Saturday, June 6, 2015

Maggi is gone... but thanks to Amish, reading must go on!

I just lost my favorite snack to a nation-wide ban/company recall, Ram Gopal Verma's staunch support for Maggi notwithstanding. And this got me thinking. What is the one thing from childhood that I can’t ever do without?

The answer, dear readers, is reading a book seeped in mythology. I have always loved the myriad mythological tales that every Indian worth a sane grandmother can be proud of, with some able support from Uncle Pai and his weapons of mass attraction - the Amar Chitra Katha series and Tinkle. In the process I have grown to love Mahabharata, Jatarka Tales, Panchatantra, et all! All save one - the Ramayana.

The shortest epic of them all, in spite of comparisons to Iliad (or Odyssey, if you may) has been to me more of a never ending TV show that was better left unwatched on Doordarshan or anywhere else it’s even worse dubbed version was playing.

If Mahabharata was 'The Lord of the Rings', Ramayana was merely the cupboard to the world of Narnia, or for that matter the rabbit hole of 'Alice in Wonderland'. Something that, while doing nothing by its own, simply made you enjoy what was to come later.

In fact, I had almost lost hope of ever falling in love with an Indian origin mythological book till I found out about a distinguished gentleman called Amish while coincidentally reading a book by Jodi Picoult on the same subject - The Plain Truth (to be dealt in a later post, provided I don't get any death threats or worse Candy Crush requests!)

By the time I had completed 'The Immortals of Meluha' and the other two books of the Shiva trilogy, I was eagerly awaiting Amish's next. Not just because the series was a heady mix of sound research, racy storytelling, impeccable yet easily understandable English, and that rare quality that makes fiction timeless - imagination, but also because Amish showed incredible promise. I could not wait to read his next!

Which is why I felt almost dejected when I heard that he was going to work on the Ramayana next. 'What in the name of Lord Ram was he thinking?' Or so I thought until I saw the book trailer which looked nothing like anything Ramanand Sagar had ever done. 'Could this book be judged by its cover?' I wondered, even as I began to read the 3rd chapter of the book courtesy some very powerful connections (BTW, the sample chapter is also available for a free download on Amazon).

I have been full of nervous excitement ever since. For this isn't Ramayana. This is so much more! Every single thing that made his previous series a delight to read has been magically amplified in this one with one more thing added - incredible detailing. If you think you know this story in and out, you will be in for a pleasant shock! Nothing is like anything in 'The Scion of Ikshvaku'. Here the story literally flies off the pages aided by a spirited quartet of narration, action, art design & set decoration, and costume design. If this was turned into a screenplay of a Hollywood film, the chapter by itself would have walked away with multiple Oscars!

If a chapter can hold so much promise, how will the book be? I don't think we really have any doubt about the answer to that, do we? All I can say is that this book deserves to be read. No wait - it deserves to be binge read till the wee hours of dawn, along with a bowl of whatever will take over the space now left vacant by the disappearance of Maggi!

I have already pre-ordered the book and I strongly suggest you do too. The presence of MSG and lead finally made our favorite snack seem like a hardened criminal. Don't let preconceived notions ‘lead’ you into believing that you might just be better off watching the film, many years later. Read the book - NOW - and pray that Westland publishes the next in the Ramachandra series soon...

Watch the trailer here: