Sunday, September 23, 2012

Book Review - The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi

Five Thousand Years ago and Today. Ashwin Sanghi in his characteristic style weaves a story that blends mythology, fact and fiction. A huge amount of research is sprinkled liberally in the whole novel that adds to the story and sometimes confounds the reader.  After a chartbuster Chanakya’s Chant, Ashwin Sanghi writes on similar lines juxtaposing two parallel stories of a long bygone past of thousands of years ago and the present day.

The Story (or Stories I should say)
Two stories are included in this novel – The first one is the familiar story of Krishna as narrated by Krishna Himself. This story precedes the present day story in every chapter. The second story is set in the present day and revolves around a thrilling mystery unraveled by professor and historian Ravi Mohan Saini around the ‘Krishna Key’.

The second story that is new to us starts with a ruthless assassin murdering a scientist Varshney who was at that very moment engaged in deciphering a cryptic ancient seal with three ancient animal motifs.  Varshney’s old friend Saini unfortunately visits him before his murder and is accused of his murder. The story zips along with Saini fleeing from the police with his trusted accomplice and student, Priya in tow.

Saini discovers that the killer is after the four seals that Varshney had been killed for. Fortunately, three of the seals were entrusted to him and two others scientists. These four formed a set of four or the ‘Krishna Key’ that could lead to a priceless legacy left by Krishna.

The reader gets introduced to the killer who is a protégé of a mysterious ‘Mataji’. The killer has grown up believing himself to be Vishnu’s tenth avatar, the Kalki Avatar but commits the crimes unflinchingly as instructed by his ‘Mataji’. The competent police office Radhika Singh and her subordinate Rathore are hot on Saini’s trail as he tries to decipher the cryptic clues, prevent more murders from happening and identify Varshney’s killer.

The story flits across diverse locations of the desert in Kalibangan, under sea ruins of Dwarka, the icy peaks of the Himalayas, the milky white Taj Mahal and the lingam of Somnath. A trailer that is released on YouTube also highlights these locations.

My opinion
I enjoyed the book for the fast paced story and many of the facts drawn from Sanghi’s research.  His research explained that the mythical river Sarswati might have watered the Indus Valley Civilization, and that the Mahabharata really did happen. It was also revealed that the ancient city of Dwarka may have been built on reclaimed land and is now submerged under water.
However, the large amount of research that was presented in this book was its biggest failing. I grant that the author has been thorough in his research BUT, way too much of the research has been dumped on the unsuspecting reader.  It is almost as though he wanted to tell us everything that he had researched whether or not it had too much bearing to the story.  Some crisp editing might indeed have helped.

The other grouse I have is that I could not follow right to the end the supposed parallel between the two story lines. Unlike his previous work Chanakya’s Chant where the old and the new stories comingle with ease, I had to re-read the two stories but could still not make out the parallel tracks for many. If Sanghi wanted to narrate the story of Krishna, he might as well have written a separate book on it.  

Many had already called Ashwin Sanghi the Indian Dan Brown in this book, a comparison I tried hard to ignore. By and by, unfortunately, the similarities grew and the feeling of inspiration from the Da Vinci Code was unshakeable.  Although, as a Hindu mythology buff, reading a story in a more familiar context was enjoyable nevertheless.

My Verdict
With its fast pace, diverse locations, and ample thriller elements, this book is definitely written as a script for a movie. I would give it a 3.5 stars on 5. Read it, but be prepared to be confounded by a sea of research that might send you scurrying to Google to verify facts!

To check out the you-tube trailer of the book see -

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