The ochre yellow of the desert stretches out in all directions for as far my eye can see, dotted here and there with green vegetation. At first glance, the green appears random, but then one can trace lines and curves and clusters of green, marking places where there must be water channels and water bodies which fill up when it rains.
The fast-moving clouds in the sky cast large, moving and constantly shifting shadows on the desert floor and leave me mesmerised. I am torn between watching the shadow play on the ground and the hide-and-seek game that the clouds and blue sky are up to.
In the distance are some windmills and further still, some 70 odd kilometres away, lies the border with Pakistan. I know it’s silly, but I stand on tip toes almost expecting to see the border. A harsh caw breaks into my thoughts and I turn around to see a large raven regarding me with, what I think, is a mocking look at my action.
Yesterday my boss walked into my room to find me staring out of my office window, apparently lost in my own thoughts. He waited a while before clearing his throat and saying, “Thinking about that Rajasthan Trip of yours again?” My sheepish smile confirmed his guess that I had indeed been thinking my recent 11-day trip to Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Ranakpur, Kumbhalgarh, Chittorgarh and Udaipur.
It has been 2 weeks since I returned to Mumbai, but you are still in my mind during all my waking and sleeping hours. The bright blue skies, starlit nights, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, and peacock calls are something that I sorely miss. It was a trip that challenged and reiterated in equal measure my notions of who and what you are. It was also a trip that delighted, surprised, awed, and sometimes saddened me.
Do you know that my visit generated 1,752 photographs? That 90 percent of the photographs have been deleted is testimony to my photography skills, and not due to any fault of yours. How clearly I remember the first of the many photographs I clicked: the arid yellow landscape, green shrubs, the bright blue skies and a woman clad in bright-coloured clothes.
Bikaner Railway Station was the first of the many surprises you sprung up on me. Are you sure that it was not a sprawling haveli once-upon-a-time, which then got converted to a railway station? When I posted a picture of the railway station on my Facebook timeline, many people did not believe that it was a railway station !
The Secret of the Nagas (Westland, pp.396, Rs.295) is the second book in the Shiva Trilogy by Amish. The Trilogy is based on the premise that Shiva was not a mythical God, but an ordinary human being who became a God because of his karma. The 3 books in the Trilogy trace the journey of Shiva from a human being to that of a God.
The Immortals of Meluha is the first book in the series. It follows the journey of Shiva from his beginnings as a Tibetan tribal leader to that of an immigrant to Meluha (the area that we now know was the site of the great Indus Valley Civilization) to becoming aware of the extraordinary destiny that awaits him and his first attempts at fulfilling that destiny. For more on the first book, you can read my review right here.
The second book begins in Ayodhya with yet another skirmish between Shiva and Sati, and the Naga, who Shiva suspects was responsible for the death of his friend, Brihaspati. Yet again, the Naga escapes. By now Shiva is obsessed with hunting down the Nagas (an ostracised community of deformed beings with extraordinary skills, power and strength), and particularly that one specific Naga.
Shiva. Lord Shiva. The Destroyer. One of the Hindu Trinity. Mahadev. Nataraja. Husband of Parvati or Sati. The Supreme Yogi.
Most Indians, and certainly all Hindus, know Shiva in all these forms and then some more. For millions he is a revered God, an ishta devta, worshipped in his myriad forms. Probably, that’s why many of his devotees do not think of Shiva’s origins — perhaps, the fact that Shiva is a God and is, therefore, eternal inhibits them from thinking about his beginnings.
The author of The Immortals of Meluha(Westland, pp.412, Rs.195), Amish, has no such inhibitions. The first book in the Shiva Trilogy, it introduces Shiva as an ordinary human being with an extraordinary destiny in store for him. A destiny which makes him a saviour and a god, and whose arrival has been prophesied in an ancient legend.
It is the year 1900 BC in the area that the world today knows as the site of the Indus Valley Civilisation. But the people living there at that time call it Meluha, a near-perfect, disciplined society that lives by the rules laid down by Lord Rama himself. A caste-based society where every member’s place is determined not by birth, but by his/her abilities.
A society that is almost immortal due to the availability of somras, an anti-ageing potion, for all its members. This is the society of the Suryavanshis or descendents of the sun.