Reviews

Myths and gods

The Oath of the Vayuputras; Amish, Westland, Rs.350  

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The final part of the Shiva trilogy has its moments, despite a lack of consistency.Zara Khan

Type “Shiva” into Google Search and the first prediction Google Instant shows you is “Shiva Trilogy”. And now the trilogy comes to an end with The Oath of the Vayuputras. The book begins with Ganesh and Kali bringing Shiva to Panchvati where he finds Brahaspati, whom everyone presumed was dead. What follows is an intriguing explanation, Shiva’s epiphany of the real Evil, and the declaration of a holy war upon half of India, the likes of which is matched by the Mahabharat in a later century.

Amish Tripathi has done an admirable job of humanising the characters. Their development over the course of the story, the way they face their inner demons, the choices that they make, the emotions that influence them are all stuff one can empathise with.

But he has played fast and loose with traditional characterisation. Ganesh, for instance, is perceived in Indian mythology as cheerful and fun-loving but, in Amish’s universe, Ganesh is a brooding young man (as young as a century-old immortal can be) with a tenuous hold on his temper. One falls in love with Sati in her many roles, while Kartik, as a seven-year-old bloodthirsty hunter, is a scary notion.

Amish has introduced new friends and enemies: Brahaspati’s love Tara, hidden away in Pariha (what seems to be modern-day Iran), and a deadly tribe of assassins from Egypt, among others. While The Oath of the Vayuputras ties up loose ends, including the explanation for one of the bigger mysteries — the neel kanth — the story leaves you with a couple of what-just-happened moments. The best example being the unexplained prison break by one of Shiva’s PoWs, who is, after a few pages, firmly ensconced in his role as a villain, planning and plotting the Mahadev’s downfall.

One of the things that I enjoyed was the use of contemporary phrases. A typical Indian myth retold in English tends to have a lot of “thees” and “thous” but not in the Shiva Trilogy. Sati offers Shiva a glass of milk with a “here you go”; while one of Shiva’s favourite phrases seems to be “give them hell.” But the style lacks consistency and a mismatch of contemporary and classic makes for slightly jarring reading.

The story itself unfolds well; the descriptions are vivid without being longwinded, the plot keeps you hooked. Amish also attempts to explain a few other things — the daivi astras, the extinction of the Saraswati, Prayag’s conception as a holy site, the inception of the tribe of Lhasa and the Dalai Lama. Another thing well done is his seamless inclusion of countries beyond India.

Much like Paulo Coelho, Amish includes soul-searching questions and reflective abstracts in the middle of the prose. However, while Coelho leans more toward the philosophy than the parable itself, Amish’s work is more narrative and just enough philosophy. While some readers have loved the first two books, others have slammed them. If you belong to the former category, you won’t be disappointed with The Oath of the Vayuputras.

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