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Charu Singh

Charu Singh

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Charu Singh

Please share your writing journey with us from a journalist to now an author.

I wrote a lot of poetry as a young child and also continued with it in my teenage. And then I became a journalist, which, to a large extent, taught me the discipline of writing. But working as a journalist was like instant coffee; one was always looking for bylines and breaking news. I always had this thing in the back of my mind that I want to write something some day. Now, when I look back at the journey of writing, it has been much more satisfying. It is self-discovery of sorts, because you are finding new facets about yourself every other day.

You have used a lot of elements of Tibetan Buddhism in the Maitreya Chronicles. Why did you make this creative choice?

I have especially used the myth centred around the legendary kingdom of Shambala which is particular to Vajrayana Buddhism and is the subject of much debate and thought among monks and lay practitioners of this arm of Buddhism. In this Buddhist fantasy series I have finished the story with The Golden Dakini; so currently the Maitreya chronicles is a set of two books. However, there is the possibility of me doing a third book centred around the Maitreya.

What sets The Golden Dakini apart amongst the slew of fantasy mythology fiction coming out every month?

Contemporary Indian fiction has witnessed several mythological fantasy series and what sets The Golden Dakini apart is the descent of celestial beings and asurs in contemporary India, as they traverse Delhi, the northeastern states, Ladakh and Kashmir in their pursuit of the mythical mount Meru.This arrival of celestial forces in a modern day context gives rise to uncanny situations; the celestials refer to the means of transport used by humans — be it buses, cars or aircrafts — as mundane transport, as opposed to a celestial transportation through secret passages that they can open up through mantras and travel from, say, Sikkim to Delhi in a matter of minutes.

What was the writing process like? Was it a conscious effort to make the characters relatable and contemporary?

When I was writing this story, I was looking for ideas that would make these mythological characters interesting in a contemporary setting. These celestial beings have accepted their human forms for a mission. Their powers are slightly limited in the human form but they still retain their wisdom and harness it, with the help of mantras, to do different things; they conjure up their own clothes and hide their tracks from the enemies. Where necessary, the asurs, the celestial characters and the yakshas use ‘glamour’ or a cloak to appear as human as possible in their physical features. Our readers would love to know more about the plot. No Spoilers though!

The Golden Dakini centres around action building up to the birth of the divine child, the Maitreya Buddha. The book begins at Qiang La, and a group of five characters travel across Tibet and make their way to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. They stay there for about a week and have meetings with Rimpoche Gyaltsen, who hints at the location of Mt Meru — a mystical, divine mountain mentioned in both Buddhist and Hindu legends.The task before the group is to locate Mt Meru, which has long been lost from the public eye. As the group follows the trail of clues leading to the mountain, they reach Guwahati in Assam where they reside for some time and look for a Hindu sage who can tell them the path ahead.

Is the book fantasy or mythology? What triggered the inception of the story?

I would term this series more fantasy than mythology. And, being familiar with the northeastern states, I set the story predominantly in this region.The Guwahati-based writer says the trigger for the story came years ago when she wondered what it would be for celestials to live in our world. Mount Meru, is an apt part of the saga given its mythical references. There are legends about this mountain that no one has seen; it is said that Meru stretches from the earth to the heavens. I leveraged on this thought for my story.

About the Interviewee:

Charu Singh grew up in Chandigarh and moved to Assam with her husband, where she worked as a freelance researcher for UNICEF. She has since worked with Asian Age, Frontline and Tribune.

In addition to writing, she is also a trained classical dancer and is deeply interested in the spiritual.