He sat down and put the book and DVD on the table. Her eyes lit up as she grabbed the book. “Isn’t this a fascinating book?” she asked.
“It’s not mine. It is Miss Kesri’s,” he explained.
Maddy opened it. A sheaf of papers fell on the floor. Maddy picked them up. The first page said, Divine weapons – A Myth – a treatise by Praful Vaidh.

If I were asked a similar question, I’d of course begin by saying that it isn’t written by me. It is Ritu Lalit’s. And then I would go on to tell the person who asked me this question that this book also has a lot of mention about divine weapons, divine interventions, divine connections and it was quite far from being a mere retelling of any of the Indian epics. There is a lot of fantasy inside but you get to enter that only once you’ve bought the book and have begun reading it! A buying decision is a totally different ball-game… and this book falls flat on this aspect.

If I were to have walked inside a bookstore and picked this up, intrigued by the title, I’d probably have dropped it right then even before I read the blurb on the back cover. The cover, the cover-design, the printing, and the way Popular Prakashan has produced it, deserves all the brick-bats possible. Quite an uninspired book production!

HILAWI. Written by Ritu Lalit

HILAWI. Written by Ritu Lalit


Hilawi begins with a fable and then plonks you in the midst of a tale of fantasy taking place in our world, our time. Yes, there is an eclectic convergence of all the ingredients of a thriller with sporadic insights into human behaviour (well, greed in particular) all being held together with a really unbelievable meeting of the technology of the ancients and the technology of the modern day man. Don’t be surprised if you find divine weapons competing with the magic of explosive computing, out-of-the-world characters popping up with words and pronouncements that we attribute only to the ancient oracles today. But then, if you’ve opted to read this book, you’ve actually signed a contract that you are an avid reader of fantasies! No wonder then that we are hand-held by the author and taken carefully through mazes created by mysterious chants like this:

Ghu’k Ana Phi Tei Khmm’om Um
Ghaner Naem Way’Bhu Ghun

And even before we regain our composure from seemingly unintelligible chants (I really did not stop to try and decipher the chant), we are asked to face the improbability of a divine weapon with an insatiable need to be primed by the bearer’s DNA! Well, this is the way Hilawi functions:

True to form, all of them are activated by a mantra. I haven’t heard of any weapon bonding with the bearer’s DNA, but Hilawi may be unique in that respect.

The story is woven around the fantastical adventures of Gigi or Gargi Tamang and her brother Yaduvir who find themselves suddenly transported from the smug modernism of London right into the heart of a ring of bloody intrigue… all because they need to now be the guardian and protector of Hilawi, the ancient shield that all the Ojha clansmen want and yet fear! All this action is taking place somewhere in Himachal and this was doubly intriguing to my mind as I always associated a lot of beauty, nature, and romance with the hills! No, this book didn’t change it all, but on a mountain top I would now surely peer into the fading dusk and half expect something unworldly to pop up!

For those readers who are forever searching for snippets of philosophy, this book has little to offer… no great quotes unless Ghaner Naem Way’Bhu Ghun appears good enough to utter and impress! However, hidden between a lot of blood and gore one sometimes suddenly comes face to face with interesting analytical gems. Like this one where the author tries to tell us that there is more to Hilawi than just being a magical charm that fills its protector’s life with all the worldly benefits…

“You understand what Hilawi does, don’t you Queen? It poisons the clan. But no one sees the jealousy, the hatred it breeds. Everyone sees the money, the power.”

It is such insights that I tend to label as corollaries to the real theorem… and only the real lover of geometry would actually go forth and search for them. The rest would be happy to sail on the conventional theorem… almost reflecting the mood of the clan in the book where most just see only the money and the power! But then, if everyone goes on to decode the corollaries, the intrigue would disappear from our world, leaving us all so God-like and boring. A little blood spilled and a bit of gore splattered around does life a lot of good… is what I actually realised as I sped through the pages of this book.

As I write this review, I am drawn once again to the way the publishers have treated this book. This time I want to go beyond the mundane lamination and the mindless way the cutter has done his job and ask the editors what prompted them to choose that elliptical representation of a sudarshan chakra to be thrust at the end of each chapter? These are gimmicks that have outlived their lives and have no place in modern day publishing. I want to ask them why they skimped on one empty page and allowed the book to end with a printed page? This is nothing but poor editorial insight unless book publishing for Popular Prakashan has adopted these rather ungainly principles of economy as rules! Why did the editors allow the content page to look like it was some NCERT text-book? Come on editors, you cannot stay away from learning the grammar of aesthetics as well… unless you’re planning to give up this career and get into selling soaps for HLL!

Well, I am feeling bad about having to add so much publisher bashing into this review… but this fantasy deserved to be treated better. I can only ask Ritu to follow the survival mantra that one of her own characters from the book says around the start of her adventures:

Gigi thought deeply and then answered, “I guess she kept walking. They say that if you keep moving, the cold does not get you. Besides she and the baby kept cuddling together, sharing body heat.”

Writers too, I guess, need to keep moving for a better publisher of their work.


Book Details:
Author: Ritu Lalit
Pages: 164
Publisher: Popular Prakashan
Price: Rs 125/- in 2012
ISBN: 978-81-7991-0


Arvind Passey
03 August 2012