Ira Mukhoty: Author Interview

Whenever we read about history, there are a few figures that stand out and we want to learn about them. But, most of us don’t go ahead with this research because it is time-consuming and tedious. But what if I told you that there is a book that will tell you all you need to know about Akbar, one of the greatest Emporer India has seen? Akbar: The Great Mughal by Ira Mukhoty is the solution to your problems. The book carefully analyzes the political and intellectual personas of the emperor but also explores the eccentric side of the man. We at thenotoriousreader knew we wanted to know more about the book and its author.

Ira Mukhoty is the author of Daughters of the Sun: Empresses, Queens, and Begums of the Mughal Empire and Heroines: Powerful Indian Women in Myth and History. Living in one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, she developed an interest in the evolution of mythology and history, the erasure of women from these histories, and the continuing relevance this has on the status of women in India. She writes rigorously researched narrative histories that are accessible to the lay reader. She lives in Gurgaon with her husband and two daughters.

What inspires you to pick up your pen and write?

Writing has become a habit. Something I do every day, and cannot imagine doing without. It is an end in itself.

Can you please give us some more information about your book?

My new book Akbar: The Great Mughal, is a biography of the 16th-century emperor, using 21 st century discoveries and language. I want to make the essence and minutae of Akbar and his world accessible to a lay audience. So my book covers the arc of Akbar’s career but also includes many of the men, women, and animals that were an intrinsic part of his life, to bring out a more nuanced and rounded impression of the man he was, in addition to his achievements.

Can you please tell us more about why you choose to write particularly about Akbar?

I had come across the stories of the Mughal emperors while writing Daughters of the Sun and Akbar was intriguing for a number of reasons. His empire and the structures he created were fundamental not just for the Mughal empire but were even used by the British EIC. On a personal level, he was something of an enigma because he presented a number of contradictions; illiterate yet knowledgeable, expansive yet secretive, genial yet with an explosive temper. Today, when so much history is being manipulated and re-written, I thought it would be an interesting
exercise to understand this complicated man and his diverse world a little more.

Why did you choose this particular genre? Will you be trying your hand at any other genre?

I have been writing narrative history for my last three books, and I am likely to stick to it now. There are so many incredible stories to be told from within Indian history, that there is no need to create fantasy or fiction!

When should we expect your next book? What will it be about?

My next book will be out next year, and it is a work of mythology. It is an earlier manuscript which I had written a while ago and is being published now.

Do you have plans of trying your hand in writing fiction?

I don’t think I will write fiction in the near future, as there are still many interesting historical works I have in mind, and which I would like to write.

If not a writer, what would have been the career of your choice?

I am a scientist by training and would have probably liked to do something related to medicine

Can you tell us about who is your favorite author/ authors?

Recently I’ve enjoyed reading Circe and Song of Achilles both by Madeline Miller as well as Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. Interestingly, all are re-writings of ancient epics but done in a very fresh way with an entirely new filter. In non-fiction, I found Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women to be a shocking and very informative read. In fiction, I really liked Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid.

While reading, do you prefer to read fiction or non-fiction?

I read quite a wide genre, though when I am researching a book them I read overwhelmingly non-fiction. I like to intersperse that with a little bit of literary fiction.

What do you like to do when you are not busy writing?

I love traveling, whenever I can. Also, gardening, which I find very therapeutic and calming.

You can find out more about the book by clicking here.

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