A debut novel of grit and style
The Quest of Gold, Atul Sehgal, Ocean Books Pvt Ltd, Pp 184, Rs 250.00
This is a fiction in which the protagonist is Rajeev Prakash, who is nicknamed Raju by his parents, who hail from a low middle-class family of Delhi. Raju is their youngest child. Both his elder siblings have done well in life while Raju is made of different stuff. He is fiercely independent and adventurous, being invariably dissatisfied with stereotypes. He is turned off by narrow and conservative attitudes and loves being a free bird. For him, life does not mean treading a beaten track as a 16-year old. He completes his schooling and subsequently his college to obtain a Bachelor of Commerce degree. One day he sees an advt in the newspapers on a vacancy in an export house. He approaches the concerned person for a job at this export house called Vishal Overseas as a documentation assistant. Here his routine is hard and strenuous.
While working here, he becomes a permanent employee and gets to meet an American buyer called Peter Brown. He starts his own business on encouragement from Peter Brown and by the age of 24, Raju is a well-established businessman with an average monthly income which is five times more than that of his professionally qualified elder brother Arun.
Money changes things and Raju’s style of living undergoes a metamorphosis. Business by now becomes a game of contacts. He gets to know a young girl of 20 called Radhika, who is a cousin of his best friend Anil. Their horoscopes are matched but the priest says that only 13 gunas (traits) match when it should be 16 for approval of a marriage. Raju in his blunt fashion tells the priest, “Panditji, how much donation would you accept to give the proposal the green signal?” Though shocked at Raju’s bluntness, the priest gives in to the lure of money. Raju realises that “money makes the mare go; whether it has legs or not!” Ultimately Raju and Radhika get married.
This is the story of how determination and sheer hard work help an ambitious and hardworking individual to rise high in life and become a wealthy businessman. But after having realised his childhood ambition of acquiring wealth, he experiences a void within, which wealth cannot fill. He turns to politics to serve the destitute and have-nots, but meets stiff resistance to his plans and actions from the corrupt political and bureaucratic class.
(Ocean Books Pvt Ltd, 4/19, Asaf Ali Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi– 110 002; www.ocenanbooks.in)
Son of Hamas, Mosab Hassan Yousef with Ron Brackin, Jaico Books, Pp 284, Rs 295.00
Before reviewing the book, it may be remembered that after the World War I ended, the Palestinian territories, the national home of the Palestinian people for centuries, fell under the mandate of Great Britain and the British government. With its unusual notion for the area, the British government stated in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, “His Majesty’s Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine a national home for the Jewish people.” Encouraged by the British government, hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants, mostly from Eastern Europe, flooded into Palestinian territories. Clashes between Arabs and Jews were inevitable. Israel became a state in 1948. However, the Palestinian territories remained just that – non-sovereign territories, without a constitution to maintain a semblance of order and the religious law became the highest statutory and everyone was free to interpret and practice the law as he deemed fit. As a result, since then, chaos has ensued. In this book, we get to know about the life of Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of Sheikh Hassan Youssef, who was a charismatic founding leader of Hamas, internationally recognised as a terrorist organisation responsible for countless suicide bombings and other attacks against Israel. Mosab, the oldest of five brothers and three sisters, was born in Ramallah, a city 10 kms north of Jerusalem. As his father’s eldest son, he was seen as his heir-apparent and became an important part of the Hamas organisation. In this book, the author and the protagonist reveal the amazing double life that Youssef led while trying to prevent the killing of innocents by working with Hamas’ enemies. He decided to accept the Shin Bet approach and became an informant. Since his release from prison in 1997 and till 2007 he worked as an undercover agent for Israel’s security service. (Jaico Publishing House A-2 Jash Chambers, 7-ASir Phirozshah Mehta Road, Fort, Mumbai – 400001; www.jaicobooks.com)
Meditation removes mental fetters
Daily Meditation on the Divine Spiritual Life, Dr BN Mathur (compiler), Devotees of Swamiji Maharaj, Pp 426, free distribution
In this book, Swamiji Maharaj highlights the importance of meditation and its multifarious benefits in the form of reducing physical and mental strain, improving health and fitness, enhancing sound sleep which is conducive to a positive and optimistic attitude to life, removing mental fetters – negativities; improving relationships and conveying an overall sense of well-being and happiness. According to Swamiji, in the midst of the above-mentioned benefits of meditation, the highest goal is God realisation and that is the focus of all the utterances of Swamiji.Swamiji offers very simple and practical methods of meditation for each of the 31 days in a month and these can be followed even by lay persons. He says that leading a life based on noble principles, one should eliminate one’s negative traits one by one. Adoption of a moderate diet regulates breathing by resorting to pranapan samriti. One needs to sit in solitude as it helps in meditating and reaping rewards in plenty. Swamiji’s mediation has its roots in the Advaita-Vedanta philosophy of Adi Shankaracharya and is reflected in the teachings of Jiddu Krishnamurti and Sri Aurobindo “as well as the Buddhist forms of meditations, such as Zen and Vipassana.” Incidentally the Buddhists have developed dhyana or zazen with great precision like Swamiji. His technique of mindful respiration (pranapan samriti) is quite like anapanasati as practiced in Buddhist mediation. Swamiji goes beyond formal meditation and advises that meditation should be made a way of life. He emphasises the following points as requisites for a meditative life: •Healthy and simple living•Mindful respiration •Regular practice of solitude•Study of good books and cultivation of noble thoughts•Contemplation and introspection•Conscious renunciation of negative attitudes and vices •Conscious substitution of positive attitudes and virtues•Choiceless awarenessHe chalks out the plan for meditation, food, sleep, exercise, etc. from day one to the thirty-first of the month to explain that overeating, over-indulgence in sensual pleasures, over-activity, tend to weaken and exhaust the body.(GC Garg, 99, Preet Nagar, Ambala City–134 003)