First off, let me clarify that I am a complete mythological and historical-fantasy buff. I’d read anything that has even the merest mention of it, so it isn’t any wonder that Harappa happened over the weekend.
The book is part of series which focuses on an ancient bloodline which apparently holds the secret to man’s destruction. In a twist, the ones who carry this bloodline are actually the good guys and the bad guys are well… some mysterious European organization.
It starts off a little incoherently with far too many scene switches, each of which is unnecessarily detailed.
It doesn’t improve much when the protagonist is introduced, he is shown to be so blessed and perfect, that I immediately disliked him, even to the point of hating him. Which is actually a genius move by the author, Vineet Bajpai.
Yes, you read that right, by making you envious of the protagonist in the first pages, Bajpai sets you up perfectly for the dark revelations which happen later in the book. Don’t worry I ain’t going to reveal them here and spoil your fun.
But this little plot is an indication of the great storyline that Bajpai has created in Harappa.
It is difficult for me to actually review the storyline in the book as it is incomplete, being part of a series. However, everything I have read so far has been rather engrossing and has me crying the lament of every reader who encounters a cliffhanger!
Vidyut, the protagonist, who begins as an abnormally blessed man slowly metamorphoses into someone you can understand and empathize with and before long you find yourself rooting for him as the author intended.
In Harappa, the storyline barely skims the surface of what seems to be a far-reaching conspiracy which has its roots in ancient India. Not much is told about the motivations of the antagonists, who consist of a sinister organization and hired serial killers but that only adds to the longing for the sequel. (it better come out soon!)
But what really makes this book so engrossing for me are the tidbits of information and opinions that Vineet Bajpai raises on the subjects connected to the book. Delving deep into the meaning of the Hindu religion and history of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, he brings to light a number of very relevant questions throughout the book.
While unabashedly catering to the Hindutva hordes with his repeated assertions that Hinduism was the first religion, Bajpai also cleverly chastens them.
He puts forth the idea that Hinduism, in its purest form was a religion that valued women equal to if not greater than men. One of the great examples he took to illustrate this point is when the character of Purohit ji points out that no other religion in the world, worships men and female deities together. Christianity does make much of Mother Mary but she is always the forgiving mother not the omnipotent, devta/asura-killer like the goddesses of Hinduism. He also raises questions on the moral policing which is oh-so-prevalent today in Hinduism, according to the book, Hindus were supposed to be the forerunners of Buddhism in a very live-and-let-live way.
Also, I was happy to note that while the author did take historical liberties with the actual functioning of the Indus Valley Civilization, the rest of the facts were just that, facts. However a major complaint that I have with Harappan sections are the dilution of the language. It is not possible for the Harappans to say “Okay that didn’t work.” Statements like these really jarred me from the narrative and I truly wish he hadn’t adopted quite such a casual Americanized tone for the Harappan spoken word.
But such a complaint is, perhaps, not one that everyone would share. After all, its my tendency to pay extra attention to the linguistics of any book, most of the readers I believe would enjoy the conversational tone of Harappa.
All in all I rate it 3.5 out 5 stars.
It’s definitely worth a read but here’s hoping for some attention to detail and some conciseness in the sequel.