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08 October 2012

Book Review: 'The Krishna Key' by Ashwin Sanghi

Just completed reading the book 'The Krishna Key' by Ashwin Sanghi. Mr.Sanghi is the latest addition to the ever increasing tribe of Indian writers in English Language. 

The book follows the genre of mythological fiction which started off with the books by Dan Brown, including Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons and The Lost Symbol. The Krishna Key intrapolates the Story of Krishna from Mahabharatha with a modern day quest for 'The Krishna Key', the symbol left behind by Krishna in the epic. The book starts off with the archaeologist Anil Varshney, who discovered four seals and the base plate in which they were attached to. The four seals together with the base plate is supposed to contain some secret message left by Krishna regarding the presence of the mythological gemstone, the Syamantaka. This is supposed to be the Krishna Key.

I say 'Supposed' since I never found out. 

Each chapter starts off with a paragraph from the story of Krishna in Mahabharata. The book starts off with blood and gore. Anil Varshney is found murdered in his room with a sharp pointed tool pierced into his artery. The tool contains the words 'R M' and based on that, the police arrests Varshney's friend Ravi Mohan Saini (suspecting that he is the 'R M' mentioned in the sharp object. Which stupid murderer will do something THAT silly?). Police inspector is Radhika Singh, a ruthless specimen of the Indian Police Force, who chews Almonds and keep on chanting 'Hari' when stressed. Ravi Mohan has his doctoral student Priya, both of whom escape the police clutches and goes in search of Varshney's other friends Bhojraj, Chedi and Kurkude. Each of them has one of the seals given to them by Anil Varshney. 

The killer is Taarak Vakil (an anagram of 'Kalki Avatar', we are told) who is coincidentally born in a stud farm called 'Sambhala Stud Farm' (Kalki is supposed be born in a place called 'Sambala') and has a pet parrot named 'Shuka' (name of Kalki's parrot). He also owns a Horse named DeeDee (Kalki's horse is Deva Datta, DD), his father's name is Dr.V Y Sarma (Kalki is supposed to be born to Vishnuyasa) and his mother's name is Sumati (here author gave up finding similar sounding names and chose the mythological name of Kalki's mother). In Mahabharata, it is specifically mentioned that Kalki, who will end it all, will be born to a family who meets all this criteria.

And this family of three, meets all of them. The author lets loose all this information in one page (Let's give 'em). Too many coincidences in one page. Head reels.

Taarak is not his original name, of course. He took his name  when 'Mataji', his spiritual guru told him to do that. Mataji is vehemently anti christian and thinks that the Europeans have totally misinterpreted India's history and has decided to set it right. She is a member of a religious sangh and does physical exercises and gives spiritual discourses. Where have I seen this before?

Each of Anil's friends who holds the seal are murdered by Taarak and Mataji. Somewhere in the middle of the story we find that Mataji was none other than Saini's doctoral student Priya. 

The killer is identified in the first chapter, the accomplice is identified somewhere in the middle of the book, so what do the rest of the book deal with?

Sanghi soldiers on...

From now on Radhika Singh becomes Saini's friend and mentor. Now everyone, including Saini, Radhika, Maataji, Taarak Vakil, Sunil Garg (he is the CBI director or something) is in quest for Syamantaka. They look for it far and wide, in Mount Kailash and in Somnath temple, finally guess where they found it? Buried under the tombs in Taj Mahal !!!.

And they don't find it. In the last page of the book, they give up the search because 'Philosopher is more important than the stone'. No idea what that means.

In the cuisine of almost all the states of India, there is a special item called 'Mixed Vegetable Curry'. It is made by tossing in any vegetable that you can find, adding some masala and lo (and behold, of course) your mixed vegetable curry is done. It is known by different names but the principle is the same. 

I was reminded of Mixed Vegetable curry when I was reading this book. Ashwin Sanghi has tossed in multiple ingredients into this book to make into a concoction. There is dollops of Mahabharata of course, then we have a table spoon of the Indus Valley Civilization and the discovery of seals, and then there is pinch of geography, a dash of romance (and sex) between Radhika Singh and Saini added and topped up with story of Haji Mastan and Dawood Ibrahim thrown in for good measure.

Embellish it with a corrupt CBI official and garnish with Mataji who somehow remind you of 'Sadhwi Ritambhara' and you have all the ingredients for ennui.  

Chapters in this book are dedicated to recitation of historical events. Only history, mind you. No drama, no emotion, no love, nothing interesting. Just plain, old, boring historical facts.

I have never read so much history even in school. And Geography too.

And in my school I did read a lot of crap.

The optimistic guy at the publishing house says (rather wistfully !!) that the book is a 'Furiously paced and riveting thriller'. 'Furiously paced'? yes, it does move at a frenetic pace. Unlike the frenetic pace of a well directed arrow, this story moves here and there like a loose cannon. 

No focus I mean.

Riveting? of course not.

Reading this book, at times, I felt like tearing my hair. Something suddenly happens and you have no idea how it happened. For example, you leave Priya and Taarak, in an underground chamber somewhere in Nepal in one chapter, and behold (and lo, of course)  they are inside the Taj Mahal in the next chapter.

When you go to watch a 'Govinda' movie (Govinda is a movie star here in India), you are asked to leave your common sense at home and not to ask any questions. At some point, while reading this book., I felt like I was in a movie theatre watching a Govinda Movie.

The book goes on and on. At some point, you are frantic and wonder if the story has any ending at all. 

I purchased this book in the Bangalore airport. Reading this book was a part of my identifying new authors whose books I should be reading in future.

I tried Ashwin Sanghi. I am not sure that I want to read his other works.

PS: If you did not know what R M meant, it meant Ratna Maru, which is the name of Kalki's sword.

Take that.


Mirza Ghalib said...

Ashwin Sanghi has overdone it this time. I read Chanakya Chant, liked the concept and got this book. But boy was I disappointed! Its a vain attempt to write an Indian Da Vinci code.The book can be summarized in one line. Every thing in the world is related to every other thing ( as per his convenience of course) and they all have their roots in India.

Characters lines are flawed. Everybody goes the roundabout way perform simple tasks, thereby ending up only complicating the story. It seemed like twists had to be force fed to make it a "thrilling novel.

Ramaswamy V K said...

Totally Agree. The book was a bit of a disappointment.