In Conversation with Sagar Kamath – Author of Chronux

Sagar Kamath teaches History and International Affairs at Symbiosis International University. With a Masters in History and Philosophy and over 9 years of experience in the teaching sector, he has lectured extensively on subjects ranging from global history to modern day geopolitics and specializes in issues of religion and politics. An avid storyteller, he has spent years researching humanity’s intricate interplay with the natural world, and believes that events like World War II serve to highlight the best and the worst, we as a species are capable of…something amply reflected in this work. In his free time, he loves to explore ‘off-the-beaten-track’ locales that have a sense of mystique about them.

The theme you have chosen for your book Chronux is very complex and unique. How did you come up with the idea?

I have always been fascinated with human history and particularly the way it seems to morph, depending on who is narrating it. To me, one of the most fascinating aspects of our collective story is how dating back to the earliest civilizations, we as a species have been obsessed with the idea of time…it is perhaps because we realized very early on that without conceptualizing ‘time’ in some shape or form, we would find it impossible to really plot the march of our civilization. Whether we define time as simply a ‘mathematical constant’ or ‘the rate of change’ or personify it as a deity, we seem inextricably bound by it. To me, this was a powerful motivation to write a story not from our perspective but from time’s…the question: What if Time were tracking us just like we were tracking it…seemed both terrifying and exciting at the same time!

The theme would have required a lot of research and meticulous planning to weave such an interesting story. History, which happens to be your subject, also plays an important role in the book. How did you do the research to pen the book? Also, do you think that being a person of History; you had an advantage to get the insight of the topic?

I first began thinking of Chronux as a workable idea in around 2013. The name of course is a play on the word – ‘Chronos’ or ‘Kronos’, who is the Greek Titan that we know a Saturn. Chronos has also represented Time and I was greatly fascinated with the idea of telling a story from the perspective of sentient time…one that would respond to us and not just remain a passive observer. The more I thought about it, the more it became clear that if I planned to use time as the protagonist, I would need to create a plausible scientific explanation for what it was and how it worked. The last thing I wanted was for a reader to go through the book and not have a proper closure. I discussed this idea for a year or so, with a close friend of mine, without actually writing any of it. Only once I was sure, I had a workable idea, did I actually begin the process of constructing the plot.

Writing Chronux was a unique challenge since it involved combining fact and fiction in two different ways. First – there is the historical backdrop to the book. So, for instance a substantial chunk of the book deals with the period of the 1920s and 30s with the Nazis coming to power in Germany. This closely matched my own research that I had done through my years in academia. I used all the sources that I would normally use, were I taking a course on the same. But then, the plot contains certain fictional elements that needed to be incorporated into this historical setting, namely an audacious expedition into Tibet to locate the source of God’s power on Earth. Here I had to make sure that while I described the geographical landmarks on the journey through Western Tibet as accurately as possible, a certain creative liberty would have to be taken, since I was at the end of the day writing fiction. Second – The book also has elements of Science Fiction in it. Here in I faced the second challenge. How do you create an altogether new theory of Time and at the same time keep it logically consistent so that it appears plausible to a reader. Keep in mind, some of the technologies I have described in the book at “futuristic”, since one part of the book plays out in 3067 A.D.

The plot was so complex and ambitious that till I had it completely figured out in my head, I did not commit any of it to paper…or in my case…the laptop! For me, this journey began through a stray though which then took on epic proportions in my head…a thought that I would debate and discuss with my close friend Chinmay Deo, during many, many unforgettable long walks and treks.  Almost anywhere I visited during this process, seemed to reach out to me and egg me on. I remember one instance when I was out jogging late evening, with my mind immersed in the story…and I suddenly realized as my legs stared to give way that I had ended up some 13 or 14 kilometres from my place!

Of course, apart from just this, there were countless hours of research (not all of it related to the book) that I had to commit. The list of sources at the end of the book is just the tip of the iceberg. I do believe that my background in History helped immensely.

What was the most challenging or difficult part during the process of writing and publishing the book?

The idea of writing a book is extremely fascinating and motivating. When you start, you are already drawn to it, since it’s just a story which you know and no on else does! However, the difficult part begins when you enter the 2nd and in my case the 3rd and the 4th year. The story might take turns that you hadn’t envisioned before and you run into blocks that you never knew existed. Plus in my case, I had the pressure of work, since my regular schedule is extremely tight. I teach History and International Affairs at Symbiosis Centre for Media and Communication and Middle Eastern Affairs at Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, as well as teach English and Verbal reasoning at IMS Learning Resources over the weekend. In fact there was a time not so long ago that I used to often end up working an average of 10 hours a day, for all 7 days of the week. Thankfully, I have slowed down so what! But I feel that I can do it as I am truly found my passion.

The book is divided into various episodes covering some of the eras of History. How did you decide which eras to choose and why?

This is an interesting question. To be honest, even before I began to write, I had decided to write the book in a series of Episodes. Chronux is one huge plot that spans a total of 6 episodes. However, as you go through the book, it becomes clear that these are NOT short stories. This style of a narrative simply allows me to use a slightly no-linear style of writing…which is important since the protagonist of the story is “TIME”! So for instance: Episode One centres around the happenings in the distant past in a remote Himalayan Village named ‘Aruhu’, while Episode Two then takes the reader into the far future and follows the journey of Chronux, through an extra-terrestrial invasion in the year 3067 AD. Episodes Three, Four, Five and Six then take the story through the early half of the 20th century, with the Nazis engaging in a near suicidal expedition into remote Tibet in search of Paradise.

As we all know time immortal has been shaping our lives since ages. Do you want to convey some special message to the readers with the book or entertainment was the sole purpose behind writing it?

I would hope that anyone who reads Chronux finds the thought process that has gone behind writing it, fascinating and enthralling. At the heart of it, the book is a historical thriller with elements of Sci-fi in it, a genre that has largely been untouched by writers of Indian origin. I feel that the themes discussed in the book could lead to a lot of intellectual speculations about the nature of time and the impact it has on us. This is not just another “Time Travel” story!

If you have to give one reason to our readers to get hold of your book, “Chronux”, what would the reason be?

Chronux is unique not only in terms of its concept and scope but also because it uses a form of immersive storytelling that makes the reader a part of the narrative. (Exactly how…shall for now have to remain a secret!) But the reader realizes through the story that s/he isn’t just reading someone else’ story but rather living the book! Anyone who loves History, Mythology, Adventure, Science Fiction and Deception, should pick it up.

Who is your favourite author/s and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I remember, as a child, I came across a bruised and battered copy of Sir H. Rider. Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines an all-time classic that blew away my young mind. I was enthralled by the story and the descriptions of how an intrepid group of explorers embark on an audacious quest to unearth one of the lost treasures from the ancient world. At that time of course I had no idea who Solomon was, or whether there was even such a place like that described in the book. But none of it seemed to matter…the late Victorian description of Africa as an unknown continent, full of adventure and mystery, and the prospect of finding something completely unknown to the rest of humanity, left me spellbound. (It was probably also the dilapidated state of the book, with its musty, crumbling pages that had something to do with it.) I remember, enacting parts of the book in school, much to the amusement of my friends.

This was surely one of my earliest inspirations. Since then of course I have read all the noted suspects like Dan Brown, Robert Ludlum, Steve Berry. I have also been greatly inspired by a lot of non-fiction works, through my research into International affairs.

Any message you would want to share with our readers?

I don’t think we give Indian readers enough credit. Yes it’s true that Sci Fi as a genre hasn’t been explored much by Indian Authors, but I think the audience is ready for something like this. Just look at the success, similar themes have in the audio visual medium. So I don’t think that should be a problem. You could argue that its “Time” has come!

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