Book Review: THE DIARY of MRITYUNJAYA by GS Subbu

The author begins the book by telling the reader a little about the setting of the story – it is set in 2013 during the Kedarnath floods. He explains the choice of names for his characters which are symbolic of the lives they’ve lead. Its an interesting way to name characters because it makes it easier for the reader to remember their personal stories as the story progresses. The protagonist’s name is ‘Mrityunjaya,’ (literally means ‘conquerer of death’ in Sanskrit). True to the name, he survives the floods while many others lose their lives.

Book Cover

The book cover designed by the author’s daughter is perfect. It very subtly shows death looming in the background over a temple. Death is represented as Lord Shiva. This is obvious from the vibhuti (3 horizontal lines of ash) on his forehead. The temple in orange is Kedarnath where the story takes birth. Escaping death, as if running away in the dark is the image of a man who I think is Mrityunjaya, the protagonist. His character and nature reminded me of all those people for whom life comes easy and therefore look for an escape route in the name of spirituality or finding meaning to life.

The Story

I found the first chapter intriguing and fast paced. It spoke about a girl called Ahalya who has had a failed relationship (her story is perfectly in line with the current times of live-in relationships). She meets Mrityunjaya and over a period of time develops a fondness for him and even shares her truth with him. I liked the depiction of Ahalya’s character and the manner in which her parents support her through her failed relationship. That came as a fresh breath of air. It is in the first chapter that we are told that Mrityunjaya has gone missing. I assumed that the rest of the book would involve the search for Mrityunjaya and finding out if he was alive or dead. However in the second chapter we find out the whereabouts of Mrityunjaya. After the second chapter, I had no idea what the rest of the 170 pages in the book would be about. The mystery of missing Mrityunjaya had been solved rather quickly. It was this curiosity that made me continue reading. Physically Mrityunjaya had been found but mentally he was still lost. The rest of the book talks about how he finds himself. This finding is beautifully narrated. The reader is sure to find a few answers himself as the story progresses. The book took me on a pilgrimage of sorts and I mean it in a good way.

It was something like what I would expect from John Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s progress.’ Mrityunjaya’s interactions with the other characters in the book provide the different paths to the attainment of one goal – path to salvation. Through a Guru that Mrityunjaya meets on the way, the author implies that its fine to go in search of salvation but in order to do that one must give up all worldly pleasures and must be free of responsibilities. Fulfilling one’s duties in the normal course of life is also a way to attain salvation. Over the course of the story, Mrityunjaya realizes that he is not ready to give up his career as a famous writer, his relationship with his family and his friends. And that running away from those who care is akin to betrayal. All the characters have been vividly described and it was easy to picture each of them. Life on the foothills of the Himalayas in the ashram was explained so realistically that I imagined myself there. Never having visited any of the pilgrimage sites mentioned in the book, it served as an interesting travelogue for me. I have added the places – Banaras has been on my bucket list, i’ve added Rishikesh too.

I found glimpses of Paulo Coelho in the writing. It was like reading the Indian version of ‘The Alchemist’ and yet the manner in which the story was told was unique. The language is simple. The writing and quotes used by the author are thought provoking. I liked the character of Peter the best. I found him more evolved than Mrityunjaya as a person.

What the author says about the book

On 16 June 2013, the temple town of Kedarnath was devastated by the floodwaters of the Mandakini and the Saraswathi due to heavy rains in the area and the overflow from the Chorabari lake. Hundreds of people lost their lives, and more were reported missing, not to talk about the near-total decimation of what was once a thriving temple town. It’s in the backdrop of this disaster that the story of Mrityunjay is set. Mrityunjay, who is on a search for meaning in life, comes face to face with his mortality. 

It’s also the story of Ahalya who suffers from the trauma of betrayal in her earlier relationships and finds in Mrityunjay the redeemer who gives a new direction to her life. 

Apart from the slew of characters who form part of Mrityunjay’s journey, the river plays an important role in the book. The creative force of its serenity and the destructive nature of its turbulence on its journey to merge with the ocean are but allegorical representations of our journey through life.

Does Mrityunjay find what he is searching for? 

Rating

I give the book 5 stars for the content, the language, the flow and the dexterity with which fiction, myth and philosophy has been brought together to give the reader something to chew on.

Audience

The book as I said earlier is for those who are curious about life – for readers of the Chicken Soup series or those who liked Robin Sharma’s ‘The Monk who sold his Ferrari.’ For those who are not aware of places of pilgrimage, the saints, the ashrams, the book provides a bird’s eye view of it. The book is not religious. It’s a spiritual journey that is not restricted to Indian readers alone because there is a glossary at the end with the meaning of the words in Sanskrit. On the whole its a book worth reading especially for those who like knowing about different cultures and faiths.

Like to have

A map showing his journey as it would help the reader to visualize Mrityunjaya’s journey better but its not a show-stopper especially since one can easily google it these days.

The book is available on Amazon India https://www.amazon.in/DIARY-MRITYUNJAY-GS-SUBBU/dp/1649517149 at Rs.225.00

It is also available on Kindle for Rs.125 and Kindle Unlimited its free.

If reading is your thing during the lockdown and you’re open to trying new authors then download this book. Would love to know what you think of it.

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