Tara # Rs 295 # pp 398
What if god was one of us? Or, to be precise, if Lord Shiva was one of us? Chances are that after a hard day’s work he would sit with his friends discussing world, life and politics while smoking ganja from a chillum. Sounds interesting, eh? The Shiva we meet in Amish’s The Immortals of Meluha is all this and more.
Shiva, as we meet him at the start of the novel, is the chief of his tribe fighting the Pakratis, preventing them from taking over their land. It’s 1900 B.C. and he has a tempting offer from a foreigner living on the other side of the Himalayas to come and stay with them — and lead a peaceful life without strife.
Eventually, Shiva (apparently a “rough-hewn Tibetan immigrant”) and his tribe decide to move to the land of Meluhans — an idyllic world created by Lord Ram — that the author claims “we modern Indians” know better as the Indus Valley Civilisation. As Shiva gradually gets acquainted with the Meluhan way of life, he realises that the Meluhans have their reason for having him in their midst. In no time Shiva finds out that the Meluhans, ruled by the Suryavanshis, run the risk of extinction as an old enemy tribe, the Chandravanshis, are trying to destroy their life-line, the Saraswati river, essential for the creation of somras, a magical potion that allows them to live for hundreds of years. Hence, Shiva is entrusted with the task of rescuing the Meluhans from their impending doom.
Herein unfolds a story of struggle between good and evil and its consequences. But is Shiva truly the god the Suryavanshis make him out to be? Or is he a mere mortal with his moments of doubt, feelings of guilt, repentance and vulnerability having had greatness thrust upon him? That’s what forms the crux of the plot.
Debutant Amish’s attempt is engaging enough only if one manages to get past the initial few chapters where Shiva is mostly doing nothing except trying to act cool and hurling expressions such as “bloody hell”, “what the devil is going on”, etcetera, as if he’s at the Gymkhana Club. There are some interesting ‘modifications’ that include Nandi, Shiva’s trusted bull, being transformed into a man.
In The Immortals of Meluha, the first of a Trilogy, Amish paints a mortal picture of Hinduism’s most beloved god. He humanises him for us. Despite inconsistencies, Amish deserves credit for this.