Book Review: The Shiva Trilogy  

Posted by Praveen in ,

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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General reservations  

Posted by Praveen

"Thoongathe Thambi thoongaathe"(Don't sleep brother, don't sleep)- It was irony at its best when he sat there, opposite to me, with his eyes closed and mouth wide open and clutching his 'star singer' mobile. To add to the profoundness of the moment, this was happening in the tightly packed general compartment of the Ananthapuri express from Trivandrum to Chennai. As is my luck with getting train tickets, I end up in the general compartment atleast once in two months. The speciality of the journey this time was that I sat in the same place for 16 straight hours, without EVER getting up. I had to, because the compartment was chockablock with people and moving around was out of question. I made myself feel better by contrasting it with the nine hour day journey in the general compartment last year, with an added flavour of loose motion. That time, I ended up crowd surfing back and forth atleast 4 times in those shitting adventures. Another episode that comes to mind was when a few of us had to sit and sleep on the floor, right next to the toilets. Olfactory bliss!

But keeping aside the obvious hardships that are part of the general compartment, it is the place where so much happens that you don't need the book or ipod to keep yourself engaged. The first thing you've to make sure is that you are sitting in the side berth, else be prepared to be squeezed. Because that is one seat where you can be sure that another pair of asses will never come and lay claim for three inches. What happens usually in the long seats meant for three is a tussle among atleast fifteen pairs of asses(u do the arsematics). In that packed compartment, there was this lady who came with her baby. She had carried the cloth to tie a cradle. I've seen cradles in trains before too. But what was special here was how few strangers got together and tied up the cradle. What followed was a beautiful scene. The baby was in the cradle in between the berths with 9 people sitting on each side(3 on top) and all of them looking at him and smiling. The ones sitting on the ground lowered themselves to the floor for the cradle to swing through. How I wished I could click that scene! But, I couldn't reach for my camera amidst the crowd.

As it chugged into Madurai, I doubled up as the chaiwalah's assistant. The side berth and the deep sleep of the guy sitting opposite to me made sure that the job of collecting money, asking for chai/coffee preference and then passing it on to each person, fell on me. I ended up serving upwards of 20 chais that night. Added to that was the requests for mineral water, biscuit etc. All this while, the man's mobile was still playing, sentimental songs all! With one of those slow songs in my ear, with the wind crashing on my face, amidst the cacophony in the compartment, I fell asleep...