Saturday, 26 October 2013

Trade Winds To Meluhha by Vasant Davé

Trade Winds To Meluhha
by Vasant Davé

ebook, 304 pages
Published January 14th 2012 

'Trade winds to Meluhha' is set in the Bronze Age. It narrates a young man SAMASIN's adventure in Mesopotamia and Indus Valley Civilization. He is charged with murder and escapes death through a rare astronomical event which is actually recorded in clay tablets excavated in ancient Babylon. He lands in Meluhha (Indus Valley) where besides the query he also finds wealth and love.

In 1977, Thor Heyerdahl of Kon-Tiki fame undertook a voyage in an 18 metre long reed-boat named 'Tigris'. He was convinced that such ships were capable of carrying up to 50 ton cargo and could therefore have been used as trade vessels. He sailed from Iraq (Mesopotamia) via Oman (Magan) to Pakistan (Indus Valley). To Vasant Davé, Heyerdahl's validation offered a remarkable setting for a narrative based on adventure and interaction between the two widely diverse cultures 4,000 years ago.

With a wide geographical spread from the present day Iraq to India, ultimately what is the plot?

In the year 2138 BC, Samasin worked as a stable boy with a wealthy Babylonian named NERGAL. One day he was falsely implicated in the murder of a foreign trader. Tipped off by Nergal's divorced wife ELLA about risk to his life, he fled to the distant land of Meluhha in search of SIWA SAQRA whose name the dying man had uttered. During the voyage, he met a beautiful damsel, VELLI. He fell in her love but was dismayed to find that she was still devoted to a person who had jilted her. He also met ANN, a Mesopotamian woman who concealed her identity because she was determined to search out a couple of faceless men for revenge.

On the way, Samasin learnt about a board etched with ten glyphs (actually excavated on the site of Dholavira) and with Ann's help deciphered them, leading to an adventure in the ravines of the Saraswathi. He faced a series of obstacles including a few which almost killed him. Then he found that they were manoeuvred. Finally when he met Siwa Saqra, he learnt that there was more to the murder in Babylon than met the eye.

Circumstances brought all the characters together in Babylon when with awe they discovered the stark reality about the trade between Meluhha and Mesopotamia.

Previous novels based on Indus Valley Civilization were 'Winter on the Plain of Ghosts', 'Immortals of Meluha' and 'Secret of the Nagas'. None took cognizance of the fact that the Indus Valley Civilization had had strong trade and cultural ties with Mesopotamia and probably with Egypt too. The engineer in Vasant Davé propelled him to create a plot that put history in its proper perspective.

Dr. Shereen Ratnagar scanned the manuscript and commented on the veracity and plausibility of the past situation as constructed in it. She is a renowned archaeologist and academician of Indus Valley and Mesopotamian cultures on which she has written several books including trade between the two ancient civilizations. A meeting with her cleared many misconceptions of the author and made it necessary to rewrite substantial portions. Vasant recounts how he wrote this pre-historic novel in a free e-booklet which is available on Goodreads.

About the Author:  Vasant is an electrical engineer from the University of Bombay. Besides providing Industrial Market Research services in India, he has catered to clients in Australia, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Singapore, the UK and the USA. His work called for extensive travelling throughout India.

Vasant conceived and wrote Trade winds to Meluhha after he retired from business. It took him three-and-a-half years. Earlier, his articles were published in Readers' Digest, Economic Times, Business India, Shankar's Weekly, Telematics India and Studio Systems.





Q & A with Vasant Davé

Q:  Tell us a little bit about your main characters.
A:  My main characters are Sam and Velli.

Sam, a Babylonian youth, happens to witness a murder which holds a deadly secret about the trade between two ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Indus Valley. He escapes to the Indus Valley, with the villains hot on his heels.

There he falls in love with Velli, a South Asian damsel. She still loves another Mesopotamian who had jilted her. She wants to meet her lover, and she proposes a make-believe marriage to Sam so that she could get her father's permission to go to Mesopotamia with him.

Rapid developments thereafter involve them both in the whirlwind of an evil trade which was ruining the lives of young men and women in Mesopotamia.

Q:  What do you love about writing?
A:  Writing fiction made me realize the magical way in which the human mind evolves characters and events out of random bits of information. If one refers to the page entitled 'Mesopotamia' on Wikipedia, somewhere down the page s/he would read: 'Unusual for that time in history, women in Mesopotamia had rights. They could own property and, if they had good reason, get a divorce.'

That little input made me visualize a person which later developed into the character of Ella.

Q:  What is the best advice you have been given?
A:  For more than a decade, I worked as a market researcher in an Indian company. My superior, Mr. AC Gupta, was also the president of Indian Pump Manufacturers' Association which wanted to present their case to the Government of India. He directed me to collect certain data.

After a few days, I met him with a thick sheaf of paper. He scanned the entire bunch and pointed at the top of the first page. "What's the source of this piece of information?" With red ink he circled something that had been quoted by another professional, and said, "That isn't good enough. Check his source. Has he has reproduced it correctly?"

From that experience, I learnt the value of checking the credibility of all your information before you sit down to write. It enabled me to impart a distinct personality to 'Trade winds to Meluhha' as compared to other novels based on Indus Valley Civilization.

Q:  As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A:  The Prime Minister of India!

I was born a couple of years after India gained independence from the British Empire. Jawaharlal Nehru was our first Prime Minister, and I often heard my father and his friends talking highly about him. Nehru sincerely loved children, rather than considering them useful for a photo opportunity which could garner votes. So I loved the man and wanted to be like him.

Q:  If you could be on one reality TV show, what would it be?
A:  I like building castles in the air, Sheri :)

I would love to be on History Channel's 'Mankind: The Story of All of Us'. I think that my novel 'Trade winds to Meluhha' is just one story of Mankind during the Bronze Age because it is fiction based on two ancient civilizations which were in close contact with each other.

Q:  What book are you reading now?
A:  Currently I am reading the English translation of a book entitled 'Dhandha' written by Shobha Bondre. It narrates the struggle of five internationally successful businessmen hailing from the state of Gujarat. If you refer to the map of India, it's that portion in its west that looks like a bowl of porridge.

The land now known as Gujarat also features as a part of the Indus Valley Civilization in my novel. The ancient sites of Lothal and Dholavira are located there. The real life stories in 'Dhandha' seem like a confirmation of the mercantile spirit of the Indus Valley people.

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