90 days is a marvelous craft. Why did it take so long to see the light?
AM: Yes, I had been asking myself whether to write a book on the assassination of India’s former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi for far too long. It was during these times that many people including some members of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that looked into the assassination case asked me why I have never thought of writing a book, more so after extensively covering the story in India Today magazine. And then when I reconnected with some of those SIT members who had cracked the case, I realized that the assassination had continued to haunt some of them even after all these years, thirty years to be precise at the time of writing this book. I decided to write it as a mark of respect for their stellar work and for the generation of today—to tell them about this intriguing piece of investigative journalism and to help them gain a deeper understanding of the events—and the attempted cover-up that followed—of what was surely a turning point in our nation’s history.
What were your thoughts when you were asked to cover the Rajiv Gandhi Assassination investigation?
AM: I was delighted to hear that. My senior Shekhar Gupta had done the first story that was soon after the former PM was killed. And then it seemed to be my turn. I was new to India Today and thought “this is my chance” to prove myself. I was very thankful to my editors, particularly Inderjit Badhwar and Shekhar Gupta.
How was your writing experience?
AM: I thoroughly enjoyed writing the book. It was like rewinding my life between 1991 and 1992. It all came out once I decided to uncap myself and much like a soda bottle reaction.
Are you planning to write another book?
AM: Yes, I am working on it and more than halfway through.
Every journalist would have a pandora’s box of experiences. What was the moment that made you feel like yes, it was all worth it?
AM: I was narrating a story to a group of young creative people at a film production house when one of them came up to me and said, “Sir, my grandfather knew you when you were investigating the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case in India Today magazine.. he was so and so..” I laughed and realized it was high time I worked on the book.
How was your publishing experience?
AM: Excellent. I didn’t know any publisher. Took a long shot at Harper Collins India and they wrote back with a positive response. They have been very supportive. Not many would like to publish a book as sensitive as this one. They did this without any rider or condition.
Do you want to share an anecdote about 90 days that was not mentioned in it?
AM: Oh, there are so many actually. A very significant one would be about two key members of the SIT who I am not going to name for obvious reasons. They were mesmerized by the actions of the LTTE supremo and mastermind of the assassination, Sivarasan. Both officials were so impressed by the planning and execution of LTTE’s mission that they had no hesitation in drawing a parallel between Prabhakaran and Sivarasan with Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Having said that, neither of the investigators was glamorizing the Tamil guerrillas. Certainly not. Looking at LTTE’s methodical, ruthless approach clinically, the investigators thought the LTTE duo was close to being unbeatable.
What is your advice to aspiring journalists and writers?
AM: I think any writer needs to keep in mind that he or she is writing not just for self-satisfaction but for their readers. Therefore, their work must connect with the hearts of the readers. Readers must be able to relate to what they are given to read. What we write should enlighten and entertain the reader. That’s my take.
Thank you so much for your valuable time. Looking forward to your next book and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.