My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There are some ideas, which need the right time and right attitude. And then there are books that operate the same way. I have been fortunate that when I came across Mahakaal, I was conditioned to be more receptive of this book and the various ideas that it champions throughout.
Mahakaal starts with introducing us to the central characters - Leela who has never believed in anything that can not be scientifically proven , not since she her childhood when she was sent to a boarding school in the city. Prior to that, she had some sense of wonder and freedom and knowledge of India's glorious past from her stay with her relatives in a farmhouse - specifically from her older cousin Bharat. When Leela is being chased by some criminals in a forest, she is saved by a mystical figure who calls himself Mahakaal and takes care of her physical and spiritual condition for about a week before sending her alone, back into the real world. Leela's story becomes a cause for much trouble for her and no one can find any signs of Mahakaal or believe that such a person even existed. Shunned by her closest friends and family as she searches for answers to some of the questions in her mind after her time with Mahakaal , her search leads her to Bharat and his current Project in a self-sustained village - Prithak Ghati (PG)
It is in the second and third sections of the book that the story becomes a little slow to read as there is a lot to assimilate in order to accept or reject the ideas being discussed by Bharat & Leela. Also, the different characters living in Prithak Ghati tend to become a little overwhelming to remember and follow with their own quirky identities. At one point , I felt like skipping a few parts to get the story moving. When you reach the sections of Bharat discussing his life journey and influences of his guru, whom the reader can guess is the same as the mystical Mahakaal the story enters the magical realism part which is handled masterfully in the story. By this time one with either like the story or it will not appeal to the reader at all.
What is truly commendable is the amount of research done for writing this story. This is a result of six years of effort by the author and the passion shines on every page of this 390 pages long book. I cannot even begin to imagine the resources and skills that went into putting all these details in the form of a story that is as engaging as enlightening.
For me, I have no particular complaints about the ideals and theories discussed in the book. I am especially aligned with Bharat's thoughts about changing oneself and the youth in the country if we need to fix the wrongs in our society and country. My struggle was with the number of such ideas and events. We have solutions for the political mess, the economic state, society's failures, personal transformation and so on. Then we also have the country going through really hard times and attacks on all fronts in the last chapter. There is simply too much going on in the story in the last section, which I could not be too interested to follow but I wanted to know the end of the book, which is left kind of open-ended. Another thing that I did not like was so much use of Hindi language dialogues in the book, some that felt unnecessary to me.
But my overall impression if the book stays the same as my rating - This was one worthy read indeed.
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