This book was one tough read, I must admit. Just a little more than hundred pages of a crazy mix of mythology, mystery, and meddling theories… and yet I progressed at a very slow pace. There were times I felt I was a professor at a university and reading a term paper that had references that made me go back to my notes and dip into other papers. I remember a moment when I raised my head and whispered ‘Is this fiction?’
Well, fiction it is. But let me come to the concept of connected works that want to make sure that a reader goes and plans his purchase of the next book in the series. I am not a fan of this concept at all… listen Mr Author and Mr Publisher, a reader today has options that give him more books from more genres than the past… and more temptations from even outside the book world. With so much reading and such a lot of information to keep track of, it is quite a possibility that the one who bought Book 1 forgets to buy Book 2… and the one who sees Book 2 skips buying it because he doesn’t have the energy to get hold of Book 1. My mind accepts complete stories that do not necessarily want me to have read the earlier one.
Reading this book by Ram Mishra has been like being in ‘closed loops in space-time, which allows people and objects to return to their own past.’ I have made quite a few ‘self-consistent trips back in time’ and yes, there were parts where the journey was thrilling. I mean, if you meet a couple of ‘Rakshasas who fled the earth during the Dwapara Yuga and took refuge in the asterism Krittika’ in the first few pages, you’d be curious to know what is really happening. And soon enough we know that they are the villains in the book and are on earth ‘searching for the celestial weapon’ that will bring them ‘universal dominance’. These beings, if you can call them that seem quite advanced and you actually tremble to hear their boast:
‘You fool! Don’t even think of disobeying my command. The human race is no match for us. Had it not been for your so-called Gods, you wouldn’t have survived for so long… see what our weapon that causes electro-muscular disruption can do to your kind. All I want is your son. Tell me where he is.’
Soon enough you are introduced to long-winded texts on the connection of the characters in Mahabharata with their modern day avatars… well, there are a few who have continued to live up to this day and have just given their name a new-age twist. It isn’t difficult to connect Paras with Parsurama… and the main protagonist in the novel is Karna. He is there on the pages minus his armour and the author takes us through stories within stories to explain how this happened. So we have a list of gods and demi-gods proliferating the pages… just as much as the attempt to make the epic story of Mahabharata go hopping from being a great fictional mythological story to one that is telling us all about the real history that the Western philosophers and thinkers have tried to subvert and hide through philosophical connections and terminologies that the world believes so fervently.
Yes, the book tells us that ‘by assigning the invading Aryans as the original authors, it made the Vedas a borrowed tradition.’ The book wants us to believe that the world has conspired to distort facts in ways that dwindle and dwarf our own historical supremacy. Off-beat thoughts and I noted with growing interest the bashing that even Max Muller gets in the book… but as this went on for many pages it seemed so much like the text that a lot of fundamentalist pamphlets have. The truth is I was about to give up when the author too was seemingly tired of quoting papers and books and decided to get back to his tale.
The story in the first book of the trilogy is all about how Karna wakes up to his past reality, and trains hard to reach his armour before any of the Rakshasas do. Obviously, the reader gets to learn a lot about how everything with an exotic name has a meaning that the modern mind will understand and relate to. For instance, the book tells us that ‘the Rakshasas often use an energy-charged electrical net, intertwined with finely spun electrically charged wire to stun’ and they call it a Vidyut Jaal. If the Rakshasas can have plasma weapons that vaporise the flesh off the enemy, you can now imagine what the author has to list for the weapons our own demi-gods in the book will have. It is all an interesting stimulation for the imaginative mind and those of you who have had a writer’s block will have enough in the book that will force the block to open up.
The book also has an abundance of quotes in Sanskrit and those of you who love this kind of an indulgence will obviously fly high. The book makes explosive revelations when Ram Mishra writes:
‘Not only during the Mahabharata war, but a couple of decades afterwards, the members of the Yadava clan, the Vrishnis and the Andhakas used nuclear bombs when they fought amongst themselves and destroyed each other.’
There is a mention of smokeless flaming tongues of fire that is interpreted as highly advanced and eco-friendly engine emissions and there is every effort to connect space-crafts, aircrafts, missiles, and oodles of scientific knowledge and information waiting to be decoded and rediscovered. Thanks to the research of Ram Mishra, all this is there for the readers in barely 124 pages. If the other parts in the trilogy are planned to be of this size, I am tempted to say that all of them could have and should have been together in a single book. That would have given enough of story content to all this mind-boggling research and have made the novel readable to those who are looking for an interestingly stimulating story.
One of the vital questions that I asked myself was: Do I need to have a preliminary understanding of the Mahabharata and Hinduism before I can read this book? The answer is… yes, or else you’d be scampering like a frightened pigeon not knowing which way to flutter off for more information. This novel launches into the complexity of our past and our mythology piggy-backing on a few skimpy references and story connections and this makes the task of understanding all the links a rather daunting one. Ram Mishra is certainly on his way to learning the art of story-telling but needs to know where to stop transforming a cockily inquisitive piece of text into a pedagogical nightmare.
A word on the publishing quality is warranted in this review. Cinnamon Teal has opted for a slightly larger size for the book but it doesn’t add to its shelf appeal nor is an advantage to a reader who will get tired faster. The cover design is amateurish and the gloss robs the cover of a subtlety that many readers prefer. The book gives a feeling of a school text-book for extra reading and the author needs to make the publisher transform it into one that gels with the books kept in the fiction category.
At times I did feel that the author has created the semblance of a story simply to make massive chunks of research into a digestible format… in a hurry. I wish the author rewrites the book unhurriedly, gives the story more exposure, introduces elements of thrill and intrigue without sounding preachy, relocates all the theory into short meaningful dialogues, and makes sure that the publisher doesn’t make the book look like a vagabond in the religious texts section in a bookshop… and then he can watch people demanding the next in the trilogy!
Details of the book:
Title: The Armour of God (Book 1 of the Chakra trilogy)
Author: Ram Mishra
Publisher: Cinnamon Teal
Price Rs 325/- (in 2014)
02 April 2014