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HindustanTimes Fri,26 Dec 2014

Book review: Path of the Swan evokes the magic of Buddhist faith

Suhel Seth, Hindustan Times   May 16, 2014
First Published: 22:10 IST(16/5/2014) | Last Updated: 10:46 IST(17/5/2014)

Path of the Swan
Charu Singh
Hachette India
Rs 499, PP445

If you weren’t told, you’d never know. That Charu Singh is a first-time author and Path of the Swan her first book. You’d never imagine someone who’s essentially a city girl to weave the magic of a distant monastery drenched in faith that is today universally accepted as one of peace and goodness.

The book begins in a manner which is indicative of the serenity to follow which is why the Song of Maitreya assumes such significance. “The hope of the age, the perfect one, the child of light, The Maitreya came to be born in the world of men”. It is at this very moment that you are transported into a world which has been untouched by taint and torment and yet is one that pieces together vivid descriptions of not just an idyllic life but more so a world that most of us would hurry to embrace.

Having been to Sikkim many times as a child, the imagery that Charu captures so poignantly and with such finesse, resonates with me. These are brushstrokes of literature on a canvas that is the Himalayas.

The dilemma of Lama Ozer and his novitiate Tashi is an essay in the challenges people face when they leave abodes of comfort for a higher calling: in this case the irresistible urge to seek out the vagaries of the magical kingdom of Shambala. It is in defining these very astute portraits that Charu not only makes Buddhism come alive but equally the characters who lend themselves to an abiding faith which questions nothing and yet embraces everything with an equanimity and serenity that is so reflective of the majestic Himalayas.

Tibetan monks studying inside the Tsuglagkhang temple in Dharamsala. (Getty Images)

In the many books one has read, on subjects, which are mythical and formed around both humans and animals, there is a certain playfulness and therefore a sense of disbelief that creeps through. The Path of the Swan is different because it never allows you to leave either the realism that effects us all or for that matter the inescapable realm of disbelief that most of us would want to surrender to almost like a Walter Mitty would.

Without divulging too much of the plot and the way it mesmerizes you, it is fun to celebrate the joyousness of the characters that Charu etches. Be it the young golden Dakini, Yehe Nam Lha or Prince A-KarO, the heir to the Lha Empire.

Fascinating as the book sounds, it is a vignette of life with unimaginable joy but equally of a path that both Lama and Tashi have the courage to take with such intensity.

The manner in which Charu weaves her magic is what makes Path of the Swan such an effortless read and so much more memorable.


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