ASHWIN SANGHI | Westland Publications Pvt Ltd | Pages 401 | Hardcover
By Ganesh Saili
From the desk of Ashwin Sanghi, springs another thriller Keepers of the Kalachakra. There is the usual statutory blurb in place on the cover, chiding the reader: ‘More than a million copies of Ashwin’s books sold’. I plunge into the inch and a half thick book with its 406 pages spread (liberally illustrated with exotic black and white sketches) and handsomely bound between its covers.
Look out! Dan Brown, and for that matter, other writers of his ilk from the West, here is our own brand of Make in India. It has come of age. From this point on, there is fresh competition on the block with mythology, history and legends woven into a magic tapestry.
That said, under a tepid winter’s sun, I snuggle down comfortably, book in hand and after the first page, I am not disappointed. Soon after I am lost in a world of intrigue, where the Kalachakra or the Wheel of Time helps the believers evolve a sixth sense. The author packs a powerful punch, coming as it does riding on the back of the success of his earlier books. This is one to contend with, spicy and saucy, a survey of the past and present, full of lively anecdotes from history, eccentrics and Mad Hatters – everything that makes this book unique – without a dull moment, without a dull page.
I try to put the book down, but feel like a fish that’s taken the bait – I’m hooked on and cannot resist diving back in into what proves to be, one hell of a roller-coaster ride. Sometimes the cellophane between fact and fiction shreds and you’re back to being a child putting together the pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle. But there are no prizes for guessing who ‘had won the elections against all contrary predictions by pollsters and media pundits, leaving each of them with more than egg on their faces. He was arrogant, brash and politically incorrect, and those were precisely the reasons why he had won.’ The book has it all: you wade into folks who remind you of real-life politicians in real-life situations. But in a racy, complex plot with numberless twists that contribute in turn to keep the line taut. And then the plot unravels as characters begin to fall, one by one – like skittles on a beige billiard table top – biting the dust or bouncing off the cushions. When the front line of the world’s liberal leadership from Britain to Japan begin to keel over like ninepins with no clue of who is behind this mayhem. How does one hasten the end of a man’s life without leaving any tracks as to how the end came?
You do not have to be genius in political science, even a mere smattering or a nodding acquaintance with world affairs will suffice. Kalachakra involves an overly simplistic mingling of mystical symbolism which cannot ratchet up to the next level, as the author seems to be content to turn the screws on the rack as if to keep the tension going. Sometimes though the veil slips simply because it is too thin: ‘The hard truth is that there isn’t one America. There are many. And there are Americas the press never speaks about – unemployed America, disillusioned America and xenophobic America. An America that is angry with immigrants taking American jobs… All I need to do is tap into that ground swell of dissatisfaction.’ And we all know which way that cookie crumbled! Often, the reader will feel like you have a ticking bomb in your hand, ready to explode at a moment’s notice.
Fortunately, to calm your nerves, you are transported to the peaceful climes of Uttarakhand, where at Kalimath, you find yourself soaking in the many glories of the Garhwal Himalaya. It is a world endowed with immense natural beauty, surrounded by the mountains, walking trails, deep forests, snow-clad summits, thermal springs, meadows, waterfalls and springs. Beyond this, I’m not telling.
To find out more, I’m afraid you had better go and pick up a copy of the book.