Experiments with AI – Co-Writing Puranic Reimagination with a machine that can

The disruption caused by ChatGPT is not new to any of the readers who may read this piece. Before I started typing this, I just read an article which said about 200+ Kindle ebooks have been published on Amazon which state ChatGPT as author or co-Author. And there are enough voices who (perhaps rightly) are calling foul over possible copyright infringements. I have been following AI tools that support writers in various ways (editing, trimming and finally draft generation in partial ways) through Joanna Penn’s awesome blog. Hence to confess, my aversion towards Artificial Intelligence as a partner is sort of lower than many of my writer friends on the internet. Perhaps my short stint as a Venture Capital analyst made me love the word disruption.

So I enthusiastically tried out of of the tools that was specifically prepared to assist in Fiction writing (No, not our friend by OpenAI-Microsoft. This is a different one.) This tool (Sudowrite) as an interesting feature called guided write where it expands a short prompt into a 200-500 long draft. As any artist, I confess my ego is high while I create and letting in the creation of a tool is something of an anomaly. Unless that tool understands me or makes a semblance of it at least. Perhaps that’s why I am enjoying writing this draft assisted by Sudowrite because”

  • It feels like I have company
  • A company that understands me
  • A companion that keeps me going when I am fatigued and hence not let micro blocks hold me back.

Here it goes, a sample chapter. from a draft that reimagines one of my favourite episodes of Mahabharata – Kirata Parva. The text in red is what is generated by AI while the plain black text is written by me. Right, the AI generates it depending upon the text written by me till the point and on the prompt given by me. For eg

Chapter Three – Kailasa

The rays of morning sun bathed the silver peak of Mount Kailasa in a golden hue. Indra considered the rocky pinnacle that housed the God of Gods. It was not uncommon to seek the refuge of the Great God in times of universal duress. But the duress that Indra faced now was being torn as a father and as a force that preserved the universal order – Dharma. Indra bowed to the sacred mountain and took his bejeweled crown off his head, as his feet landed on the snowy ground.

The sound of a conch and the rhythmic sounds of Dhamaru greeted his ears as did the resonant chants of the Yajur Veda by the Rishis collected at the foot of the hills.

(The prompt I gave here was : He sees that Lord Shiva was about to perform Taandava to entertain Parvati. They see Indra and invite him to playflute for the performance)

He followed the direction of the sounds until he reached there. The sight that greeted Indra’s eyes made him stand still for a moment. For there on the centre stage, Lord Shiva was performing his Tandava, with Lordess Parvati seated by his side. He had draped himself in serpents and his third eye glowed with intense energy as he whirled around with fervent devotion to this very ancient form of dance.

Dazzlingly bright flames lit up in all directions, illuminating their sacred environment and providing music to the divine couple’s performance. And then Indra saw Lord Shiva pause, His matted locks twirling and settling over His shoulders as He looked straight at Indra and raised His hand towards Him.

“Ah! Welcome, King of Gods! It is such an honor to have you here.” Shiva said warmly and gestured for Indra to sit beside Him on the seat made of emeralds under a canopy woven from gold and pearls. “Do join us as we continue,” He raised His hand towards Him. Inviting Him to join in the performance and play a special song on His flute – a song that will complete the beautiful visual of this divine spectacle!

An opportunity to please the God of Gods with his flute. Indra bowed at the invitation and took up the flute. The bugles restarted as He blew into the instrument and built in the rhythm and momentum for the King of Dancers to join back. The curve on Goddess Parvati’s lips widened to the swing Indra did between the octaves and the response that Shiva gave with his circular flourishes. The Lord of the universe was throwing subtle challenges to Indra to up His music and the latter complied, the notes of His flute doubling their roll along the ascending and descending notes, occasionally pausing at a crescendo. Shiva seemed to like Indra’s build up and responded doubling the beats to only push the momentum to the limits till when Indra sensed his breath running out. Had the whole Pantheon been here, Goddess Lakshmi singing with her husband on the mridanga, the pressure on Indra would have been much lesser but now, he was left to the mercy of the One who never tired! What kind of a test is this Mahadeva? With a side glance, he pleaded Bhringi, playing on the bugle to cover the gap while the God of Gods danced on. Bhringi obliged by doubling the length of the teermana to give Indra a breather. The king of Gods picked up the flute again, only this time, he had to keep pace with Shiva’s vigorous movements, like the God wasted hardly a moment before nudging Him towards the limit of His limits. Indra struggled to keep up despite Bhringi’s ready support and waited for Parvati to glance at him, praying for a break. As if like a response to His prayer, Parvati raised Her hand to request an end to the glorious spectacle. Indra rose and prostrated to the Universal Mother and Father.

“That was quite a feat, King of Gods!” Shiva said with admiration, as He rested on His throne. “You could have given it more time though.”

“Like I can stand before You, My Lord.” Indra grinned, still kneeling.

Parvati interjected then, “Yes, indeed, stop teasing him.” She beamed, throwing an understanding glance at Indra. “The king of gods is here for a reason, I guess, Mahadeva. Do grant him audience and favor his request.” With that she nodded her head towards Indra to remind him of his reason for this visit.

Indra’s smile faded as the gravity of the situation struck back. He then bowed his head and cleared his throat to begin. “Lord Pashupati, I come to you today bearing a heavy heart,” he pleaded in an entreating voice. “My son Arjuna transgressed the precepts of Astra Vidya that he once possessed as a gift from Guru Drona. His loss of momentary control has brought me great grief and confusion. Worst, he doesn’t even know what he has committed and if he does… I cannot imagine the hurt that Arjuna must have been in to do so,” Indra continued, desperation clear in his eyes as he looked upon Lord Shiva’s compassionate face. “I ask for justice for both my son and for Dharma itself. You know him and the world around him too well to not let him down, My Lord.”

The Great God’s smile was only more pronounced when he nodded. “I understand Your dilemma and anxiety too well, Indra. Excellence is often something chiseled by a series of intrigues and ordeals. Human trajectories have their own ups and downs against the Divine game of destiny.”

Indra bowed, considering every syllable that came out of Shiva’s lips and clasped the feet of the Lord. “Arjuna is on his way to call for me, asking for more Divyastras. And the Gods have put forth this new challenge to him, Mahadeva. Only You, the Guru of gurus can show a way out, to him, to me, and to Dharma.”

“Guru Brihaspati indeed showed you the right way, Indra.” The Omniscient Mother joined the conversation. “Initiate your son into Tapasya. The Lord shall take care of the rest.”

Indra looked up, anticipation and hope rising in his eyes, his hands still placed at Shiva’s feet. Shiva gazed back at him and nodded his assurance, taking Indra’s hands in his own. “Go, Indra. Give Arjuna your direction. A father’s instruction which your son needs the most at the moment. His characteristic perseverance shall achieve the rest.”

End of chapter

There. Hope you liked reading it. Needless to say that the AI generated content will need a round of heavy editing before I declare it a draft. But I cannot say it enough that I enjoyed not getting stuck. I enjoyed the speed. Do let me know your thoughts below.


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