‘Shunya’ by Sri M – A Book Review

Over the years, there have been very few books of fiction that have left a profound impact on me. The blog has been lying dormant for a fair while for the want of something concrete to write. Do I write about my recurring visits to the hospital with my mother vacillating between critical and extremely critical or about the failure of finding purpose in life! No one cares about reading dull verse masquerading as poetry of the soul. Political commentary and sports analysis has its own perils. So what does one do? Write about a good book. No further boring you my dear readers. Let’s head into the book right away.

‘Shunya’ is the first work of fiction by Sri M. Sri M is someone whom I was not aware of and when I signed up for the book review program from the good folks of Westland India, I did up a fair bit of reading on him and was quite intrigued.

Blurb of the book:

He appears out of nowhere in a sleepy little neighbourhood in suburban Kerala. He calls himself Shunya, the zero. Who is he? A lunatic? A dark magician? A fraud? Or an avadhuta, an enlightened soul?

Saami—as they call him—settles into a small cottage in the backyard of the local toddy shop. Here he spins parables, blesses, curses, drinks endless glasses of black tea and lives in total freedom. On rare occasions, he plays soul-stirring melodies on his old, bamboo-reed flute.

Then, just as mysteriously as he arrived, Shunya vanishes, setting the path for a new avadhuta, a new era.

This first novel by Sri M is a meditation on the void which collapses the wall between reality and make-believe, the limited and the infinite. With its spare storytelling and profound wisdom, it leads us into the realm of ‘shunya’, the nothingness of profound and lasting peace, the beginning and end of all things.

Set in a village near Trivandrum in Kerala. The book chronicles the tale of an enlightened soul Shunya who lands up in the village unannounced. We meet interesting characters like a toddy-shop owner who is scared out of his wits at their first meeting. The shop-owner offers him a place to stay and then numerous changes happen in the village. We are introduced to different characters in the village and how Shunya Swami’s arrival has a lasting impact on the lives of the villagers. We also have visitors like Kumar who becomes the Swami’s protege, Diana, Bob, the politician who is skeptical at the beginning, the Namboodiri, the young lovers from two different communities, the corrupt church-conversion tout. The list of characters goes on.

This book has a fair bit of philosophy woven into it and works quite well for those looking for an introduction to a ‘path’ or wisdom. The ending seems rushed and was the only weak point for me in the whole book.

I would recommend this book for lovers of fiction and spirituality. Go for the book, you won’t be disappointed.

Buy from Amazon

Happy reading and till we meet again – May you find what you seek 🙂

 

 

 

 

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As the River Flows By…

Well Mahesh, what is it that you want to do?

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Are you happy with what you are doing?

Some questions that I keep getting asked every once in a while. I have been in the industry for 12 years now. An IT-job or ITES-job to be precise. I was part of a batch of campus recruits, way back in 2005. We were a bunch of 18 pushed into the fascinating world of Instructional Design. Every single one of them has gone on to build a powerful and focused CV with some brilliant achievements. One of the batch mates is at the Associate VP-level now Training & Development. Others are at a similar rung high up in the corporate hierarchy. Their salaries have breached the INR 10 lakhs an annum bracket a long time back. I am nowhere close to the fancy numbers that parents of prospective brides mention on matrimonial profiles!

Here I am sitting, typing out this blog at the end of a day’s work wondering what am I doing with my life? In 27 days from now, I will turn 35. I still don’t know what my purpose or goal in life is! At a superficial level, one is to ensure that the home loan gets paid without any issue. Roughly 15 years to go at the current rate! I know I can’t help change destiny in terms of the health of family-members, time will take its own course of action.

This little space on the Internet has become a place to vent out my anger, frustration, growing disillusionment with the things that I see, the people whom I meet, what I hear, what I experience. There are so many uses of “I” in the previous sentence. When does one let go of the “I”?

What is it that I intend to do with this gift of life that I have wrested with the Grim Reaper a fair number of times? I am sure there is some purpose or reason why I managed to survive despite being given up for the dead multiple times. But what is that reason? What is the purpose of this existence?

These roles that are thrust upon by birth, the name, caste, colour, creed all arriving due to genetics and birth at a particular place and time; what purpose do they serve?? No answers, only questions! In the process of self-enquiry, I have only found myself being ridiculed and branded a half-baked nutcase. Stack after stack of books are read, ideas assimilated, but the search for the one truth, the one spiritual master who can offer the gift of enlightenment continues… One wonders is it possible to find salvation and redemption without a Guru?

The answer is definitely not 42 this time around!

Look inwards….till you find the beam of light and hold onto it!

 

Come September

It is about five minutes past four in the afternoon or early evening, as I sit down to type this. A lot has happened in the last two months. Equations have changed, daggers drawn, daggers sheathed back, trust broken, trust regained, friends lost, friends gained, friends lost forever. It has been a strange two months, in more ways than one. I have shifted jobs after nearly six years of service in one organisation. At the new place of work, there is a lot to learn and implement, gain the trust and respect of colleagues, plan things, get work done, a lot of trust has been placed upon me and every single time from day one, the biggest fear has been that I will let down the ones who trust me the most. For all that I remember, the fear of failure and ridicule has driven me a lot in everything that I have done for the longest time that I can remember. I have been pushed to the corner literally and figuratively many a time and I have overcome challenges to focus on life.

This year so far has drained me out tremendously, I started the year with hope that I would set things right on the personal front, but everything that I do has returned to torment me like an evil nightmare that never stops. I thought I made peace with my past, but by some weird coincidence a bit of my past comes back and again I have to run, speak to people, calm things down. Friends have always appreciated my phenomenal memory power, but I seem to be forgetting a lot. The day I saw “Thanmatra” I was sure that I would go down Rameshan Nair’s way and like a weird premonition the memory lapses are recurring, a favourite book, a movie or a song, or an answer to a question or an important phone number, things are fading. The mirror does not lie, I try to run a bit the knees hurt, gradual exercise, patient breathing, controlled diet, nothing works, the waist expands like India’s economic debt.

For over 20 years, I have believed that I will write a novel of consequence, something that will be a treasured piece, but all I have managed to do is create a pseudo-aura of a pontificating puritan who just finds errors in what others write. When others come to me for advice, I wonder – “What do you see in me; that ensures you that you have come to the right person?” – I keep these thoughts to myself and help others.

No point in harping about Amma as she keeps vacillating between ill, very ill and forever bossing me around to get things done at home! One fine day, I am just going to stop, point at the sky, say “God told me to stop listening to you”, look at her and say, “I have a life as well”. As you know very well, all this is imagination and will never turn to reality.

Externally everything seems fine, but internally there is a deep-rooted melancholy at the inevitable tragedy that the visions foretell.

Come September,

Come embrace me,

In your comfort,

Far away in a world,

Where light and cheer spreads,

Flowers bloom and brooks babble,

Away from the madness,

Of the mundane chores,

Of an existential crisis,

And a battle for survival,

I hope to find peace.

Here’s wishing you a positive, fun-filled, productive and awesome September!

Songs of the Mist by Shashidhar Sharma – A Video Review

Dear Readers,

This hopefully would be the first in line of many video reviews of books and movies that I will put up on the blog.

Without further ado, my video review of Shashidhar Sharma’s first book in the Monk Key Trilogy – “Songs of the Mist”.

Special thanks to Vinod Velayudhan of VV Photography.

We also shot a brief interview 🙂

 

Buy the book – http://www.amazon.in/Songs-Mist-1-Monk-Key/dp/935206562X

Do share your valuable thoughts!

 

“Songs of the Mist” by Shashi

These are trying times wherein everyone is being questioned about roles, designations, rules and ‘conflict of interest’.  I had the chance to beta-read end edit a manuscript by fellow CBC-member and India’s leading spiritual blogger – Shashi – “Songs of the Mist”.

I was captivated by the manuscript. No two thoughts about it – it was good. The challenge was to structure and rephrase words in a way that would appeal to the younger generation for whom the book is primarily written. I am happy to say that to a fair extent amidst various contributors, we have done an extremely good job!

The contributors include Nandhitha Hariharan and Rajesh Venugopalan.

The book is a love story cum spiritual journey. Ashutosh, Ayan, Calliope, Anishka, and the elusive monk are the key characters.The tale goes back and forth and in time and the description of the Himalayas transports you to the snow-capped peaks. I do not wish to reveal a lot about the plot

The book incorporates the essence of the Song Divine – the Bhagvat Gita and is the first in the “Monk Key” series. It is one man’s search for his true identity and his quest to sort out for once and for all the purpose of his creation in the bigger scheme of things! All the people whom he meets in this journey, their conversations and their intertwined lives get featured in the book.

You can buy the book here –

I also attended a reading of the book last Friday at the Leela Palace in Chennai it was graced by Timeri Murari renowned novelist and playwright. There was a Carnatic Music performance and display of paintings as well. It was a wonderful event.

Lovely pics from the event can be seen here- shot by the legendary fine arts enthusiast Jothivel Moorthi – http://www.jovemac.in/songs-of-the-mist-book-reading/

 

 

Shivan – A Friend

 

My sister and I are separated by a gap of 12 years. I was born to my mother after a lot of prayers. My parents completed a pilgrimage to Kashi and that is when an aghori stopped my parents near the ghats one evening and said to my mother – “Maai, bholenath aayenge!”

A month after this incident my mother discovered that she was pregnant. I was born after a long complicated surgery and the doctors at Portland Hospital Calcutta were sure that I was a gone case as I showed no big signs of life. It is joked that the doctor on duty gently pinched my butt and I wailed away to glory announcing my presence to the world!

This post is about my deep connect with Shivan, he is a friend to me. Be it as Kabali Mama at Mylapore or the mountain of enlightenment in the form of Arunachaleshwarar at Tiruvanamalai; he is an integral part of my life. When I was younger, I used to go into trances and my mother was scared about these incidents. I would chatter incoherently, babbling in a strange tongue. At a point in time, I was deemed to be possessed, rituals and ceremonies were conducted and in their own strange way they calmed me down.

To this day there are people in the extended family, who shy away from meeting me, because inadvertently I blurt out who is going to pop away next, the elders are all dead scared to see me!

The point of this post is that religion and spirituality are two different things. Rituals and ceremonies have their own role and significance. Doing them or not doing them is left to the individual. What matters is a kind and understanding heart and the ability and will to help.

Feeding one poor and hungry soul with one meal or a biscuit packet is far better than spending money on one litre of milk, flowers and fruits for an idol of stone. Shivan knows best, he loves those who help others unconditionally.

Don’t confuse religion and spirituality. All paths lead to the Supreme Force – these names, these religions, these books, scriptures, rules and rituals are all defined by humans only. In the process of traditions and emotional blackmail by family-members one ends up doing a lot of things! Stick to what you are comfortable with!

Life goes on!!!

A Vision of Mother Mary

Ever since I can remember, I have had dreams when I sleep. Some have been pleasant, many have been nightmares and some well just plain unexplainable.

Last Saturday on May 24, I returned home quite late and after a very late dinner I fell asleep at about 11:30 PM in the night. I don’t know what happened but I had a beautiful dream. I was walking in a forest-like area and I came to a small stream, the stream had sparkling clear water. As I was thirsty, I went to the stream and cupped some water in my hands and drank from the stream. I was very tired and I decided to rest. I rested under a tree, looking at the stream. Suddenly on the other bank of the stream I saw a benevolent lady in a white gown-like dress with a blue scarf-like wrap on her shoulders and she was smiling at me. This is when I woke up!

I did not understand this on Sunday morning and dismissed the dream! I had this dream again on Sunday night. On Monday, on reaching office, I ran some key-word searches on dreams and visions of old benevolent women. What I found indeed surprised me and as I dug deeper and deeper; I think I really saw Mother Mary in my dream. The dream repeated on Monday night as well and I also wrote a short story with Mother Mary’s benevolence and miracle as the central theme!

By birth and by my practicing faith I am an orthodox Hindu Brahmin, but I visit all centres of religion be it a mosque, a church or a monastery and have picked the best nuggets from all major books of various religions.

Can any of my readers please guide me on what this dream and vision means?

I look forward to your valuable thoughts!