Author Trisha Das has been thoroughly interested in mythology and her professional repertoire speaks of that. So her latest book, titled coquettishly, Kama’s Last Sutra offers a similar genre but with a spark. We talked to Das about her book, sex, period dramas, and everything in between!
Why did she choose her character to time travel?
Time travel allowed me to give a modern, fresh take on history. Tara’s a modern woman, identifies as a feminist and struggles with her sexuality and relationships. Taking her back in time enables the reader to see history through Tara’s eyes and draw parallels with our modern world. Plus, I happen to love time travel as a genre and thought it would be a more interesting way to explore history – watch how the old and new bounce off each other.
What is the most unique piece of information she came across while researching earlier Indian civilization?
I found many. It was an extremely tolerant age as far as religion was concerned. Buddhism and Jainism thrived alongside many versions of Hinduism. Rajput kings built mosques inside their fortifications for Muslim soldiers who were taken as prisoners of war. King Vidyadhara, who features in the novel, put an end to a war with the Sultan of Ghazni by composing a poem for him. In an age when war and warriors were glorified and swords were worshipped, I found that very interesting.
How does she feel sex as recreation has changed over the years?
I don’t think sex itself has changed much over the years – we’ve always done it pretty much the same way. But, the perception of sex has been a consistently fluid thing throughout the history of humankind. It’s been driven primarily by the politics of the day, like everything else in society. In early medieval north India, Shaivism was the most common form of Hinduism and it was believed that sex brought about balance in the universe. Therefore, everything was designed around it – from lingam idols to matters of state to the construction of buildings. Later on, when political powers shifted, so did our idea of sex. Now it’s changing again, as women actively seek more empowerment. #MeToo is a sign of that shift. As are books like ‘Kama’s Last Sutra’.
What is the toughest bit in writing a period fiction?
Research is always tricky because it’s difficult to find reliable sources of information. In an age when anyone can add anything to a Wikipedia page, misinformation is everywhere. It’s like trying to find one good apple in a basket of rotten ones. Then, of course, there is always the risk that readers will disagree with period details in the book because they grew up hearing different stories. Folklore, unfortunately, is kind of like the historical version of fake news – it changes constantly depending on the storyteller.
What is the toughest thing she encountered while writing about sex, that is still considered relatively taboo?
Honestly, I think the toughest thing about writing a sex scene is finding artistic, inoffensive, non-cheesy synonyms for penis and vagina. I also think there is genuine interest these days in fiction that explores female sexuality, given that most people seem to know very little about it. Including women.
If Kama’s Last Sutra was to be made into a movie, who would she like to see cast in the roles?
If it ever were to be made into a movie, I’d leave casting to the director!