While we are still revelling about Sofia Coppola recently becoming the second-ever woman to win the best director in Cannes history and Gal Gadot and her director Patty Jenkins stealing box office thunder for Wonder Woman, closer home, Bengaluru-based author Shweta Taneja is launching her feminist thriller, The Matsya Curse: An Anantya Tantrist Mystery on June 11, 4 pm at the British Council Library. A fiercely independent tantric detective solving immortal deaths in the heart of a metro city? We couldn’t help but hear more!
“It’s a feminist adventure, with a kickass, stubborn, independent and expletive spewing heroine. Being a fiction that mirrors our society, it touches upon the themes of gender, caste, class, immortality and ambition and power,” notes Shweta.
The story follows Anantya, a tantric detective who moves away from the patriarchal comforts of her father’s tantric ashram and is now trying to solve a series of deaths of immortals. There are creatures melting away in five-star hotels and it all points to a black tantric from Benaras who has a sinister plan for the human population. Will Anantya be able to stop him before he and his preta army succeed? “While travelling somewhere in Uttar Pradesh, I came across a poster. It said Hanuman, a Chiranjeevi, is still alive and meditating in a cave in Himalayas. I took this folklore, research on chiranjeevis or long lived humans (immortals), and I thought, what if someone is killing them one by one? That was the start of The Matsya Curse,” she tells us. As someone who lived in Delhi, constantly facing fear when she stepped out alone at night, fighting a supernatural crime through her protagonist, she believes, has been cathartic.
According to the author, there’s another message that comes from this book, “There’s an urgent need for us to look at those who we call ‘others’, the ones outside our religion, caste, nationality, the ones living outside the borders. This book shows a mirror to readers, becoming a place where supernaturals, the others, are abused, have no rights. This empathising with ‘others’ is very important in today’s India,” she says.
For someone who never wanted to be a writer, but just tell stories, Shweta has had quite a fulfilling journey. “My earliest memory is of sitting in a circle of my cousins, telling them ghostly tales when lights went off in our house. I’m a storyteller first; writing is the medium I’m using for now,” says the 30-ish-year-old who now has bestselling titles such as Cult of Chaos, How to Steal a Ghost @ Manipal, The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong and graphic novels such as The Skull Rosary and Krishna: Defender of Dharma to her name. Somewhere between finishing her current read — Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem and re-reading Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, she’s already plotting her next book – “It’s a science fiction of a people that give their power to run the world, but don’t have any power themselves,” she says.