Reading this book was like watching a Hindi remake of an English film, or worse still, watching a Bhojpuri remake of a Hindi film. While one cannot help but notice the merit of the story, it is the execution that is umm... a 1.5 on 5. It is like the tale is smooth, but the telling, rough. Perhaps the 'National Bestseller' *eyeroll* does not deserve such a harsh introduction. Perhaps one shouldn't expect purist language, when the novel is about an histori-mythi-cal society.
Amish is a good storyteller. If nothing, the plot is rivetting, and the adaptation of familiar characters, myths and geographical locations into the novel, is creditable. But every now and then, as I began to drown into the story, out sprang a line like: What the hell is wrong with the woman? OR Dammit, these bloody people don't understand, and jarred my sensibilities as a reader. Here I am, flowing with the life and times of an ancient people, imagining pictures and sounds from that era, and suddenly, a line, straight from the brazen tongues of today, rudely teleports me back to now. I cannot fault the author for not knowing how a tribal from some thousands of years ago swore, but I grudge him for not trying to match his choice of words with his choice of period. I blame it on B R Chopra (whose 'Mahabharat' I grew up watching) that I cannot imagine mythological figures cursing in Gen X lingo. The writer may have taken his target readers into consideration, but sorry Amish, you lost just too many points there.
Where the writer has scored is, in the simplicity and pace of narrative, the brilliant, I repeat, adaptation of mythological stories associated with Lord Shiva (the protagonist's namesake), and some lovely research and explanation of some age-old traditions, words and symbolism. The way the concepts of vikarma (and consequently, karma), ideal society or Ram Rajya, Somras, Agnipareeksha, and Mahadev among others, have been explained, is remarkable. Also, names like Shiva, Nandi, Sati, Daksha and Brihaspati have been beautifully lifted off ancient texts, placed aptly and coloured correctly.
But again and again, where the book has failed me, is in its language - simple to a fault, clichéd, and jarringly modern.
However, what hasn't worked for me, has probably worked for other readers, making it a hugely popular book of the recent times. Dissatisfied though I am, I look forward to the sequels, if only to benefit from clever new adaptations and perspectives of my favourite old tales.