Excerpts from the first chapter

PART 1-: THE LEOPARD

It was an autumn night. The inert street lamps of siqandar city stood like silent spectators of imminent doom. The wind was blowing carrying unknown melancholia, probably singing a hymn of death. Everything was silent, enmeshed in the never-ending loop of inexplicable sadness. Houses, which stood like soapboxes always led to those alleyways where light and darkness had played hide and seek.

And Maria Rosario stood alone in that silence, killed by two bullets which had pierced her heart straight away, completely shutting out her existence from this weary earth, by an unknown masked man.

Faraway, canoes were moved by skilled oarsmen, singing folk songs in rustic Pancavani, the national language of Dharmadesh. The town was surprisingly silent, which shouldn’t have been the case, as it would have been frequented by hordes of Saul singers, singing about the pain of longing and separation, and tramcars, where existences of people swayed back and forth like marionettes.

Rosario, known as the Leopard in journalistic circles, for her indomitable courage in reporting the exploitation of the Eastern province of Atamia, was hated by the ruling elite of Dharmadesh.  The Qaramats, one of the most powerful families of Dharmadesh, with huge stakes in oil, mineral and steel industries always held a grudge against her, as she exposed their illicit businesses in her daily columns in the ‘Dharmadesh Sentinel’ the newspaper she worked for.  It had shaken up the fulcrum of the society, almost creating an earthquake, whose ripples are still being felt.

She had accused that Azad Qaramat, the powerful military man of Dharmadesh had a role in the brutal murder of Porali, an environmental activist in Atamia.  Porali, son of a poor manual labourer, had organized powerful candle light marches to protest against forced disappearances and mass killings of Atamian activists.  Atamia has always remained distinct from the rest of the country of Dharmadesh, fanatically protecting its culture from the ‘fair- skinned invaders’ from the west. 80% of the land was forested, and they worshipped mountains and most of the natural phenomena as divinities.  After the ascendance of Sadanand Pinglay,the jingoistic scion of the first family of Dharmadesh, the pinglays, there were attempts to impose the Dharmadeshi culture in Atamia. This was followed by ruthless destruction of local libraries, where armed mobs set fire to thousands of years old invaluable manuscripts in broad daylight. Porali was a leading member of the Jingano language movement, which demanded official status for Jingano, the language of Atamian tribes.  But he never knew what was in store for him as on one winter night, he was dragged out of his shabby home by an enraged mob and three days later his bullet ridden body was found on the shores of Mahanadi.

*****************

The priest again relapsed to gloomy silence. The sky was filled with clouds, predicting heavy rainfall. The church was filled with lots of people and the most surprising thing was that many of them were non- believers. They came only for Rosario, whom they affectionately called as ‘ Didi’. Jesus stared at the distance from the crucifix, perhaps welcoming another benevolent soul.

“Shall we?”

The Vicar asked the congregation.  They all nodded yes in unison.  They began marching towards the cemetery, like pilgrims, chanting ‘death to the Qaramats’.

Then the rain began to fall and no one noticed the tears of the priest.

Excerpts from a Novel I'm writing

These are some excerpts from my untitled big project. A novel about an imaginary island, mired in civil wars, poverty, murders and all. I intend it to be a Philosophical novel.

                                                                            1

It was an autumn night. The inert street lamps of siqandar city stood like silent spectators of imminent doom. The wind was blowing carrying unknown melancholia, probably singing a hymn of death. Everything was silent, enmeshed in the never-ending loop of inexplicable sadness. Houses, which stood like soapboxes always led to those alleyways where light and darkness had played hide and seek.

And Maria Rosario stood alone in that silence, killed by two bullets which had pierced her heart straight away, completely shutting out her existence from this weary earth, by an unknown masked man.

                                                                          2

On the very next day, the Dharma Desh Sentinel had a sensational story on its front page-

“Journalist killed by unknown men-: The sad plight of democracy in Dharmadesh”

Colonel Azad Qaramat was just out of his daily nap when he heard his wife and prominent NGO worker in Siqandar, Asiya, speak in hushed tones.

“ Most probably those Eastern Separatists would be having a role in her murder. Very sad indeed”

Qaramat pondered a while about the implications of this would be having on the never-ending war that has been waged by the Dharmadeshi army and the Eastern people.

                                                                           3

Molay Velzon looked at the misty hills and heaved a sigh. “ The war has ravaged my soul,” He thought. Sometimes thoughts are like stinging poisonous arrows, which could pierce deeper into the unknown recesses of your soul, bleeding you permanently.

The Province of Atamia has nothing now. Only burned houses and broken dreams….. The city of Cyrcano had been the cradle of the Atamian civilization once, frequented by bullock carts where drivers sat in their lazy manner, cracked jokes about prostitutes who happened to pass by, and also saul singers, whose lyrics meandered around separation and longing. That was in the past only.

Molay’s father was the chieftain of the Jingano tribe, who are famed for their fearlessness. They all wear a turban with a cuckoo’s face drawn on it and always carry a sword known as ‘ tinkhiri’. When he was a child, his father used to tell him stories about his forefathers, who ruled their kingdom with an iron fist.  Everything seemed perfect then, sort of a welfare state,

                                                                        4

Atmanand Pinglay, the prime minister has a chequered life. Educated at Eton and then at Oxford, Atmanand spent some time in the African Jungles, studying the folk cultures there. Once he even got wounded while the Second Congo War had been waging on, rescued by an elderly chieftain, who affectionately called him ‘Atto’ thereafter. Son of a well to do corn merchant, with so many lands in the Eastern and western provinces, Atmanand was born with a silver spoon. Precocious, with an innate curiosity and passion for learning languages, he was taught Greek only to be followed by German, French and Italian. By the age of 20, he had been through many classics, making him an adept in the field of Philosophy. He was particularly attracted by Marcus Aurelius and Cicero.

                                                                                   4

David McKenzie was born to a Boer trekking guide in Transvaal.  He had had a tough upbringing, ridden with poverty and consecutive academic failures.  He had trekked all over the Drakensberg mountains when he was a child,  He had been incompetent all his life, with his poisonous inferiority complex bringing him down. He tried many jobs, only to be rejected by many who subconsciously understood his incompetence, so he worked as a car washer, Pastry cook and even as a sailor. It could be said that all of these experiences had enriched his inner core, though he hadn’t become a toughie like James Roberts, he became someone different.

Mckenzie heard about Dharmadesh from a colleague,  Asadullah, who had been with him during a  trip to Malacca. He had been told that a group of mercenaries are preparing for an attack on the Eastern port capital city of Atamia, Cyrcano, on the orders of  Willaim Thomas, head of a mercenary company called Blueline inc, on the request of Atmanand Pinglay, the honoured prime minister of Dharmadesh. Mckenzie, charmed by the stories, agreed to be a part of the project, straight away.

                                                                       5

Chatur Dwivedi heard about the country of Dharmadesh from his grandfather’s stories. His grandfather was a civil servant, working in the Imperial Civil Service. Those were the days when the British had the world in their palms, and he travelled a lot. During one of his sojourns he alighted on the magic land called Dharmadesh, and it made him write a treatise, modelled on Sir William More’s Utopia. Those times, Dharmadesh , ruled by King Chandra Varma, had reached the Zenith of its civilization.  Surrounded by golden tombs on which the kings had deposited priceless time capsules Siqander glowed in the glory of its pinnacle. The rule of the day was democracy, albeit not compatible with today’s version of it, the Empire was divided into several ‘padas’, each ruled by a ‘ gamatya’ ( Governor), and further divided into districts ( Mukala ), and again divided into ‘ Mandalas’ (  sub-districts ) each ruled by eminent personalities chosen by the highest hierarchy.

                                                                  6

Maria Rosario had only one dream- To write about her beautiful country. She had been a voracious dreamer since her childhood, digging into the likes of Henry James, Virginia Wolf, Sylvia Plath Hemingway, Conrad etc.  She often used to identify with the Esther, the protagonist of the Plath’snovel- The Bell jar. Daughter of a prominent NGO Worker in Azad Nagar, the second biggest city in Dharmadesh, she did her schooling at the famous Lavonia Convent,  Situated in the suburbs of the Siqandar city. There she once published a poem about Sadanand Pinglay, the founding father of Dharmadesh during her School days. That poem was named as ‘ The red rose’.  She later studied in the famed Chandravarma University, securing a gold medal in arts. There she fell in love with Shamit Seth, son of a well-to-do merchant, who had been her senior. He ditched her soon, plunging her into a never-ending cycle of depression. She recovered well by reading the Upanishads, especially the Kathopanishad. The story of Yama and Nachiketa had found a place in her heart and there started her search for the ultimate truth.

She started to write about the mining mafia, pillaging the people of Atamia of their treasure troves. Soon she started getting death threats, but she relentlessly pursued her quest for truth.

It all ended on that fateful day.

The Chariots of Gods- Erich Von Daniken

Finished reading Erich Von Daniken’s The Chariots of Gods today.

Some books would make you think about existence. Like why do we live, and are we really alone in going through all the sufferings and privations? While reading Camus, Kafka and Sartre, I often mused about the futility of life. What is the meaning of everything? In the end we are turning in to ashes. So why?

When I was a young boy, I used to look at the sky and shout at them something like –“ Anyone there?” My stupid self would have expected a reply from somewhere. I was a strong believer in reincarnation back then.

Alien theories have always fascinated me. I remember seeing some star trek movies and Kubrick’s masterpieces, and some scientists like Carl Sagan have always been an inspiration. I wanted to know more, so at some point I started reading about UFOs, aliens and all.

In 2017, I heard about this book called the chariots of Gods. I heard that it is written by a man named as Erich Von Daniken.

 Erich Von Daniken, born in Switzerland, published the book in 1968, making it an international best seller. Since then I wanted to have a look at it. Last month I bought it and started to read. I cannot say it’s a classic, sadly.

Erich Von Daniken proposes that our earth had visitations from intelligent civilizations from the cosmos, and they have contributed in developing our culture. He states that everything of the antiquity, from Pyramids,  the Mayan civilization, The Inca civilization, Indian mythologies all were inspired by these mostly benevolent beings.

Erich Von Daniken,  as one of the pioneers in the field of the ancient astronaut theory, offers you some strange proofs that superior intelligences have visited the earth in the past.

The issue here is that, Erich Von Daniken’s theories aren’t that much conclusive and it’s very easy to term them as pseudoscience, at least this is what I think.

Can’t say it’s an awesome book, but he has tried his best in presenting his hypothesis that superior intelligences have visited the earth from other planets and had helped human kind in developing a culture.

Personally I do not believe much of the theory; still it’s a good read.

The Gardens of Light- Amin Maloouf

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This is my first book by Amin Maalouf.

Such a spectacular read!!! The story of Mani, now a completely forgotten figure, but the religion, known as Manichaeism, had once thrived all over the world. It was the religion of light and dark, the eternal loving father and the prince of darkness.

The story starts in the 3rd century, when a Parthian Warrior, by name Patek, gets mesmerized by a Jewish sage known as Sittai, who came to Babylonia from Palmyra, which was then a bastion of diverse cultures, populated by different religions. He has a young wife, by name Maryam, who loves him dearly. He decides to leave her in order to join the sect of the palm groves led by Sittai. Some days before the birth of her son, the prophet, she would have a dream in which the angels would take away her infant son which would terrify her!!!

The group bans everything related to earthly pleasures, saying it would contaminate the inner spiritual light. They would even take possession of Mani, the son of Patek, and the boy would grow up in the midst of these ascetics. But he rebels after getting a visitation from his ‘heavenly twin’, who inspires him to found his own new religious order.

He leaves the group, travels as wide as to India, and learns more about figures such as Lord Buddha, and his religion would take elements from Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity. It was a message of peace, and everlasting love, where people could openly believe in whatever they want.

Soon, he would meet the Sassanian Sovereign, Shapur, who gets impressed. He gives Mani the much-needed protection to profess his faith. But in a curious twist of events, Shapur dies, succeeded by his son Hormisdas, who would eventually get poisoned by Kerder, the Chief Magi. The elder son of Shapur, Bahram would ascend the throne and with the orders of the evil Magi, he would see Mani executed.

This is a novel within the style of a Hollywood movie. Some characters you can’t ever forget, such as the eternal companion of Mani, Malchos, Denagh, the girl with the plaits, Chloe, who had a crush on Mani, Shapur, the divine emperor, Kerder, the evil Magi, Maalouf has a distinct and flowery style, with intense, vivid imageries.

My rating- 4/5

January Round- up-:

Books I’ve read in January-:

1. Chomana Dudi ( A well known classic work in Kannada, portraying the life of a poor peasant in an obscure Indian Village by the legendary K.Shivaram Karanth)

2.Balzac and the little Chinese seamstress- Dai sijie

3. The Woman of Rome- Alberto Moravia

4.The Age of reason- Jean Paul Sartre

5. By the river Piedra I sat down and wept – Paulo Coelho

6. Eleven Minutes- Paulo Coelho

7. The everything guide to copy –Steve Slaunwhite

8. Start and run a copywriting business- Steve Slaunwhite

9.  My life- Anton Chekhov

10. Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window-  Tetsuko Kuroyanagi

Reading Proust Day 27

On page 39.

I kept reading, rereading, making notes (almost in a meditative trance) . This is not an easy book. You have to visualize, make connections and get the bigger picture.

I once reached page 82, then again decided to reread, this time so many times till I got the correct connections

Monsieur Swann is an interesting character it seems…

Brilliant work by a genius!!!

The Confusions of Young Torless- Robert Musil

Recently I finished ‘The confusions of Young Torless’.

This is an early masterpiece of Robert Musil, whose fame rests on his epic work- The man without qualities.

I can’t say it was an easy read as this is such a dense novel. The plot is very different, even disturbing at times, but his way of writing is marvelous.

Plot      

It’s all about young Torless, who is sent to a boarding school, far away from his loving parents. There he become friends with two other fellow students, namely Reiting and Beineberg, and with Beineberg he’d often visit a local prostitute named as Bozena, and indulge in all types of youthful activities. Torless, eager to experience the world in his youthful enthusiasm is torn between two worlds, one that of his parents, the familiar world where people lead seemingly perfect lives and the other one of sordid adventures. There he’d be meeting Basini, a fellow pupil, and the plot then moves in to deeper intrigues and eroticism.

Character Sketches

Torless

Torless is a young boy, who absolutely loves and respects his parents. He is confused about so many things. A deep thinker, who is a budding intellectual, he has his own concepts about morality and his own world views at this young age. He doesn’t like the treatment meted out to Basini by Reiting and Beineberg, but is too confused to protest. Musil has portrayed him beautifully.

Basini

He deserves our sympathy. He is too young and may be too confused as well. He doesn’t know how to protest and is simply manipulated by the duo of Reiting and Beineberg.

Reiting and Beineberg   

Among them, Beineberg is a metaphysical thinker, fascinated by the Oriental philosophy. His father, who was in India, has been his biggest influence.

Reiting is your typical ruthless and cunning bully. He is too clever and would go any extent to achieve his aims.

Parents of Torless

They are kind hearted and loving, living their little contented bourgeoisie lives. Torless is often disturbed by the gap between their perfect lives and the one he has been forced to lead at the school.

Bozena

Bozena is the local prostitute. She had such big dreams once, but now she has ended up as nothing. Surely we can sympathize with her, but she is very cruel and brutal at the same time.

Comments

This is an autobiographical novel, derived from the experiences of Musil at an Austrian military academy.

This is a marvelous work by Musil. As I said earlier, this is a dense novel. I had to reread many paragraphs until I could connect the dots and form a bigger picture. Still its really worthy of the effort!!!

Rating

3/5