1. Tell us a bit about the subtitle of the book.
Ans: As you rightly pointed out here rather than the title, the subtitle conveys the central theme of the book. Hence, as I said in the preface of my book, this is not a biography but is more about the current discourse around the Aurangzeb.
2. What was the central idea behind the book cover?
Ans: To create an impression on the potential readers, the cover truly helps. To pick your book from others, the potential buyer/reader should get some vibes from the cover to go ahead with his decision of buying it. The basic idea during our discussion was to design an intriguing cover without revealing too much about what the book contains.
Hence the side profile- a painting style that was most common in medieval paintings was used on the cover. Similarly for the background, the use of a faded parchment-paper color theme signifies that most of the details in the books are taken from primary records. I am happy that the time spent during our discussion has now transformed into a attractive cover page.
3. Why did you choose the subject of Indian history to write a book on?
Ans: I have started reading historical books from very early on. Even during college or later while working in the corporate sector, reading especially historical non-fiction was always a solace, so it is natural to look for a historical topic related to the Indian civilization for the debut book.
4. What was your driving force behind writing this book?
Ans: Passion to explore the unexplored territory and bringing out the hidden facts about the historical narrative with respect to Indian history was the driving force behind writing this book. Currently, people who have no sense of Indian history, wounds of our civilization, the glorious resistance by various kings, and the brutalities of invaders on the Indian population are writing books on Indian history while trying to control our historical narrative.
Honestly speaking, when I started collecting material for my research, first I was thinking to write a couple of articles or maybe a blog about my findings that how historical narrative is getting skewed in a certain way and how various distortions are creeping into it in a systematic way. But the sheer volume of online misinformation made me rethink. That was the point when I decided to write a book as it has greater reach and many of the topics can be covered under a single umbrella.
5. Why did you choose the figure of Aurangzeb to write a book on?
Ans: As I discussed earlier also, the book is not only about Aurangzeb but primarily about the discourse which is getting built around him. A couple of years back a controversial biography of the Sixth Mughal Emperor was released which was written by an alleged ‘historian’. Since then, there was a flood of articles, blogs, or books finding or sometimes inventing hidden ‘gems’ about Aurangzeb.
Hence, it was logically the first step to start writing or rather exposing various distortions which are getting built in the discourse around Aurangzeb.
6. What challenges did you face while writing this book?
Ans: The journey was a long and hard one as the book was close to three years in the making.
Even after deciding to write the book, it took more than one and half years to go through the available material with me. Which sources to select? How to differentiate between primary and secondary sources? Even amongst various primary sources, how much weightage needs to be given to a particular source, are some of the critical questions that need to be solved before I have embarked on this journey.
The first draft took more than seven months to complete. As a debutant author that too going for self-publishing, the burden was too great to carry. I remember many a time at night, suddenly a new point or idea strikes, and then you wake up in the middle of the night, note it down, and try to sleep but could not because that point was firmly lodged in your mind and you impatiently wait for the morning so as to pick those reference books again and try to find more about it.
The manuscript which I submitted to Evincepub took a further five months. Then the usual process of revision, editing, proofreading, and rewriting some parts started which again went on for close to four months.
Kudos to the team of Evincepub who patiently worked for the completion of the project.
7. Do you think that the graphological depiction of the arguments through pie charts and tables makes for easier reading of the book?
Ans: Yes, it is true that data that can take a page or two to explain can be explained better by using visual representations like pictures, graphs, charts, and tables. Hence, I have used them in the book and the advanced feedback from readers about them is encouraging as complex or long datasets are summarized in a single visually appealing representation.
8. Do you worry that there might be chances of your words and work being misconstrued?
Ans: Being from STEM background, I don’t claim that I know everything under the sun even in the field of Indian history unlike many who act like ‘Duggal Saheb’, today they are historians, yesterday they were foreign policy experts and may become economists tomorrow. Hence, I can accept the change only if it is backed by primary evidence and solid research. If someone gets outraged only because the dominant narrative is getting challenged, then in my opinion they are just looking for faults in place of doing anything constructive, and however hard you try there is always a possibility that your work may be quoted out of context which is especially true for non-fiction historical books, but then you have to take that chance.
9. What are your future writing endeavours?
Ans: There are a couple of projects in the pipeline including translating this book into several Indian national languages so as to have a greater reach and connect with the people. Let’s see how this works out.
10. Which contemporary Indian authors inspire you the most?
Ans: In contemporary Indian writers I admire the works of various Indian authors. The first & foremost are Anuj Dhar and Chandrachur Ghosh who had written several investigative books on the Netaji Bose and the mystery surrounding his sudden disappearance. In fact, the long, hard work and the incisive analytical thinking as well as the pains which they have taken to take the narrative to a wider audience were an inspiration for me during some of the investigative work which I have to carry out for my book.
Similarly, I am a fan of Dr. Uday Kulkarni who has written a series of non-fiction historical books on the Maratha Empire in the 18th Century. I think it is the first attempt in many years by a single author after the historian Sardesai to cover over a century of Indian historical landscape.