The Scion Of Ikshvaku

Statutory Warnings :-  (a) if you have not yet read Amish Tripathi‘s books, you may not want to read on. I know I hate to have a story unfolded till I have read it for myself! (b) this is NOT a book review!

Waiting for a “new” book written by an author I have read before is a fairly new experience for me. I have always been lagging in my reading. I almost never read the latest best seller. Or, indeed, too many bestsellers! My last was, perhaps, the Harry Potter series by J.K.Rowling!

I have read “other” books by authors I have read earlier. Even if its from the same genre – every Agatha Christie is a mystery, every Jules Verne is an amazing adventure – each “next” book I have read for the first time has had this one moment of magic. Excitement, mystery. Expectation based on the author’s previous writings.

I had no real intention of  reading Amish Tripathi’s “The Immortals of Meluha”. But I got invited to the book launch of his second book “The Secret of the Nagas” – by his publisher, no less! For some odd reason I agreed to go for the event. I decided I need to at least skim through a few pages – it was only decent to know what his first book was about if I was going to meet an author. I was hooked from the opening lines. I just about managed to finish the book before I left home. As events go it was not exciting. There was a smallish audience, the author and his family, members of the book trade. I did not hear one interesting question being asked of the author. Obviously there were no scintillating answers! I came away with the firm conviction that I do not want to meet another author ever. It was extremely disappointing.

The next day I finished Nagas – again in a single sitting. Well, maybe I would like to meet the author once more! I would definitely like to know the person who has such immense knowledge of our mythology, our history, our culture. The person who not just wrote interesting books but kept the story of each of his numerous characters strong and alive. 

That is probably a sign of success for a writer. The characters he writes about become real. He, the author, becomes but the quill that writes the story. I waited impatiently for the third and last book in the Shiva trilogy. I needed to know what happened next.

As I began reading “The Oath of the Vayuputras” I felt a keen sense of disappointment. It was not just the unreal pre-launch marketing hype. The author is human even if his tale revolves around a God! It was more a sense of the story having lost its momentum. The plot worked for me. Beautifully. But I disagreed with the casual vocabulary (I disliked the unwarranted usage of slang), the need for graphic gore. What I really loved about the first two books were the delicate nuances. The language was subtle, simple and the detailing just right.  The author carried the reader with him into his imagination. The reader became an integral thread in the weave. But this one … here I was an audience. I was being shown every last detail. My imagination had nothing to contribute. No. I did not like that feeling. I felt cheated. I did not put down the book because the plot held. I finished the final page with a sense of relief … disappointed relief. This was the same pattern with the Harry Potter series … This is exactly how I always feel when I watch a movie based on a much loved book. Sorry that I saw it. And yet, I had just READ this book. It was like a movie script.

Recently I met the author again. Without an audience. I was delighted to discover that my instinct was not wrong. Here was a person I would definitely want to know better. His knowledge of his subject is incredible. His down to earth attitude (he is a bestselling author now!) a relief. His interaction with his family was heart warming. And so I began the wait for his next book.

The Scion of Ikshvaku reached me a fair few weeks after it was released. I refused to read any reviews. I refused to let anyone talk to me about the story. I did not want a synopsis. Yes, I knew the book was loosely based on the epic Ramayana. But I did not want to know anything else second hand.

I read it in one long sitting. Again.

The Ramayana is a story most Indian children grow up with. We know where it begins and how it ends. We have heard the tale from the lips of our elders – mostly from before we could read. We read the story in comic form – the ubiquitous Amar Chitra Katha. We saw numerous versions on television and cinema. As we got older we read different “unabridged” versions. The story became philosophical. We passed judgements – mythology, history, moral, immoral, right, wrong … we appreciated and criticised it so many times in so many ways. Rama has been a very human God. 

There is nothing new in the plot. I know exactly what happens next. Apparently. From the very start the author surprised me. His opening pages revealed the magic of his writing again. To immerse a reader who knows the beginning, middle and end of a tale takes tremendous talent. Amish Tripathi has done that in a most unusual fashion with “The Scion of Ikshvaku”. He has held to the chronology of events in the original Ramayana while crafting a completely unique flow to the narrative. He has given it a touch of realism that is always lacking in mythology. There is undeniable reasoning and logic. He has the whole story leaning towards – history? There are small, seemingly unimportant details that stand out at the end of the book. The scion of Ikshvaku? All of us known Rama as the descendent of Bharat. Sita is older than Rama? Sudas? Where was all this information in our earlier readings? Why was it considered irrelevant in the telling of the epic? Why was the Ramayana we grew up with only about a cruel step-mother and a weak father? An abducted wife and a monkey-God?

I like the way the Shiva trilogy is linked to this book. If you have not read them and you are of a curious temperament, you will want to read them now. The references will awaken that curiosity. I want to re-read them to make sure I remember the details correctly! I don’t want to miss any of the finer points in the forthcoming book. The first part of this new-ancient story has left me wanting more.

Before I read the Shiva trilogy, I knew very little about the character Shiva. As a child I did not hear or read too many stories about this God of ours. He has been shrouded in what I call “the unknown”. Which is, perhaps, how it should be. For he is the God of Gods. The supreme being. The Mahadev. Amish Tripathi has succeeded in leaving me with a lot more details. More importantly he has not destroyed any of the mystique of Shiva. I enjoyed the content and tenor of the first two books. As for the third and final part, I would like to read it written differently. Like a book.

While this seems an unlikely happening, I await the next part of the story of Rama. Will we learn more about Ikshvaku? Hanuman? Will it end with the war in Lanka? How will Sita prove her chastity? Indeed, will she do so at all? What about the twins? Will there be an explanation to the creation of Meluha? Will the next part end in a new beginning?