We have received a book from a friend who is in turn author’s friend. The author belongs to an order of monks and this is not his first book. Except for a few exceptions, most of the book reviews on the mainstream media are done by professionals who consider the first task – reading the book as a mere assignment, a very important assignment perhaps in the calender but not an open ended engagement. The reviewer has to read and in parallel goes in annotating and interrogating the book as well his own mind chattering as what should be.
The reader’s reaction below will frustrate you if you are expecting something like the professional review.
The story is of a jungle and actors are all animals but the animals all are capable of using human languages and after sometime you forget that very significant fact. This is the first achievement of the book and remarkable craftsmanship.
As you progress, if you have read some history of empires, read contemporary newspapers and media-produce and if by good fortune you have been curious about how our society is organized and what our duties are, you shall understand that junglezen and citizen are rhyming and not only in the linguistic sense. You shall be delighted to observe that contemporary citizen and ancient junglezen evolve, following strict rules of law and philology.
The drama part of the book starts at the crisis of a state, a monarchy. The crisis unfolds and we find the state (the jungle) going towards a state which we call by the name of a democratic republic. The words democracy and re-public both are Latin words and in India’s oldest language we do not find these words. Just like India’s oldest literature do not have words that connote the same meaning as ‘nation’, ‘nationalism’, ‘public’. The words that you like to docket right now in your minds are ‘praja‘ which etymologically means – pratyaksha rupena jyate ja, i.e. what has manifested visibly. or we can detect by our senses. This includes all living beings – man, woman, children in the womb, animals, birds, trees, reptiles, serpents etc. Another word is called ‘varnashram’ which is a very elaborate process, much sophisticated and dynamic process than the current HR practice of large corporations. The word, in our ‘jungle’ means how we may organize the society according to natural abilities (which we cannot control fuily) and their evolution (which also we cannot control fully). The thing we can do best with the given conditions (people with in-born and acquired natural abilities) is to educate for an objective in view.
This objective came to sharp focus when the king of the jungle died and his young son was heir-apparent. He was trained and there were opportunities now to be trained and as the book progressed, we find that this is the pivotal issue of the book : How to train our future rulers and how to select them ?
The dialogues are sharp, crisp and pithy. There is no flab in these dialogues which is almost an incurable disease in Indian films and novels. The dialogues are double layered – of immediacy as well as something timeless. This is another achievement of the book.
The book in a sense ends in a profound state of despair. The end even does not give us any tragic grandeur or consolation. There is no Horatio left from whom we can have some soothing conclusion. I recalled the reading of the Decline and Fall of Roman Empire when after a mere 500 years, you discover with sadness and pity that the Roman citizens fell into such an amnesia that they no longer felt any sadness for their current state of affairs while thinking of their past. The glory is not only lost but no one even remembers or care to remember the glory.
I found one institution which did not feature but could have enriched the book. The institution I have in mind is grip of popular sports on public mind or in junglezens. Two thousand years after the crowds cheered the gladiators in Circus Maximus in Rome, if a Roman visitor comes to our IPL venues, he will not find much difference except for the fact that the field is not filled with blood and corpses. However, he will unmistakably see the rich owners of the gladiators (also called franchisee) cheering from the stands, public shouting for more aggression and making the sports shorter, tighter and more vulgar, huge money making engine at the backdrop with bets and kick-backs and the players, like those gladiators are like public property whose tenure is not decided by anything else but how long they can entertain the ever-hungry public before returning to the pavilion.
However, Life never dies when we know what Life in its core is. Hence the the author became the Horatio. There literally started an Epilogue in a new page .
In the Epilogue, we discover the stirrings of something new although the tone is very reporter-like. But he mentions about reporters of posterity and in a sense such reportage is the seed of memory and eternal return and renewal.
Postscript : Strongly recommended. One word of caution : the book is written in a language and tone for your benefit and to give a great User Interface. The weaving looks attractive and simple but that does not mean the process and the capacity to weave is simple or easy. It is the greatest achievement of the book to keep its tremendous wisdom and knowledge hidden by a dazzlingly bright and alluring weave of words.