portrait of a man leaning on a chair

portrait of a man leaning on a chair

After the unexpected success of his first two books, Amish Tripathi resigned from his career in financial services and became a full-time writer of spiritual fiction. Twelve years on, he has sold 5.5 million copies across 9 books and achieved the records of fastest- and second-fastest-selling book series in Indian publishing history. The polymath has since added more strings to his bow as a fledgling film producer and Director of London’s Nehru Centre, which promotes cultural exchange between India and the UK. Tripathi speaks to LUX about his life philosophy and the future of Indian culture on the global stage

1. Your first book, The Immortals of Meluha, was rejected by 20 publishers before you self-published it, and yet it went on to become a bestseller in India within its first week of sale. To what do you owe your persistence?

Ancient Indian wisdom says that the most persistent and effective are those who are detached from success or failure, because failure fills demotivation in your heart, which can stop you, and success fills pride in your mind, which can distract you. If you can detach yourself from consequences, and just enjoy your work, your karma, then you become unstoppable.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Perhaps, without realising it, I was following this ancient Indian wisdom from the Bhagvad Gita. I was happy in my financial services career. I was earning well. So, I wasn’t really thinking too deeply about whether my book Immortals of Meluha, would succeed or fail. I wasn’t seeing it as a way to make money, let alone a pathway to another sustainable career option. The book was, in a way, the voice of my soul. And I just wanted to try everything that I could to get it to readers. After that, it was up to the readers whether they liked it or not.

I still follow this philosophy of detachment when I write. I genuinely don’t care at all about the opinions of readers, critics, editors etc when I write. I write the way it comes to me, trying to be as close to my heart as I can. That’s the best way, I think, for any creative to be. Be detached, true to the art, and don’t think about success or failure. The rest is up to fate.

2. You started writing full-time – resigning from your 14-year career in financial services – following the success of your second book, Secret of the Nagas. What prompted that change from banker to author of spiritual fiction?

By that time, my royalty cheque had become more than my salary. So, it was a pragmatic, albeit apparently boring decision. I know it sounds sexy to get a great idea, kick your boss, and jump into something new, but I had to be pragmatic and practical with my career choices. I come from a humble family background; I cannot be irresponsible. There are always bills to pay!

3. Your books tend to amplify the historical. What role do you think the past plays in informing the present?

There are two approaches to change in human civilisation. One is evolutionary, where the present builds upon the shoulders of the past, taking along the best of the past, while reforming that which is not good. The other is nihilistic, where it is assumed that everything about the past is bad, we need to break it all down, and start from scratch. I am certainly not nihilistic: I am evolutionary in my approach.

That doesn’t mean that I think we should oppose all change, where we worship traditions to the extreme and become hidebound; but the other extreme of being nihilistic is not good either, since it usually leads to too much chaos. The evolutionary path, where we retain the best of the old, and bring in the best of the new, is, in my opinion, the best way. And I guess that reflects in my writing.

panel event of speakers

Amish Tripathi speaking at an event with Anil Agarwal and Amitabh Shah

4. Your next project will see you produce the film adaptation of your book, Legend of Suheldev: The King Who Saved India. How are you preparing for that challenge?

I have been an author for over a decade. And the Gods have been kind to me in this field. But film production is a completely new area for me, and when one is entering a new area, it’s always wise to get good partners. This project is also period war film, so the budget is quite significant: we need to manage it well. We have hired senior people in my production company, Immortal Studios, based in Mumbai. We have also tied up with a TV production company (one of the largest in India) as a partner for this project. I am hopeful that we will be able to put together a good film on King Suheldev. We will certainly try our best!

Read more: Emilie Pastor & Sybille Rochat on Nurturing Artistic Talent

5. Besides being an author and columnist, you’re the director of the Nehru Centre, London, which works to facilitate intercultural dialogue between India and the UK. Why is it important for you to engage in diplomatic work of this kind?

I genuinely believe that ancient Indian culture has particular relevance today. We are told about a dichotomy nowadays: namely, that one can either be traditional or liberal; one cannot be both. There are problems with this approach. If we destroy all traditions, sense of family and community, then we atomise society. We end up with the problems of loneliness and the mental health and stress issues that naturally result. At the same time, if we put all traditions on a pedestal, then we have no space for liberal ideas like women’s rights, LGBTQ rights etc. Society would be in a far worse situation without these liberal ideas.

Ancient Indian culture can provide a model for that balance, of being both traditional and liberal at the same time. This gives you the roots and solidity that traditions give you, but also the freedom and ability to soar that liberalism provides. Isn’t that worth propagating? This is what I get to do through this diplomatic role, and it’s why I enjoy this job – because it is in consonance with the values I try to imbibe into my writing.

6. Are you optimistic about the future of Indian art and academia on the global stage?

Certainly. I think ancient Indian culture always had something positive to contribute to the world. But since for most of our post-independence existence, India was an economic under-performer, with very little global power, it was understandable that few foreigners were interested in our culture. Despite those constraints, however, many parts of our culture have been accepted across the world, including yoga, Buddhism, cuisine, films, and so forth. As our economic footprint expands and India becomes a wealthier and more influential country, I am sure that more and more aspects of our culture will find salience across the world. I am proud that through my diplomatic role and my books, I get to make my own small contribution to this journey.

Reading time: 6 min
Audience members at the launch of oxford university student magazine, including Bernard O'Donoghue

Irish poet and academic, Bernard O’Donoghue spoke about literary journalism at the launch of the latest issue

The Oxford Review of Books (ORB) was founded last year at Oxford University and is a celebration of culture featuring an impressively high calibre of essays, interviews, short fiction and poetry. An issue of the magazine is published every Oxford term under the leadership of a new student team. One of the editors of the latest issue, Hugo Murphy tells LUX about the publishing process, the challenges faced and well-earned celebrations.

It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work on the Oxford Review of Books this term. It has also been a lot of fun. As a publication that models itself on journals like the TLS and LRB, the ORB aims to provide a unique space at the University of Oxford for long-form journalism, publishing student-written book reviews, cultural and political essays, interviews, personal diaries, poetry, and short fiction. As such, there are an alarming number of plates to keep spinning at any given time – an undertaking happily shared between four general editors, and a wider editorial team of 12.

Oxford student magazine editors pose for photo in waterstones bookshop

The Hilary Term editors of the ORB: Billie, Oliver, Clarissa and Hugo

The ORB goes to print once a term (three times a year), and the long and meticulous editorial process starts early. The editors for this issue – four English undergraduates across the University: Oliver, Billie, Clarissa, and myself – hit the ground running in early December, calling for original and thought-provoking pitches, casting our net as widely as possible. We commissioned a wide range of 20-or-so pieces, covering topics that ranged from filmmaking in Iran to computer-generated literature, Gordon Brown to Mary Beard.

Follow LUX on Instagram: the.official.lux.magazine

The next few months saw these articles undergo a rigorous editorial process, some of them evolving through upwards of ten separate drafts. Between all this writing ad re-writing, we hosted a successful poetry and short fiction evening, and even managed to find time for a mid-term pit-stop, with twenty-plus team members and contributors coming together for an evening at the pub.

Laughing audience seating and standing in book shop interiors

A rapt audience, including former editors Katie and John, at the March launch of the ORB in Waterstones

Once all content was ready, we (the four editors) laid-in the magazine alongside a graphic designer. This, as expected, was a week-long, gruelling slog, punctuated in equal parts by tutorial essays, salty snacks, and despair; but the pressures, frustrations, and general misery of the process were all enjoyed in fantastic company. And everyone’s toil was rewarded with the elation of reading hard copies of the magazine for the first time, as well as celebrating the term’s work at our launch.

Author Victoria Hislop standing in book shop in front of audience

Author Victoria Hislop presents the prize for the Fiction Competition

While only set up in the summer, the first three issues of the ORB have enjoyed a large following across the University – something that we were reminded of at this issue’s launch, which was hosted in the top-floor café of Waterstones Oxford in early March. Guests numbering close to 200 enjoyed wine and nibbles as they leafed through copies of the new issue and listened to brief talks given by bestselling author Victoria Hislop and award-winning poet Bernard O’Donoghue.

Read more: Art auctioneer Simon de Pury on artistic philanthropy

It proved a fantastic send-off for this term’s team, and another important landmark in the growing strength of the publication. I have been incredibly fortunate to meet and work with many inspiring people in and around the ORB, and I’ll miss the regular meetings enormously. The new team – spearheaded by one of this issue’s editors, Billie – is set to move onto only bigger and better things. Rumour has it the June issue is already in the pipeline.


Reading time: 3 min
Buckland Manor luxury hotel owned by Andrew Brownsword
Buckland manor luxury hotel

Luxury Cotswolds hotel Buckland Manor is part of the Andrew Brownsword hotel collection

In an era of parallel entrepreneurs, who start several businesses at once, Andrew Brownsword is a serial entrepreneur, in two very different businesses. He is currently chairman and owner of Andrew Brownsword Hotels, which owns a group of luxury country house hotels (renowned for their cuisine) and chic city hotels, in the UK. But until 1994, he was known as the man behind the famous ‘Forever Friends’ greeting cards that took the market in the UK and across Europe by storm, reinventing the staid greeting card industry. He sold the company to Hallmark that year for a reported £195m, and bought The Bath Priory, a stately hotel just outside Britain’s most celebrated Roman city. Now he is chairman of the eponymous company that owns and runs a total of 13 hotels around the UK, including country jewels such as Gidleigh Park, with its two Michelin-starred restaurant; and boutique city hotels under the Abode brand. In a rare interview, he speaks to LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai about the luxury hotel market, and why Britain is best.

Serial entrepreneur Andrew Brownsword

Andrew Brownsword

LUX: Cuisine seems to be an important element of your hotels, although it never seems to be formal. Is it growing in importance?
Andrew Brownsword: Yes. We do believe in the (Michelin) star system, and Michelin is a good guide for people. Gidleigh Park is a two Michelin star hotel, for example. Bath Priory has always been a one Michelin star hotel, and it is a place for local celebration.

LUX: You are developing city centre hotels alongside the country hotels; why?
Andrew Brownsword: We’re acquisitive but we are essentially looking for the right locations. In the city centres, as in the country. Where we are, Chester, Manchester, Canterbury, Exeter, Glasgow, London, they’re all important to us, but you could add Cambridge and Oxford to that, also Birmingham. Purely by chance, most of our hotels are on Roman roads, or were around in Roman times, or they’re in Roman cities, so you could say most of the country was invaded by Romans but it’s remarkable that you can take a Roman journey through England and probably stay in 11 of our 13 hotels.

Follow LUX on Instagram: the.official.lux.magazine

LUX: You don’t go for great lavish launch parties and big media trips, do you?
Andrew Brownsword: That’s just me I suppose. I think it’s a reflection of my personality as much as anything. We are self-funding and we don’t have big American companies or big Chinese companies behind us, so we do it quietly. But you’re right. We have a media presence obviously and we gain a reputation slowly by stealth.

LUX: This is obviously your second career – is that correct to say?
Andrew Brownsword: Yes, I’m a publisher really. A greetings card publisher, specifically.

LUX: You still feel that that’s what you do?
Andrew Brownsword: Yes, it’s on my passport.

LUX: What was the secret behind building up your greetings card company, from zero, as thoroughly as you did over the years?
Andrew Brownsword: I think it was just, well obviously hard work, we started from scratch. I think we were very innovative and creative. OPQ – originality, personality and quality – all we did was create different things. The market when I joined it was mostly imported from America. So we had American humour and American humour is very sanitised. We Brits, as you know, tend to use innuendo and take the mickey and use drink and drugs and sex and rock ‘n’ roll as things on which we base our humour. So I produced cards like that and eventually we produced very soft teddy bear cards, which also, well that was the big one. Forever Friends, is what I’m known for. We started creating imaginary worlds through these things and it struck me that anybody else would have produced it as a child’s range, but my feeling was that it could be very successful as an adult range. Which it was, worldwide.

Read next: The ‘New Epic’ of Bologna’s Wu Ming Collective 

LUX: It sounds like you’re saying the creativity of the cards was as important as anything else, what was on them?
Andrew Brownsword: Yes. Words were important but they were very different words to a word or humour that had been used before. It was very much the English way of doing things.

The Slaughters Manor House luxury hotel

Interiors at The Slaughters Manor House in Gloucestershire

LUX: And after selling the cards business, you could have just done nothing or had one hotel..
Andrew Brownsword: Oh right, yes we sold well, it was a very successful business, it was an international business. I enjoyed the travelling. I did that for another four and a half years at Hallmark. And yes, we bought this hotel within months of selling the business, just on a whim because we suddenly had some money. And so, we bought the hotel, and that is how it started really. But we didn’t really think of having a chain of hotels, that wasn’t the intention. And still, the thing is to get quality, to get original sites, not necessarily to dampen the quality of what we do, the personality of what we do. We like to think our hotels each have a different personality. It’s quite an eclectic group of properties, and it’s interesting like that to me. Usually they feature our art and a lot of our interior ideas, and they don’t necessarily follow a formula. And at Gidleigh Park, we extended and refurbished the whole hotel shortly after purchasing the property, adding elements including stunning bathrooms and spa suites, to retain the property’s character but include some contemporary elements.

LUX: Is there an abiding philosophy? Obviously the hotels are individual, but is there something that customers will experience at all of them that is the same?
Andrew Brownsword: Yes, good service. Excellent service, I hope. And the quality, as I say, of the bed and the bathroom. Bathrooms are very important to us.

LUX: Hospitality is a tough industry.
Andrew Brownsword: It is a tough industry but we’ve been in it 25 years, so there’s a lot of new people on the block. It’s tough like this, where it’s not a formulaic thing. Premier Inn is not tough anymore, you can just open those all the time. But I don’t want to be in that business. The greeting card business was different, it was exciting. We all have exciting businesses, you publish magazines, that’s exciting. And that’s your career. My publishing is my career. What would you next step into if you didn’t do that? It’s a difficult question. So this suits us because we’re laying down a foundation. We’re not just hoteliers, we’re fairly large-scale farmers as well. I’ve been buying land for some years. Mainly arable land. So we mainly go growing crops. Potatoes, carrots and parsnips for the big supermarkets.

LUX: Is that a separate business that you own?
Andrew Brownsword: Very separate. It’s mainly owned, like all these businesses, in trusts for family future. I’m building a future for the family, hopefully, and setting it in such a way as most people like me do, that it will continue for a long, long time.

LUX: Your country hotels are luxury, and your city hotels are more four star level.
Andrew Brownsword: Yes. While Exeter and Canterbury are still primarily leisure, and actually Manchester and Chester are as well really, I think we suit the leisure market [in the cities] very well. We try to be a bit different, have a sense of location and personality. A bit creative.

Andrew Brownsword luxury hotel Gidleigh Park

Gidleigh Park has a renowned two Michelin-starred restaurant

LUX: Gidleigh Park [with two Michelin stars] is renowned for its food. Since you took over [and installed new chef Michael Wignall] the cuisine has become lighter. Is that a trend with fine dining?
Andrew Brownsword: Yes. I think food is becoming simpler, more digestible and more interesting, in so many ways. Gidleigh Park now has a much lighter touch.

Read next: The world’s most exclusive polo tournament in Gstaad

LUX: As a greeting-card publisher turned hotelier, was there ever any impetus to run a hotel when you were young?
Andrew Brownsword: Yes, my original life plan was to manage a hotel. I had a job in a hotel as a waiter, when I was 15,16,17, at a hotel in Folkestone but on my first year at Brighton polytechnic I came back and immediately got chicken pox, so they didn’t want me in the hotel, quite rightly, so I lay on my back for about 2/3 weeks and the chicken pox went and I hadn’t got a job. And my mother sent me down to the labour exchange, as it was called in those days, to get a job because my mother was very much a driving force. And I had a very ambitious mother, for me. So she sent me down to the labour exchange and I got a job driving a van for a packaging manufacturer. He he did produce a few greetings card on the edge of the packaging sheets. He printed these things on the edge.

My idea was simply not to be a printer because I hadn’t any money, so I couldn’t buy the machinery. But actually to hire someone like him to print them. Those days, in the Seventies, if you were a greeting card publisher, you were also a printer. That’s where all the cost was.

So I started, and I don’t think entrepreneurs are born entrepreneurs, I think they are created out of naivety. We start with these wonderful ambitions and dreams and then we have to find the first hurdle comes and then the second hurdle is bigger. For ten years I was probably insolvent. I owed the bank more money than I had, but I always succeeded, never went bankrupt or anything. But for a few thousand pounds I was probably insolvent for ten years, until I found the artists and the creativity in me, and the creativity came from seeing a market place full of American greeting cards. And realising that we were funnier than these greeting cards. You and I could crack a funnier joke than most of these cards. The Americans take life seriously and they take themselves seriously and they can’t laugh at themselves really. I thought that was the case for Germans as well but actually we did very well in Germany in terms of British humour, until I found out that the German translations of our humour were very, very on the edge. Risqué is the word.

LUX: Is there a common factor in success in your two careers?
Andrew Brownsword: I think so. It’s trying to do things in a different way and trying to be original and putting some of your personality into the businesses you run, and certainly the quality matters. And you have to enjoy it. You’ve got to be having fun.


Reading time: 9 min
Brainchild arts and music festival
poet and founder of brainchild festival

British poet and co-founder of Brainchild festival, Bridget Minamore. Image by Suki Dhanda

LUX’s Contributing Poet Rhiannon Williams puts the spotlight on British poet Bridget Minamore this month, exploring her unique portrayal of love and her vision for Brainchild festival.

Bridget Minamore′s poetry is red hot. Addressing race, feminism and popular culture in verse that scalds, this epic young British poet appears to be everywhere at once these days – the poetic version of a catchy new tune. However, her star has truly been accelerating in its ascent since the publication of her pamphlet ‘Titanic‘ (Out-Spoken Press), a collection of poems which hilariously and hauntingly dissect what it means to love another. In ‘Titanic’ she uses the most famous disaster story in history as an analogy for a rocky relationship, writing with a spotless humour and style that tangos with your emotions. The excerpt below shows how Bridget portrays the way the violence of doomed love can be transfigured into dark humour, which nevertheless calls out to our deepest fears of being bereft – or shipwrecked – in love, desperate for the beloved to stay:

I want to cut your legs off

not so you can’t walk away,
more in the hope you’ll stay
exactly where I want to put you.

Her talent for a sentence that can leave you floating on pure emotion has done exactly the opposite of the doomed ship, buoying her up and into a stratosphere of significance, and marking her out as a striking new voice of a generation. When I asked what drew her to using this imagery of the ship, Bridget shared her thoughts: “I always felt so embarrassed writing or reading poems about love or heartbreak, and the imagery gave me two things: a crutch to hide behind, but also a level of humour that made everything easier. I’ve always loved being near water, whether its canals or the sea, and back in Ghana my Dad’s whole family live right next to the largest man-made lake in Africa. But I have this real fear of it as well – I can swim, but I get nervous when I’m actually in open water. So subliminally there must be a part of me that compares the open water of the ocean to love: home and comfort, sure, but also terror. The Titanic sums all of that up for me.”

Follow LUX on Instagram: the.official.lux.magazine

Although the symbolism of the distressed ship is one that has been used by poets throughout history – Horace’s ‘The Ship of State in Troubled Waters’, Rimbaud’s ‘Le Bateau Ivre (The Drunken Ship)’, Bridget guides this metaphor firmly into modernity by using popular song lyrics in her transitions between poems, and colloquial language. The overall effect is ground-breaking…or should we say ice-breaking?

Brainhild music and arts festival

Brainchild festival. Image by Hollie Fernando

Not just a poet however, Bridget has her fingers in all of the creative pies; she has worked with the National Theatre, the Royal Opera House, represented the UK at the International Biennale in Rome and has even masterminded an incredible music and arts festival, Brainchild. And through her journalism she tackles burning issues that many are afraid to speak out about – for example the concept in fashion of the colour ‘nude’ and the unrecognised problem that it causes for women of colour who just want to find a pair of skin-coloured tights – something which should be guaranteed for all women.

Furthermore, her writing invariably leans towards promoting those who are in need of a spotlight, for example she champions the (long overdue) rise of black female DJs, such as Jordanne of GCDJ (Girls Can’t DJ). This is also where her Brainchild Festival comes in. Because instead of just talking about change, Bridget does. “The answer lies in visibility,” she wrote in a piece for ‘The Debrief‘, and at Brainchild each July, Bridget provides the vital visibility that up-and-coming music, poetry and dance stars need.

Bridget was one of the founders of Brainchild, a quirky festival in the United Kingdom – it is very literally her brainchild. Nestled among the grounds of the Bentley Motor Museum in rural East Sussex, the chilled out setting comes with a surreal wildfowl park and miniature railway in tow. In addition to running it, Bridget took to the Brainchild stage this year to perform her poetry, as well as run a discussion about the housing crisis in Britain – and this combination of acts acutely captures the feel of the entire festival; subtle, cerebral and important, the achievement is a melange of conference and intellectual discussion in addition to the vibrant festivities.

Read next: Sydney Lima’s model of the month, Darwin Gray

Brainchild is volunteer-run, and yet endlessly inventive, even more so than the giants of festival Britain like Glastonbury and Reading which are simply too crowded to be truly intimate or different. In contrast, there seems to be no end to what Brainchild puts on, from silent discos made hot by the cutting edge GCDJ group, to the on-site art installations which also created a centre of gravity this year, such as the out-of-this-world geometric playgrounds of Kristi Minchin. There was even an act called 5 encounters on a site called Craigslist featured on the line-up this year. When asked about her vision for Brainchild, Bridget discussed how it evolves with each run: “Each year it’s got easier to know what our vision is—these days, I’m pretty sure we all want to create an inclusive space for as many people as possible, a place that’s fun but also engaging enough to make you think. But also fun. Retaining the intimacy is probably the next most important thing, as it’s something we’re really conscious of the larger we get.”

Brainchild festival

A yoga class at Brainchild. Image by Jerome Toole

Bridget Minamore’s work with Brainchild is a testament to her talents. Playing on the word ‘brain’, the festival describes itself as ‘a meeting of minds’, a network and safe haven for people in the arts to push their talents to the forefront of the stage – and it is because of Bridget that this creative network has become so strong. It can sometimes seem that the options available for young people to forge a career from artistic abilities are diminishing every day in Britain, due to lack of funding and the troubling expectation that they will work for free. However, Bridget’s work demonstrates how this is not necessarily true. I will be looking out for more of her presence in the future, as I am sure that the name Bridget Minamore will continue to be trailblazing, taste-making and trendsetting in the poetry world; she shows us how it can be done.


Reading time: 5 min