While I have read several books whose stories span decades and generations, I haven’t yet read one that not only spans centuries, but also the previous life of the main protagonist. So, when I came across the book, “The Beckoning of Gyanganj” by Chandan K. Pathak, I was really intrigued and had to read it. Did the book take me on an interesting journey? Read on to know…
Book Review The Beckoning of Gyanganj by Chandan K. Pathak
The Beckoning of Gyanganj is the story of a small-town guy, Ravi, who is passionate about trekking and has an inexplicable fascination for the Himalayas. It is also the story of Swami Raghunath who lived five centuries before Ravi. While Ravi’s lady love Risha also makes an appearance in certain parts of the book, the truly main characters are Ravi and Swami Raghunath, and of course, the majestic Himalayas which play a crucial role in the entire book.
The book is actually three different stories, across a period of 500 years, woven into one book with a spiritual connection between all three. It starts with Ravi, his journey from Assam to Dehradun, his passion for trekking and how he meets and falls in love with Risha. Ravi’s trek into the Himalayas and the unexpected events during the trek, bring us to the next section of the story, Swami Raghunath.
Swami Raghunath’s story starts from the year 1437, when he was a young boy named Raghu. It talks of his journey from boyhood to asceticism, his austere life, his spiritual progress and how he came to be a renowned Swami. It is in this section that we are introduced to Gyanganj, an abode of highly spiritual immortal beings. Swami Raghunath is taken to Gyanganj and asked to embark on a mission, which brings us to the third part of this book, that of the Kingdom of Mayurpura.
The peasants of Mayurpura are under a tyrannical and torturous rule and the the holy spirits of Gyanganj as Swami Raghunath to help them find a way out of their misery. It is here that Swami Raghunath meets Princess Lata and there are some more twists to the tale. Ultimately, what happens in the 15th century kingdom of Mayurpura affects the present day lives of Ravi and Risha. How? Well, if I were to tell you that, I would be giving away the whole story.
The story itself is quite promising and till the last chapter, you don’t know how things are going to be played out. The climax of the book leaves it open to a sequel. However, I find there are several sections where the story meanders unecessarily. Like the story of “Mata and Bhola Baba”. I feel it was an unnecessary inclusion since it didn’t really have any role in the story as such.
The beauty of the Himalayan landscape and the rigours of asceticism have been well described, though, at times, it gets monotonous. The narration, at times, is a bit juvenile and I found myself skimming over the paragraphs simply to know what happened next.
My biggest peeve however, is with the grammar. There are several occasions when the author simply forgets to use the article and it appears as though the author has been translating from Hindi into English. I am surprised how those errors escaped the notice of the editor. While most people wouldn’t mind or notice these minor errors, for me, it is a very important part of the book reading experience and hence, really irked me.
While the story is certainly very promising, it isn’t for everyone. I like the way all the events have been connected and how the events of the past affect the present. What I disliked is the narration and in some parts, the writing style. Overall, it is a decent book, good for a little weekend read. Just don’t expect a literary masterpiece.