A book like ‘The immortals of Meluha’ holds an irresistible charm to the Hindu psyche, with the mere idea of the plot that the author promises to weave for us. Lord Shiva, as a young warrior, fighting for his tribe high in the Himalayas at the banks of the legendary Mansarovar lake, unaware of his destiny as the saviour of men and his ascent to the enviable position of one of the most revered Gods on earth in the centuries to come. Yes, the plot was promising of a modern-day epic on the lines of the Mahabharata, with details and history and fiction intertwined to produce a beautiful mosaic for the imagination of young Indians.
Unfortunately, the book fell flat from its high pedestal for me. Or at least the one I had put it on, since most critics find the book extraordinary. I understand that an author’s imagination calls for poetic license but in this case it feels as if the author is trying too hard. I had expected a well researched book, with mythological stories that we heard as children corroborated by scientific, modern-day studies or thesis as done by archaeologists and historians over the last few decades. The author’s description of the symbol ‘Om’ to the young Neelkanth is just absolutely misguided and misconstrued. In a world where books like the ‘Da Vinci code’ present readers with actual facts intermingled with fiction, readers have come to expect the same amount of reasearch and factuality in most fiction-based novels also. A symbol that epitomizes the Hindu religion and a centuries old way of thinking to be reduced into something so trivial is almost blasphemous. There are ‘n’ number of explanations to that one symbol and he could easily have incorporated any one of them even if he wanted to keep it simple. It would be tragic if a young child or a foreigner reading this book spends the rest of his life thinking that the symbol Om was created as a pacifier to the Suryavanshi and Chandravanshi dynasties.
The characters are never fully explored, so that it is impossible to get to know them intimately. I was prepared to like Nandi when I read the introduction to his character, however, that is all it remained. Sati, is discussed in some detail but does not really answer to the imagination. Lord Shiva of course is mentioned on each and every page but he does not seem to hold me spellbound, especially with his use of words like ‘dammint’, ‘for god’s sake’ and other such very Americanized slang.
I would have liked maps to give a tentative idea to the reader as to the locations of the kingdoms and the trade routes followed by the people of the time. The river Beas does not have crocodiles. I highly doubt that ‘idli’ was a staple food in the north and north-west. Also, CPR and the need for Oxygen as common knowledge seems a bit over the top. I know these are tiny things but it just irked me a lot after the ‘Om’ fiasco.
Since, this book is a trilogy I hope and pray the author takes the second part more seriously from a historical point of view because the premise is an extremely ingenious one and must be given the respect and hard work it demands.