I know Ajay Chaturvedi. He is a friend from college. And I have been following his immensely inspiring professional journey in the field of what many refer to as “Social Entrepreneurship”, for the past 5 years or so. But I had lost touch with him before that. Almost for 15 years. So when I first learned that Ajay has published a book, about which I had no knowledge, till I saw his Facebook status update, I was pleasantly surprised. Not because Ajay has published a book, but because I found out that this book is a fictional story, inspired by true events.
I finished the book in one sitting. And I wanted to. Any book that deals with Metaphysics at the very basic level like “Why”, “What” and “How” is not necessarily a page turner. So from that standpoint, this book surely doesn’t make for a racy read. The book particularly needs some focused time & deep reading, when Zian finally reaches the Vedic Ashram where he meets Maharaj Ji because that’s when things get slow, as Ajay tries to explore the curiosity of a lost soul who just realizes he has finally found his “Master” who could help him steer out of the deep misery he has caught himself in. Once you get a feel for Ajay’s pace and the chemistry he establishes between Zian and Maharaj Ji, you find yourself inertly drawn into the story. Then, as a reader, you take upon the same journey Zian does, right beside him. You ask the same questions and you mull over Maharaj Ji’s responses pretty much the same way Zian does and even retort in a very similar way through some sillier questions as follow-ups.
Now, I do not want to reveal too much about the story as Ajay masterfully adds a twist, which once it hits you, makes you go back to a few pages that you had read earlier to cross check your own analysis of the twist. Isn’t that a mark of a good storyteller?
Ajay is a first time author, but he doesn’t come across as one. If the clarity with which the author goes about building the protagonist, Zian’s internal struggles as he tries to find himself is not proof enough to Ajay’s story telling capabilities, the way with which he uses Maharaj Ji’s character (inspired by a real life Maharaj Ji whom the Author acknowledges in the credits) to answer all Zian’s questions, should drive home that point on how good a storyteller Ajay is.
The most fascinating thing about this book is how everything physical that we know gets juxtaposed with the equivalent metaphysical aspects (which are hard to define). This not only needs a Maharaj Ji like character, who has attained the state of Turiya, to explain them to Zian, but also a deep understanding of everything that encompasses these aspects by the author himself.
Be it while explaining the ionic concentration of River Ganges or while rationalizing the need for religions, while subtly chiding superstitions or rituals without reasons, the book engages the reader thoroughly and encourages the reader to ask questions – ask questions even if they are mundane.
Be it through liberal Star Wars references, which includes tracking down the alleged origin of “May the Force Be With You” (‘Aapko turiya avastha praapt ho’) or by building this fictional philosophy of a story in a modern setting that many could relate to (9/11, Steve Jobs, MacBook, Social Media, Selfies, etc.), Ajay has managed to get across something very complex (the very essence of the book) in a not so complex manner.
Himalayas – A mountaineer’s paradise, A nature lover’s dream, A pilgrim’s path, A spiritual soul’s hiding place, A nomad’s challenge, A restless inquisitor’s mystical maze, so on and so forth. These mountains are everything that you love this planet for. The author’s love for Himalayas is evident from the beginning till the end of this book. So much so, that through his ability to vividly capture the images of Himalayas throughout the book, he leaves the reader longing for a trek up the majestic mountains. And the reader in me, though has been to Himalayas a couple of times knows that he may have just touched the tip of the iceberg – pun completely intended, for he knows that there are many more snow caps to be enthralled by and many more chilly bursts to endure.
As someone who grew up in a Hindu family, I have seen this symbol all around me, as long as I was in India. But it is also to be noted that in my observation, this symbol is perhaps more evident & widely used in the North compared to the South (India). This may be a different topic altogether for research, however, when I closed the book, I realized one thing.
Looking at Swastika as a mere symbolic representation of a racist Dictator’s ideologies (as commonly represented in the western world since the mid 20th century) may be too naive, for there is a very meandering and a meaningful journey behind this symbol, Swastika, if one chooses to embark on one.
As Ajay claims, a journey, that could bring one closer to oneself.