The Alchemist of the East is an enchanting saga of gaining wisdom, following one’s heart and, above all, chasing one’s dreams. This is a story of Sushyo, a toy maker from Mesopotamia who wishes to travel all over the world and spread the message of peace and joyousness. From his home in the city of Nineveh, on the banks of river Tigris, he voyages to the land of seven rivers, Melhua. What unfolds is an adventure of epic proportion with his destiny throwing at him, one challenge after another, probing him in the most frightful manner. An apocalyptic encounter with the Alchemist of the East prepares him for the road ahead. As events occur rapidly, the boy finds himself a part of a legacy for which he will have to face up to the ruler of Arianna, Queen Kassandrra, in an epic battle on the banks of river Helmand.
I’ve read Aporva Kala only once earlier and the best thing I like about his works is the simplicity in writing. There isn’t a barrage of difficult-to-pronounce words or complicated sentences that send you in a tizzy for the dictionary. While Life…Love…Kumbh was more of a journey than a concrete story, Alchemist of the East is a full grown novel that blends history with mystique.
The book begins with Sushyo, a teenage toy maker from Mesopotamia tragically losing his mother. He embarks on a life altering journey, one that is essential for his survival and evolution as a human being. Sushyo sails on a ship to a faraway land, gets into a confrontation with the Captain of the ship and finally wins his trust. Fate takes him to a gurukul where he meets his calling of toy making. He learns the art and the fine tunings of it. And yet, there’s something else in store for his future, something from his past that suggests he could be the next king of Alexandria. Will Sushyo be a toy maker when he becomes an adult or will e really be the king, defeating Queen Kassandra in an epic battle and avenge the death of his parents?
The story in Life…Love…Kumbh… is told from the perspective of the three main characters- Annant, Agastaya, and Aditi. Their paths cross on January 13, 2010. It is the day before the first of the eleven sacred baths of the Haridwar Maha Kumbh. The three characters meet each other and exchange their stories. They remember the days gone by and are unsure about what lies ahead. As the Kumbh Mela draws towards an end, all three of them are thrown into a challenging situation that they have to face. The book then follows their journey as they try and find answers for their personal quests all at the same time – on life, love, and the thirst for knowledge.
What would you expect from a book about Life..Love and Kumbh? Philosophy, for one. Spirituality, the next, perhaps. The author himself had cautioned that it is a difficult read, which was the main reason I didn’t want to rush through the book. Not having read adequate number of books on Kumbh, and having read arguably one of the best among them (Amrito Kumbher Sandhane, Bangla, by Kaalkut), I had my own expectations. A fellow blogger had joked a few days back about Bengalis reading on all possible topics in Bangla and finding everything else predictable. I wouldn’t argue much. My apologies, if I have rated another book on the same topic higher.
First and foremost, this is one book where I have no complaint with the content, but I was put off by the form. There are typographical and grammatical errors in the first few pages and it continues well beyond. I don’t know if the editors hadn’t touched the manuscript at all. The punctuation is clumsy, too many short sentences are clustered to form a huge one and the reader is bound to get lost at the end of each sentence. I am not fond of such style of writing, it strains my eyes as well as my psyche. Something I didn’t like – an obvious mistake “Ekla Chalo be..”, which would surely irk a lot of people, Bengalis aside. It is also purposefully quite incoherent to extract the essence of chaos. I particularly loved the chapter ‘Morning Snaps’ for its sheer detailing and flavour of the Kumbh. It made me yearn for more chapters of its like, thus reflecting the author’s competence in this genre.