Title : Bali and the Ocean of Milk
Author : Nilanjan P. Choudhury
Publisher : Harper Collins
ISBN : 978-93-5029-125-2
A fiction (The Immortals of Meluha) blew me off completely last year by the sheer magic of its originality of the plot and it did leave a lasting impression on me. I am glad I picked 'Bali and the Ocean of Milk' up, which made me relive some of that wonderful experience once again.
Indrah is gripped in the fearsome fangs of ageing and he seeks the help of the holy trinity to attain back his youthfulness and his omnipotence. His Asura counterpart Bali has his own set of issues too. Many threats are looming large on Bali - from some disgruntled powers within his own territory as well as from the all time enemies, Gods. And a very cleverly planned assassination attempt on him brings to fore the failure of his invincible protective cordon. But there is only one elixir which is the answer to all problems that Bali and Indrah face and that is the Nectar. To extract the same, Ocean of Milk has to be churned by two opposite powers - Devas and Asuras with the assistance of tortoise incarnation of Viru and under the supervision of Jai. The narrative vacillates between Indrah's empire - Amravati and Bali's dominion - Tripura.
The story has everything - treachery, vengeance, tables turning, switching sides, power lust and much more. The intelligence of such authors is evident from the way they create a fictional background yet integrate the same so seamlessly with the well known facts and beliefs such as the Big Bang in this case. The author has clothed the story of manthan in a completely new avatar with contemporary touch by - incorporating political references, astutely naming the churning process - Operation Ocean's Twelve and including the lingo of prevailing times in the narrative - facebook, mobile phone cameras, animal rights violation, low-fat milk and most interesting of all, Indrah having to use hair colour - Molten Midnight by So'Real.
First 2/3rd of the book is a treat to read through - the setting of scenes, the building of characters, the amalgamation of modern age vocabulary with mythology, the witticism, the wackiness, the humour, everything is just perfect.
The initial setting is exceptionally impressive to such an extent that the expectations of readers soar too high for the climax and conclusion but I found the latter part not living upto the expectations. Not that there is any flaw in that part of the story, its just that the remaining 1/3rd fades a little in comparison to the initial section of the book which raises the bar too high. Another grouse that I have against the author or the story is - a very fleeting description of The Destroyer of the famous holy trinity - christened as Jai here. (I think the author is one of the strong patrons of 'Sholay' movie !?) The other being Sambha - the creator (I wonder why he did not pick Gabbar as the creator) and Viru - the preserver.
There are not many occasions when we get to read good English written by an Indian author and I was mightily impressed by the selection of words, phrases and overall expression of Nilanjan. The editor has done a remarkable job too and not a single sentence seems redundant in the whole narration. A true page turner. My compliments to a new rising star in the Indian literary firmament. I surely will look forward to reading more written by NPC.