Saturday, 3 February 2018

Book Review #91 : The Aryabhata Clan

Price : INR  595

Overview: The Islamic State has spread its tentacles in India, penetrating stealthily into the academia, media and politics. The mastermind is Shamsur Ali, a physicist from Bangladesh. To destabilize India, he wants to create a sort of apocalypse, which the 21-year-old Kubha must prevent at any cost, come what may.

In a brazen attempt at legitimizing the demolition of one of the most prominent historical structures in India, someone—unbelievably, it could be both Hiranyagarbha Bharata, a radical Hindu outfit, and the Islamic State—resorts to a big deceit.

Afsar Fareedi, a linguistic paleontologist, catches the fraud. In the melee, there are three gruesome murders, including that of her father, perhaps to eliminate all traces of a carpet which, Afsar discovers, has a lot hidden in its mysterious motifs. At the centre of all this is a verse composed by the maverick mathematician, Aryabhata, some 1,500 years ago.

REVIEW : The author makes a humble but sincere attempt at retelling history as authentically as possible, without being driven by any agenda. The author has very boldly and nakedly told many things that many other, especially the so called liberal western media, intelligentsia and academia, would never have the guts to even accept – the one being the spread of the Islamic terrorism. 

This novel has done a wonderful job in narrating a story revolving around the Islamic terrorism and Islamic State in a very impartial and unprejudiced manner.

It's amazing to even fathom the premise of the book. There’s a family from Pakistan that has preserved ancient carpet motifs for thousands of years, even unknown to their members. Afsar, a renowned linguistic paleontologist, and a distinguished member of the family, suddenly realizes that the carpet motifs have a lot hidden behind them. That a seemingly harmless thing like the designs of a carpet can reveal a sinister plan hatched by a group of religious fanatics – a plan that aims at creating a turmoil of unprecedented proportions in the country – is itself something that can make a reader awestruck. 

The book, apart from everything else, is just amazing because of the suspense, and wow factor it evokes at every point, starting from its background, themes, locations, people and the myriad topics it takes you through.

There are number of threads running parallelly all along the narrative, and the deft handling of the complex disciplines like linguistics, archaeology, palaeography, epigraphy, mathematics, music etc. The four main threads in the book are: the Islamic State penetrating into India; a carpet with its mysterious motifs; an interesting take on the history of the Indian peoples, languages and cultures; and finally, Aryabhata, the mathematician himself. The amount of effort that has been put in presenting facts and figures authentically is indeed a commendable task. A lot of research has gone behind it. 

Spanning across the civilizational backdrops of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, this is an ambitious piece of fiction, especially because it deals with rapidly spreading terrorism among educated youth in the subcontinent. In the light of recent terror attacks in Bangladesh where affluent and educated young men were involved in hideous acts of terrorism, this theme is one readers will be able to identify with. 

The novel is about the struggle of Kubha, a feisty student of JNU who gets abducted by Islamic terrorists. Born to a Muslim mother and a Hindu father, Kubha knows a lot about these two religions and has the maturity to perceive that all religions are the same and are basically for good. She manages to escape from captivity with immense strength and her ability to decode various plans which her abductors execute for her. Aided with her knowledge in ancient Islamic and Hindu cryptology, her journey towards freedom shows how the conflicting religions go back to the same roots, therein making all inter-religious animosities futile.

She has been put through the most inhuman ordeal. She is gang raped by the Islamist fundamentals, a group affiliated to the Islamic State. Still for a moment, she doesn’t lose her calm. She endures everything and even risks her own life, just for the sake of her country. She’s the epitome of womanhood, loving & emotional, courageous & intelligent, tender & sensitive, expressive & possessive.

A thoroughly gripping book which has every page of it embossed with a riveting experience, depth and vastness of many complex threads. Fantastic storytelling with the right mix of flow and content. A lot of takeaways and a definite must-read for all in this age of genre blending of fiction and non fiction. This book has a remarkable hold over a big canvas, in terms of time, place, characters. It was a great experience reading this novel, which is quite an impressive feat.

You sort of get a hang of it slowly, as the plot proceeds. You're hooked. Though there are many characters, and at the beginning you may tend to get a little confused, but with some time and effort you do get into the skin of each characters. Even smaller characters have definite roles. I feel few characters could have been curtailed a bit, for the ease of readers.

There are not many Indian writings which take a middle path. And that’s what is adopted by Sudipto in his debut novel. Very wonderfully he has presented the Indian history in a very authentic way, without getting swayed away or being preachy. In most places he has implicitly provided authentic sources. 

VERDICT : A very well written novel with a fantastic story line. Gripping, unabashedly truthful, authentic, emotional – a fabulous thriller. A wonderful story teller. Keeps you hooked till the end. An amazing amount of study and research done by the writer.

RATING : 4.5/5 

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