Books, Reviews

The Immortals Of Meluha

After struggling with the first 45 pages of ‘The Immortals of Meluha’, I sat through this today and finished this book. When I started it again, and coursed through the great 45, I realised what I had been putting away in these days. I just could not put it down at all, it was just not possible. I am quite a fast reader and I finished this book in one go. No my impatience did not make me skip whole paragraphs or pages. I read through every single word,  and boy, what a book!

The author (Amish Tripathy) works with the idea of humanising Shiva , the deity, and making the mythology relating to the god, into earthly situations that forced him to rise above the normal. Throughout the book, the mythology that surrounds the deity is not lost at all, but blends beautifully into the narrative, and therefore those readers who are familiar with it are able to draw on the similarity. However, there is an interesting novelty in the way in which the mythology has been adapted. The unfolding of the events makes the reader look forward to seeing the author’s  take of the successive events that are a part of the mythological storyline.

Amish re-casts the god into a Tibetan tribal leader who is forced to become the unwilling Superhero of a highly advanced civilisation. The result is amazing. The reader is unable to take his eyes of the book, and its hero. The mind works, along with the author, to conjure a strapping image of the protagonist, who might as well be God.

Quoting from the book :
“Shiva! The Mahadev. The God of Gods. Destroyer of evil. Passionate lover. Consummate Dancer. Charismatic Leader. All-powerful, yet incorruptible.Quick wit, accompanied by an equally quick and fearsome temper.”
These are the opening lines of the book and that is all that is needed to sum up the protagonist. However, all of these sound really ideal, almost lofty, and may make one think there is no “Man” to this Superman. But it is not one bit so. He carries a burly sense of humour very characteristic of a carefree and bold young man. The slight arrogance that comes with being a strong handsome man, and a warrior at that, is not missed either. The warm camaraderie and friendship he shares with Brahaspati , Nandi and Bhadra lets us see the Shiva who wants, more to be  man than a saviour. More so human is the passionate and intense chemistry that builds between Shiva and Sati. The reluctance to accept that he is any better than a normal man, the turmoil that brews in his chest when he is forced to lead a nation to war and the personal strife that he undergoes when he realises his mistake, all draw him down firmly to earth. Much like a war general who is broken at the sight of the devastation he has caused, the hero breaks down and literally weeps.   

The mythology of Shiva begins where he is already a man and nothing is known about his ancestry. He is typically portrayed as a chandravanshi, absolutely bohemian, living with complete abandon. He sports hide over his clothes, his hair is long and untamed with the cresent moon adorning it. He meets and falls irredeemably in love with Sati, the daughter of King  Daksha. As all fathers, Daksha is less than impressed but reluctantly agrees to get them married. The king then conducts a sacrificial ritual where he fails protocol by not inviting Shiva. Shiva, by then is accepted as one among the ”creator, protector, destroyer” triumvirate, as the destroyer of evil. This unleashes all catastrophe, but is not a part of this book’s storyline. This book stops with Shiva and Sati getting married and some random incidents after that, as far as its adherence to the mythology is concerned. But considering that this is only the first book of the Shiva trilogy , we could look forward for more.
The actual storyline of the book, independent of the mythology, is quite interesting in itself. Shiva is a head of the Gunas , a Tibetan tribe, who are invited into Meluha. During the stay there, Shiva is discovered to be the “Neelkanth”, their Blue-throated saviour. The entire royalty and the nation falls into a frenzy of adulation for the Neelkanth and he drawn into a becoming something he cannot even understand. Among them is the King himself, Daksha; the princess,Sati; the chief medic, Ayurvati and the general populace of Meluha. There is no dearth of sceptics as well and among them are Brahaspati and Parvateshwar, the chief scientist and the War General of Meluha respectively.The story progresses to trace how Shiva relates to all of these people, and goes on discover the greatness of Meluha in the journey towards accepting the greatness forced upon him. Throughout the story,  he cannot understand how one man can be the solution to the perceived enemy of a near perfect civilization. However, he decides to stick on, rallying the nation into a war, strategizing with them, building weapons and leading the army into a resounding victory in impossible circumstances. He slowly learns to accept and builds on his persona to stand up to the expectations of the Meluhans , only to learn that he could be on the wrong side of the line. The internal troubles of this man feel so intensely real.

Splendid narration. Must Read.

But please do not get religious and start raving about the book. Suspend religious reverence and read purely for pleasure. You will love this book.

Books, Reviews

Little Women!!

I read this book for the first time when I was in class VI, and I have read it many more times after. However, the book continues to fascinate me. Every time.

At first, during my initial read, I only saw the hardship the March’s were going through and concentrated on the most shallow layer of the plot: their journey towards a happy ever-after. But every read after that has opened up so many under currents that elevate the book to an entirely new plane.

Alcott has chosen to keep the most valuable factor in the plot simple. The honest and sincere affection that binds every character in the book transcends era or age. The emotions that line the plot are so human and genuine, that they defy the period the book was actually written in. There isn’t a shred of the cold withdrawal that is typical of British life. Life and love pour like a fountain and the reader just flows along. Courage, determination, the spirit that the family displays in times of hardship; and the hope which carries them through, are relevant even in the current times, despite the dramatic change in the nature of the hardships. Individual strength or collective courage, the March’s have it all.

The strength of the characters come from the fact that Alcott has drawn them out so wholesomely that anyone who takes the time to read a little into them wants to be one of them, and yearns for a family like that. The loving Mrs. March; Meg, who overcomes being plain and simply endears herself; the vivacious Jo whose exuberance just cannot be contained, the quiet artist Beth and little Amy: the characters are so alive and real that they almost  speak to you. You want to help Meg with work, run your hand through Jo’s hair and catch up with Laurie over coffee. You want to sing with Beth and laugh away with Amy and endure all their tough times , with them. The chief characters, especially Jo, simply cast a spell.
The plot traces the journey of the March family through financial difficulties while they support each other and see happiness and hope in everyday aspects of life. Mrs. March stands as the rope that binds them together and encourages each of them to spread wings and find their calling. Letters from Mr. March inspires them , though he is absent for most part. Invaluable support, loyal friendship and much laughter comes in the form of Laurie and his youthfulness. We see Meg get married and have a set of twins; Jo become a writer and find love; Amy taking to painting and all the girls coming back home to Mrs. March, smiling,  happy and accomplished.

This book has a special appeal for the women that have sisters, and share a special bond with them. It makes a splendid late night read, even if just a few chapters. You don’t go “aww”. Instead you search your soul for similar faith and to hope for the sunshine behind the clouds.

I must mention the movie here. Splendid performance from the cast, especially Winona Ryder (Jo), Susan Sarandon (Mrs. March) and Christian Bale (Laurie). If you felt the need to give a face to the characters, these people do the job exceedingly well.

Also, for those that don’t know, the book ‘Jo’s Boys’ , takes off from here and is quite a read too.