In this age, when God-men of various hues abound, the choice of subject in this book shows a sense of daring.
`The Second Mahatma` by Charumathi Ramachandran
The title catches your eye and incites curiosity. In this age, when God-men of various hues abound - And, where thanks to an unscrupulous few, most are suspect - the choice of subject shows a sense of daring.
"The protagonist is a fictional character but he is also the sage, the spiritual guru whom the world seems to be waiting for" claims the book cover. Tall order, that. And so, the author takes her hero Shambhu on a veritable roller coaster pilgrimage - his gifts, grief and glories - all portrayed on a larger-than-life canvas.
Shambhu, a gifted boy, from a cultured south Indian "Brahmin" family - born to a life of celibacy, according to astrology and prophecy - grows up in a typical village, comes of age in a city, matures in the United States of America and then takes on the world - in an attempt to cause a socio- religious revolution.
In depicting Shambhu`s life in all its colourful glory, not forgetting the blues of loss, the grays of morality issues and the black of despair, the author has effectively shown India, in her myriad hues. The India as perceived by herself - to quote her "a complex mosaic". True, there seems to be more on the caste system than is necessary, but to the average alien and to the Indians now distanced from the motherland, India has been portrayed with a sincerity and love that is apparent.
Customs, village life with its quaint belief systems, tradition, transition, city life and education, the mirth and tears of men and women of all ages, family bonds, heart breaks - we have it all. Love has been treated with an openness and delicacy. Fiction and social - history are firmly entwined.
When a musician of the calibre of Charumathi Ramachandran sets out to tell a story, there is bound to be more harmony than discord. A "ragamalika" has been created. She has said all that she seems to feel strongly about, refusing to fit into any fixed framework. Vedic religion has been advocated without euphemisms. Manodharma is manifest. Utopia is not a distant dream.
Rating: Certainly not a book that one can ignore or skim through.