10 days to go…

…and I hardly feel like a bride. Don’t get me wrong…I am very happy to be one. It’s just that it seems like my wedding shopping will never end. Have I mentioned that I absolutely hate shopping? Well, I just began to hate it even more. So much so that I think I will send S for grocery shopping alone!! And, what’s with this wedding business? Nobody told me getting married would be so much work. Sure, I did bargain for a lot of work after marriage, but the very process seems too cumbersome to take! I think a colleague of mine got it right when he said, “Your weddings last 3 days just to ensure that you are so fed up of it that you will stay in the marriage! Who will dare attempt that a second time?” 😛

Each day is a comedy of errors in its own right. Two days ago, I gave the wedding invitation to a European colleague. After the mandatory congratulations and chit-chat, he said, “By European standards, marriage is the first step to divorce!” Arrey bhai! Shaadi to karne do pehle. Then I’ll think of the next step! 🙂 And then there is the time of the wedding. My darling mom (or mom-in-law, I have no idea!) decided that her daughter needed a lesson in sleeplessness and fixed the muhurtham for 4 AM. Now, before any of you start, I know that the Brahmamuhurtham is the most ausipicious time of the day and all that, but I happen to value my sleep, thank you very much!

Despite much argument, logical and illogical, mom stuck to her guns and shut me up with one sentence. “Oh stop it! You’re getting married once in a lifetime, if I am not mistaken! So stay awake one night and catch up on your beauty sleep later!” As for S, his biggest worry is that my father will oversleep and not be around to call him back from the Kasi Yatra. In fact, he wondered if all the drama was necessary so early in the morning. I keep telling him that after spending so much money on the wedding, my parents are unlikely to let him get away that easily! Dad on his part generously informed his son-in-law that the Trivandrum-Varanasi express stopped at Perambur around 3 AM, and that S still had a choice! Boys!! What am I going to do with the pair of them?

The biggest problem with having a 4 AM muhurtham is the sympathy I seem to be garnering from all quarters. Colleagues, having received my e-vite, have been calling to offer their deepest condolences for my lost sleep. Friends, who would otherwise have been present at the muhurtham call me to convey their sympathies and promise they will arrive in time for breakfast! Sigh! Such is life! I will probably be MIA for the next month. My blogging, already quite slow since May, has slowed down to unforgivable levels since I met S. Now, whether I must blame him or myself is open to question. I hope to be back with a bang end-October, with sporadic blogging and tweeting in-between, after settling down into blissful (?) matrimony! Until then, so long!

The Secret of the Nagas – A review

Sometimes, we pick up a sequel due to the sheer force and charm of Book 1. And that sequel turns out to be far below the standards set by its prequel. This is exactly what happened when I picked up The Secret of the Nagas without a second thought. I was that impressed by The Immortals of Meluha. As I started reading, I realized that the book was not quite what I expected it to be.

This book is readable, engaging. I may even be charitable enough to call it interesting. But somehow, it falls terribly short of expectations. The first book had a story novel enough to hold my interest. I did not really mind the simple writing style or the absence of metaphors. It was, after all, written in the manner of a thriller. So, it was with great expectations that I bought the second book for the Shiva Trilogy. To be fair to the author, I didn’t really mind reading it. It took me roughly six hours to read. Although I finished it in two sittings, with a dinner break and a phone call in-between, I wouldn’t say I was riveted.

The most glaring problem with The Secret of the Nagas is the characterization. In Book 1, the author had painstakingly built each of the characters in the book. Each character came across as interesting and engaging. In Book 2, the author seems to have taken his characters for granted. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of effort to develop the characters. They seem strangely lacking in depth. I can only think of two reasons for this. Either that Amish has reached the true limit of his literary abilities with The Immortals of Meluha, or that he has become complacent with the success of Book 1 and hasn’t put in that much time and effort into the second.

This lack of depth is especially evident in the author’s portrayal of Ganesh. As a reader who is reasonably well-informed about Hindu mythology, I found the explanation given for Ganesh’s appearance entirely unconvincing. Also, his character seems woefully underdeveloped. There is so much material available on the story and character of Ganesh in Indian mythology that the author could have at least tried to build his character better. On the contrary, there is a certain laziness about the way the book is written that makes it mediocre, albeit engaging and interesting.

Another glaring example of lack of depth is the characterization of Kali as Sati’s twin. With jet black skin vis-à-vis Sati’s golden hue, an untamed mane vs. Sati’s beautiful tresses…every description of Kali seems to scream prejudice. I couldn’t help but notice that almost involuntary association of fair with the good and the beautiful (Sati) and of black with the ugly and the evil. After giving us a rather intriguing sneak into Kali’s character in Book 1, the author fails to build on it and ends up presenting to the reader a vague and sometimes confused portrayal of the Kali. Incidentally, the fact that Kali is worshipped in most parts of India as the destroyer of evil, but in the Secret of the Nagas, this fact seems to have been skipped entirely.

Daksha’s character sees the strangest evolution of all. For someone who swore by the Neelkanth all through Book 1, he seems strangely ambivalent to Shiva in Book 2. So ambivalent in fact, that he doesn’t think twice of storming out after shouting at Shiva on being confronted with the sins of his past. Wouldn’t a true believer in the legend at least be afraid of being cursed? Or apologetic? This turnaround is not too easy to digest.

Finally, the actual Secret of the Nagas is revealed only in the very last page of the book. For a book that is named after that much-feared clan, there doesn’t seem to be much weightage given to the Nagas. Instead, the book dwells extensively on the Chandravanshis and the Suryavanshis and every other conceivable people in the country. Also, as a South Indian, I had serious problems with the reference to SangamTamil as a country. For any South Indian, it is fairly evident that the very appellation is wrong. Sanga Tamil refers to the language and not a territory. Will Amish please take note that his readers extend to the South of the Vindhyas as well and try to avoid such basic errors?

In one line: Although The Secret of the Nagas is an engaging and entertaining book, it falls terribly short of the expectations built by The Immortals of Meluha. If the author wants his third book to remain on people’s must-read list and on the bookstores’ best-selling lists, he better get his act together and read his manuscript properly before sending it off to the press the next time!