Friday, April 12, 2013

Book review: Tantra


I was a part of that generation that grew up watching sitcoms like Friends, Silver Spoon, Who’s the Boss? or for the more taxing to the imagination, the likes of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. Not much into fantasy I was never quite taken up by vampires, or werewolves or their slayers for that matter. It could have been that I was also fairly influenced by my old man’s opinion that these were nothing but American imagination let loose and gone wild.
I have been, since then, of the opinion that Indian mythologies too have their fair share of fantasy and imagination to give the West a run for their money. I accepted it and let it be. Not until I signed up for a book review program for Blogadda where I was asked to review a book by a first-time author, Adi, called Tantra. A few pages into the book I was taken back to my days of sitcom watching years – of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, only in this case it was Anu Aggarwal. Looking at the story objectively, one can pick up strong influences from contemporary fiction, like how Anu was identified as one of a kind and sent off to a special school at a very young age. Far away from home, she found a father–figure in John Drake who walked with her during her those years of training to become one among that elite force. They were the ‘guardians’, the chosen few who protected the world from vampires and such agents of the night and like all ‘chosen fews’ they had to isolate themselves from their families and sever all such ties for it only made them weak. It was like a police academy only that they churned out no-nonsense professional guardians with a reputation for killing the most dangerous vampires in New York City. Leaving not much to the imagination from my previous sentence, the story of course begins in New York where guardian Anu Aggarwal of Indian origin suddenly finds her world thrown out of order when her enemies murder the one person she truly cared about. There is not much detail as to what exactly happens to Brian but a rather forced effort at making the rest of the story, which is mostly all of it, to unfold in India.
The story is a sort of East meets West as Anu tries to fight the darker forces and save the world through her special ability of channelizing her inner forces and ignore the wordly ties that renders her capable of weilding the weapons of the Gods. In the middle of all this the desire for the typical American born ‘desi’ girl coming back to her roots and taking on her Indian tradition and culture head-on story is carried on alongside as a known garnish to this age old recipe of the two hemispheres of the globe coming to terms with each other. There is an effort to make the creatures of the night look cool but I have seen the French do it better. As a debut author, the style of writing is appreciable only that the author’s fascination with Indian myths and legends seems to have gotten the better of it, leaving the story to sort out many of the loose ends. The author seems to be targeting only the urban readers who are exposed to such fiction through television, cinema or sometimes even literature, which is the common trait in most of the debutant authors of the contemporary times. The emergence of the fascinating population of the yuppie crowd has provided many urban authors with a convenient background source for one’s fiction. There is a parallel commentary on the urban youth’s desire for the kind of lifestyle that they prefer to have and yet at the same time trying to balance it out with a generation that is still trying to come to terms with it. Thus we have Anu’s aunty who frets about how Anu must not lose out on a single opportunity to ‘mingle’ among the motley bunch of available singles and finds it perfectly normal to get into the fast lane when it comes to striking the right match with the right guy, while at the same time raises not much of a tantrum with Anu’s odd hours at the office. Of course thanks to the twenty four hours service call centres.
The book has its fiction which, if one takes a look at the blurb at the back of the book, people have found highly engaging and quite a page-turner. But at the same time for readers like us who do not know the author personally or how well-connected he is find it tempting to make parallel observations that the book seems to be a perfect subject of study for. Overall, there is a good build-up to the story and the characterization is quite interesting. Indian readers may not be too surprised to find that the guardians have struck a deal with the vampires to practice self-regulation – a perennial case one comes across on a daily basis in various aspects of life in India. 



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