Chirdeep Malhotra . Updated: 12/24/2019 5:36:49 PM Books and Authors

Author Interview: Dwai Lahiri

Dwai Lahiri lives in Chicago, USA and is a software engineer for a Silicon Valley software company. An engineer by training, he likes to think of himself as a humble bridge between many disparate worlds- science and spirituality, art and technology, Eastern and Western cultures. He is a long time practitioner of the Daoist internal arts with a focus on Taijiquan. He has recently come out with the book “The Mahāsiddha Field”, which is the first book of a seven-part sci-fi/ fantasy book series. In a candid chat with Chirdeep Malhotra, he talks about his book, his writing journey, his favourite books and authors, and much more.

Please tell us more about Dwai Lahiri as a person.

I’m a multi-cultural person, being a Bengali who was born in Kolkata but grew up in Mysuru in Karnataka. Growing up in the 1980s was a lot of fun. We walked everywhere, climbed trees, raided neighbours’ backyards for guavas and mangos. I would have to say that Mysuru is unequivocally the best city in India for me.
Childhood was filled with novels and my grandfather’s stories. My grandfather was a brilliant Bengali artist and writer and he would weave magic and bring different worlds to life for us, as we sat, mesmerized by the stories and the amazing way in which he told them. Now I live in the US, in a Chicago suburb with my wife and daughter and our two dogs. I work as a software engineer for a Silicon Valley software company.

Has writing always been a part of your life? Or did you chance upon it later on and then instantly fell in love with it?

I’ve always been reasonably proficient with using the written word to communicate. Being an introvert, I found that writing poetry and short stories was a great way to express all that I could not easily vocalize. As a student in India in the 1990s, I had a college rock band and used to write lyrics for my songs, which in essence were poems filled with “teenage angst”.
Later on, I embarked upon serious writing when I became a columnist for back in the 2001-2005 time frame. I wrote short stories and Op-Ed type pieces. When sulekha became terribly commercialized, I started an online journal — The MedhaJournal — a journal for serious thinkers, along with a bunch of former sulekha authors. That is where the seed of my first novel arose.

Can you tell us more about your book “The Mahāsiddha Field”?

“The Mahāsiddha Field” is my way to bring together elements of different genres that I personally love. I’m a huge fan of Sci-fi, fantasy, Wuxia (martial novels like crouching tiger/hidden dragon) and the spiritual books such as Tripura Rahasya and Yoga Vashishta.
I’ve been a spiritual practitioner for over 20 years now, and wanted to attempt to share some spiritual and metaphysical insights in a format that works best for me — in the story format. That is the format I love, exemplified by Tripura Rahasya and Yoga Vashishta.
However, the main purpose of the book is to entertain — a reimagining of where the Asuras and Danavas of our Puranic stories disappeared, and what their society could have evolved into, since the Ramayana war between Lord Rama and Ravana happened. Without revealing more, I would say that this book is fictional, except the parts that aren’t. I hope it makes the reader stop and go — “No way! I don’t think that can happen in real life.”

How has the response of readers been to your book?

I’ve had some really positive responses from readers, who weren’t expecting the book to turn out the way it did. Almost everyone loved the story, and most liked the metaphysical message in the book. A few decided the metaphysical side was a bit too heavy for them, and still loved the story though they skimmed over those parts (of which there aren’t too many, I can assure any potential reader who might be getting alarmed at the prospect).

How did the idea of writing this book emerge?

I’ve always been drawn to the Indian stories of Sadhus and Fakirs - as expressed in books like “Autobiography of a Yogi”. In my humble opinion, the antidote to the problems the world is facing today with the rampant dehumanization via technology and pollution, global warming, etc. is to revisit the glorious Rishi tradition of Ancient India.
In that backdrop, the book started as a series of short stories that I originally started to write as an extension of a short story trilogy I’d written on sulekha and MedhaJournal known as the “Pagla Baba” trilogy. But as I continued to write, the chapters started to manifest and it became too big to remain in a short story format. So it became the novel ‘The Mahāsiddha Field’.

What type of research went into writing this book?

I have extensive direct experience with spiritual practices and metaphysics, especially in the Indic with Yoga, Advaita Vedanta and Kashmir Shaivism and Chinese traditions with Daoism. So the metaphysics part didn’t really need special research. I had to research the Puranic aspects of the story elements, such as the lineage of Devas, Asuras, Danavas and so on. Also some research was warranted to make the sections with reference to Burma during the British Raj and the upper Himalayan regions come to life.

What are your favourite books? Can you share with our esteemed readers about the genres that you like and your favourite authors?

My reading tastes have evolved with age but I can think of a few that are timeless in my humble opinion- The River God series by Wilbur Smith (it is a historical fantasy/fiction series), “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahamsa Yogananda, “Don Juan and the Yaqui way of knowledge” by Carlos Castaneda (a metaphysical fiction novel which led to a series of brilliant books covering mesoamerican mythology and Native American metaphysics), Tripura Rahasya and Yoga Vashishta (traditional Indian metaphysics expressed in a novel format), The Rāmāyana and Mahābhārata (I think everyone should read them).
I also simply love the Sci-fi TV show “Battlestar Galactica (the 2000s version). I think the storytelling in that series is absolutely riveting and extremely powerful. Any sci-fi fan would do well to watch this epic space opera.

What are your other interests apart from writing?

I am a musician and an amateur sound engineer and music producer. I play the guitar, bass, and drums. So when I’m not writing I compose and produce and record my own music. I am also a long term practitioner of Daoist meditation and Taijiquan - which I’ve practiced almost every day over the past two decades, and plan to continue along that path in future as well.

Are there any other literary projects in the pipeline?

I’m writing the second book of the Mahāsiddha series. I have provided a brief synopsis of what readers can expect in it, at the end of ‘The Mahāsiddha Field’.

There are many new writers and poets who are aspiring to get their work published. What would you say to them?

Just write. Nowadays we are no longer beholden to the big publishing houses to get our work out into the world. Self publishing and indie publishers exist to help people like us, who are unknown, to share our works with the world. If you feel blocked, get away from your usual routine - go to a place where there are no distractions, internet, TV, etc. I can guarantee that the ideas will flow. Good luck and I wish each and every one of you who wants to write much success in fulfilling your creative aspirations!

Can you share with our readers a motivational quote that keeps you going?

Swami Vivekananda called us all “children of immortal bliss”. If we understand what that means, it will free us from the fears and neuroses we constantly suffer from — fear of failures and even fear of success. Then we can go forth and be the best version of ourselves we can be.

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