other aspiring entrepreneurs. Build From Scratch continues to be a favourite of entrepreneurs and aspiring start-ups even today. I wrote my second business title The Street to the Highway in the year 2011, when I had built my company Magnon into one of India’s biggest digital agencies. The Street to the Highway was a bestseller. And then in 2015 I released my most recent business/inspirational book The 30 Something CEO, when I became perhaps the youngest CEO of a multinational advertising agency in the history of Indian advertising. And now Harappa is getting so much love from all over the country. Within 15 days of launch, the book is in the Amazon Top 100 Bestsellers list and is receiving tremendous response. What more can an author ask for?
My immediate goal is to complete writing Harappa’s sequel – Pralay: The Great Deluge. Lots of readers who have finished and loved Harappa, are sending me mails and messages asking when Pralay will be released. One of them actually said, ‘Don’t leave me on this cliff-hanger Vineet, write Pralay soon!’ So the countdown has begun.
AABP: What writing/publishing advice do you give to aspiring writers of any age?
Vineet: The first thing I would like to draw their attention to is that you don’t have to write books on things you know. As fiction writers, you can write books on things you can imagine. It took me years to discover this simple yet elusive reality. Secondly, and more importantly, remember books have now become like making and releasing Bollywood films. If I am right, over 1,00,000 books are released in India every year. I think 95% of them don’t even sell a thousand copies, because it is impossible to get noticed among the tens of thousands of books hitting retail every month! The marketing has (unfortunately!) become more critical than the writing. So if you are planning to write, plan to market as well. And marketing will take money, we like it or not.
AABP: We live in a time when young people have numerous choices for entertainment. What would you like to say to people who may be hesitant about reading a book for “fun”?
Vineet: People who start reading books and start enjoying them, prefer them over any other form of entertainment. A book has the ability to transport you into another time, another place, another life, an emotion never felt before, a person never met before…and that can only be experienced. So I would urge the young people of today and the millennials to use books as a ‘break’ from their digital devices and read a few of them. Once you get hooked on, there is no looking back. And remember, there is true wisdom in the age-old saying – Books are your best friends. Discover them!