The Immortals of Meluha
My only reason for picking up 'The immortals of Meluha' was the eyeball grabber of a cover. Well, it required something like that to catch my attention, simply because this was not my kind of reading. To be frank, I was taken aback a bit at first. A pot smoking Shiva uttering words like 'Dammit', came in as a surprise. Maybe, what I liked in the book was also the same- a shiva who was more of a human than a mythical God, a Shiva with all the confusions and oddities in behaviour that are characteristic of humans. And then, a whole 'nauseatingly perfect' community of people pinning all their hopes of redemption on the arrival of a blue-throated man from a foreign land. It works well, being the page turner that the book is, setting the context, fixing the geography and ethcing the characters for the next parts of the trilogy.
The Secret of the Nagas
Secret of Nagas takes off right where the first book left off, landing you in the middle of some serious action. Amish then proceeds to redefine the true meaning of evil. A heartening thing about the trilogy till now is that the author has avoided the typical 'black & white' picturisation of good and evil, the way it was done in many of our old texts. Most of us have grown up reading the simplified versions of the epics, with the likes of Raavana and Duryodhana seen as personifications of evil. Visual adaptations of these epics also follow the same line. There is no scope for the good qualities that they possessed. And all of it remains unknown to us, until we read those alternative texts, which are not that popular.
The Shiva trilogy, though not anywhere near in stature or content when compared to those alternative texts, triumphs in not giving us any clear cut demarcations of good or evil. Just when you decide in your mind that "here comes the bad guy!", the story turns on its head revealing a completely new side of the 'bad guy'. There is goodness and God in everyone. At the same time, no one is a complete paragon of virtue. Even Shiva is not infallible. Even he is prone to uncontrolled and misdirected anger. In the first part, you are led to believe that Meluhans are the perfect race except for aberrations like the 'vikarma tradition'. Then slowly, you get to see the problems that come with such insane levels of perfection. Then you see the creativity of the unorganised Chandravanshis and you are suddenly thinking from an entirely different angle.
Shiva's is unsurprisingly the most well etched character in the book. The next one is perhaps Parvateshwar, the Meluhan general and the true follower of Lord Ram. The way he reacts to Shiva, his unquestioning devotion to Meluhan and Lord Ram's principles and then his slow transformation to seeing Shiva as his Lord, are well crafted. And to be honest, I liked Anandmayi's character more than Sati's in the second book. Have to agree that part of it is due to the oozing sexiness. I feel that except Sati, most other characters weren't expanded as much as they deserved to be. And Bappiraj, was that a nod to the king of bling?
Though I didn’t find both of the books as worth all the hype, it did set me thinking on larger questions of history and how we see it. In an ‘arts and culture’ class in college last month, the lecturer was telling us how history is anything but the truth. To make this point clear, he gave us the simple analogy of how the things that happened in that class will get misreported to someone who didn’t attend the class, and how this will be subject to further misinterpretation as it is passed on to the next one. If such a simple thing is prone to so many errors in reporting within the span of a day, how believable are our historic texts, which are written by some random guy from another century! That realization helped me in seeing this series of twisted history through a new light. Forgot to add, the Naga cover ROCKS!
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