In Surtadhar, debut author Ratul Chakraborty writes about two topics that fascinate him the most, history and people. A video game developer for years, Chakraborty says that he is an entertainer. “I have realized the critical importance of entertainment in transmitting, validating and normalizing even radical, counter-intuitive ideas to the masses,” he says while speaking to OpIndia. Sutradhar is a historical fiction which tries to tell a story on an insider’s perspective, and do it in a way that it is considered to be a cultural artefact with strong memetic potential.
Elaborating on his inspiration, Chakraborty said, “I had only one objective behind writing Sutradhar. Can I write something that has such a strong emotional core that it would make the reader endorse an Indic world view that would appear radical in the context of the existing left-lib zeitgeist? I strongly believe that the Indian audience is craving for world class entertainment that universalizes essential Indic values as something lofty and aspirational.”
Chakraborty states that quite too often Indian audience is subjected to a worldview that is by design antithetical to the idea of our Indic roots. On choosing historical fiction as a genre, Chakraborty said, “History gives us perspective to understand our present and plan our future, and fiction because I believe in the power of mass culture to disseminate ideas at a grassroots level. I do not aim for a retelling of history, rather I am interested in spreading certain ideas using the canvas of the past that should hopefully nudge the reader to look at the world around him/her through a fresh lens.”
Chakraborty took almost a decade to write Sutradhar. “Writing this book has been a long journey full of painful self doubt and lengthy bouts of inactivity interspersed in between. Yet, it has been one of the most memorable experiences of my life,” he says. Last year, he finally took a break from his full-time corporate job to focus on writing before going back into corporate world. “I must thank Hari Kiran Sir and the Indic Academy who has given me such incredible support, and without whom this publication would not have been possible. A great reward for me is coming in contact with the brilliant minds who are a part of the Indic Academy, and experience first hand the intellectual heft that is serving the Indic cause,” Chakraborty says.
About Sutradhar by Ratul Chakraborty
Sutradhar is a collection of stories set across the arc of Indian history. Each of these tales is a dramatized reinterpretation of events, myths and legends associated with individual time periods. The stories are written from an authentic emic perspective, exploring various worldviews, sociological schemas and philosophical approaches within the context of the narrative. The seven accounts that form the collection span multiple genres, from historical fantasy to cosmic horror, and are often tinged with dark, sometimes absurdist undertones.
Newton’s First, set in the Sarasvati Civilization time period, deals with issues like the impact of loss of faith and civilizational responses to habitat changes. The second story, The Law, is about a faceoff between Alexander and Chanakya, and deals with topics like MatsyaNyaya and the price of power. In The Lament we meet an old Ashoka, and accompany him on his last journey. The longest story of the collection is A Mirror for the Ants, a story that starts out with an Asterix trope but in which a rabid Aurangzeb gets a payback in a manner that can only be called Indic-Cosmic-Horror. A One Penny Tune is a story set in the devastated rural Bengal during the Great Famine, and primarily deals with the question of arrival of modernity. The shortest story in the collection is The Offering, which is set in the British era, and is all about the power of seeking refuge in faith. The final story, The Path of a Coward plays out in the violent hellscape of the partition era, and is a personal exploration of responses to Jihad.
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