Ace storyteller Ravi Subramanian shifts gears from the corporate world for a whodunnit inside the world's richest religious institution in Kerala
Why the shift from banking to a semi-realistic scenario set in a Kerala temple for In the Name of God?
As an author, I write about what catches my interest. This time, it was the Padmanabhaswamy temple, the richest religious institution in the world, with an estimated wealth of US $20 billion. When the issue caught the fancy of the media a couple of years ago, I was reading Flawless, a true story about a heist in Antwerp's diamond district, which is possibly the most guarded and secure square mile on this planet. And guess what? Only a few constables stand guard over the wealthy temple in Kerala. Anything could have happened. We were relying on the fear of God to prevent catastrophe, as against the fear of law. So, I decided to write In the Name of God (Penguin Random House) with the temple as a backdrop. My story is more about "what could have been" rather than "what is". And I would implore my readers to read it with that in mind.
As far as a shift goes, it is just a temporary hiatus. Who knows? My next may be back in the world of banking! Be it the Maoist and money laundering in The Incredible Banker, bitcoins in God is a Gamer, wealth management frauds in Bankster — it has always been about what intrigues me. Padmanabhaswamy temple took my level of intrigue to the next level.
Why did you choose to dip into a controversial subject set inside a Hindu temple?
Whenever you write stories inspired by real life, they are bound to border on controversial. The book touches on a controversial subject, but I have steered clear of controversy. Every reference to the lord is made with complete respect. The story is not about faith and religion, but about lust for power and stature, greed for amassing wealth and the depleting emotional quotient in relationships these days.
The departure of plot from your previous books must have been a challenge.
This one has been the most challenging book that I have written. It took me two years to complete. Writing a book not based in the world of banking means more research, more effort to familiarise oneself with the territory, and in plotting, to make sure the story does not sound unrealistic. Add to that the complication of writing about a backdrop that is real. It puts the added responsibility of ensuring that you do not point a finger at anyone. People will be quick to jump to conclusions. I had to put in extra effort to make sure that readers read it as fiction.
In this book, everything was alien to me. I had to first unlearn my way of writing, and relearn how to write about commoners (non-bankers). But given that I loved the subject, it was never tedious. Also, when I started writing, I lost count of words, and by the time I ended the story, it was 1,20,000 words. I had to edit it down to make sure that the pace was intact all through.
Characters in this story must have been created differently as well.
Yes. Another key difference that made life easier was that corporate life sets behavioural boundaries. When I had characters based in that set-up in my earlier books, they had to behave in a certain manner. There were extremes, which they were not expected to cross. However, in this story, the characters are not from the corporate world. Nothing is impossible for them. And therein lies the opportunity to make the story thrilling.
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