Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Title: The Krishna Key
Author: Ashwin Sanghi
Publisher: Westland
Pages: 464
My GoodReads Rating: 

Mythology as a motif in modern fiction is in. In The Krishna Key, his third novel, author Ashwin Sanghi marries exhaustive and comprehensive research into India's longest epic and the architecture and history of a bygone era with conclusions that seem outrageously wild and fantastic.

Symbolist Anil Varshney sends four seals discovered at various archaeological sites to four researcher/scientist friends for safekeeping. When placed together, these seals, collectively known as the Krishna key, have the potential to reveal a secret that has been hidden since ancient times. But there are people with wicked intentions who want the secret for themselves.

Ravi Mohan Saini is a professor at St Stephen's College, whose life is propelled by the goal to prove that Krishna was a historical personality, rather than a merely mythological one. When Varshney is found murdered, Saini, the last to see him alive, finds himself a murder suspect.

When the bodies start piling up, Saini must do everythiing he can to outwit the police and discover the truth for himself. The search for that truth leads him on through the most beautiful expanses in the country including the submerged remains of Dwarka and the mysterious lingam of Somnath to Mount Kailash and the Vrindavan temple.

The immensity of the research is amazing and Sanghi even gives us an impressive reference list, including 50 books, 43 papers and articles, 32 blogs and websites and 10 video films and audio tracks, to back the authenticity of his premise and lend it greater credence.

The illustrations, a novelty, turned out to be very helpful, given the numerous enigmatic allusions that the book is peppered with.

I noticed a number of similarities between this and The Taj Conspiracy, especially in the references to the commonality between a Shiv lingam and a nuclear reactor, as also to some of the most controversial claims. I guess that comes from the fact that both books have drawn from history and the urban legends that have arisen from it.

For the most part, the retelling of the Mahabharata holds reader interest, but the tendency of one of the characters, Priya, a doctoral student, to ask basic questions that I could answer just to take the story forward is annoying.

I also found myself getting irritated with the use of the flashback mode. There was no seamless flow from the present to the past and back to the present. Characters randomly and abruptly launch into their back stories just to advance the story forward. The portion in which Saini recalls instances when he should have suspected Priya of duplicity are tedious.

Not much is told to us about the motivation that leads Priya, the forty-year-old beautiful daughter of a hotshot lawyer father, to turn into a Mataji. Nor does it seem credible that Sampat Singh, son of a wealthy father, should so easily accept Priya’s declaration that he is the tenth avatar of Krishna and turn into a killing machine for her benefit.

In a story in which at least five of the characters are scientists and/or researchers, it is not surprising, though extremely trying, when they continually spout learning and philosophy and treat their listeners (and of course, us readers) as if they (and we) were a bunch of students that had no choice but to sit up and tolerate the information overload. But when a common pickpocket turned mafia don begins to spout esoteric information about Mount Kailash and sounds like a veritable encylopaedia complete with geography and history lessons, then something is definitely OTT.

The Krishna story, told in first person, serves as a recurring prelude to the unfolding of the chapters in the book. While this serves to make the Mahabharata tale more familiar to English readers, there seems no real connection with the story set in the present. We are led on to believe that there will be some tying up of loose ends when this tome comes to a conclusion.

But there is no purpose behind this re-telling of an ancient tale. Under the circumstances, the hope that Sanghi will come up with a magnificent coup to tie up all the loose ends starves to death. One of the characters, Taarak Vakil, who believes that he is the tenth avatar of Krishna, turns out to be just a minor accomplice in the larger scheme of things.

Other than the research, the beautiful book cover and the plot that might have been a heavyweight had it stayed close to the original namesake, there wasn’t much that impressed me about this one.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

1 comment:

  1. Yes, the quality of writing is diminishing (It was never world class).
    Should take a break, go to the hills, play with your kids or something.
    Please do not write another load of sh*t like this.
    Krishna Key is written just for the sake of publishing another book while his name (Mainly due to the Chanakya's Chant), is still hot. No people, no point in spending on this.



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