Monday, October 21, 2013


Title: Chakra: Chronicles of the Witch Way
Author: Ritu Lalit
Publisher: Author's Empire Publications
Pages: 319

Move over, Hogwarts. We have our own desi witches now. And they don’t need props such as brooms, huge cauldrons and pointed hats to prove they are so. Nor do they need to display rotting teeth and long dirty fingernails to grab your attention. And screaming abracadabra is so passé.

In Ritu Lalit’s Chakra: Chronicles of the Witch Way, the witches, known as japnis or Tais, and their male counterparts, the Japas, all lead normal lives. But there is no mistaking the power and the energy they possess, an influence that allows them to curse and heal, to perform astounding feats and to command the elements to do their bidding.

Having lost her brother Ashok and his wife Meera in a bloodbath initiated by warring clans to disrupt a ritual for ensuring peace, Nita Mohan, short for Parinita, blames the Japa way of life for their deaths and turns her back on her heritage. Preferring to live an ordinary life, she brings up her nephew Sandeep and her niece Samaira to remain unaware of their powers. The two kids, along with their cousin Roma, daughter of Nita’s older brother Ankur, lead a normal life as teenagers in cities do.

When Samaira unwittingly displays her powers following a harmless prank at school, Japas everywhere come to know of their secret. Soon after this, the three children disappear. Nita must find them before her family’s enemies do. She knows that those who have killed her brother and sister-in-law will stop at nothing to destroy the family and prevent the prophecy from coming true, the prophecy that decrees that the age of the Japas is long gone and that the age of the Japnis is nigh.

So well does Lalit succeed in creating this strange world where mythical beings with supernatural powers walk the earth that it almost comes as a surprise when we read of these characters doing banal activities like answering telephone calls or getting into cars. It is these acts that point to the vividness of her imagination, and draw us into the alternate world that is her creation, from the very first page.

Soon we get acquainted with these fantastic creatures belonging to five clans, each having an affinity to one element of nature. We become aware of the sometimes subtle, but mostly overt games they play in a bid to establish their own power and pull down the others. The politics of give and take, where allies turn into bedfellows before stabbing you in the back.

The women are all strong and feisty, capable of hastening the story forward and of turning it on its head. From the combat crazy Meera, to the feisty Nita, Samaira and Roma, they are all fiercely driven by their emotions and their tempers. Introduce into this volatile mix characters like Sinduri, the vindictive clan leader of the Varunis, Lata Irani, the librarian who is also a Tai, Panna Bagri, the warrior woman, and Neelam, who is actually a koyla, a being that can suck out the soul out of men, and you are bound to have a tantalizing book on your hands.

In contrast, the Japas appear to be the weaker sex, at least in this world. For, although they are fierce warriors and birathars who do not flinch from dying for their comrades, their energies and powers seem to pale against the might of the Japnis. Even Jorawar, a powerful and muscular Jalaj warrior, blessed by the author with hair up to his waist and an over-active libido, cannot match the vigour with which the women hold the reader’s attention.

While the pace remains easy going when describing the ordinary lives of the young Mohans, the sense of urgency rises dramatically when Samaira, Sandeep and Roma disappear. Thereafter the tempo picks up, and we become aware of the darker forces working behind the scenes to prevent the prophecy relating to the japnis from coming true.

Lalit’s hold over her narrative does not falter, as she leads us through numerous locales, as events race towards a thrilling finish. Her descriptions of the baoli and the temple are detailed, and help us visualise the scene better. Bonus points for thinking up the entire premise of the koylas and the manner in which Lalit has treated Roma’s character.

The only two roadblocks are posed by the manner in which the meanings of Indian words have been clarified and by the errors in the story. Putting the meanings of the desi words into brackets is an unnecessary distraction. A glossary or a footnote would have served far better.

The many inconsistencies in the book also hurt the enjoyment of the read. I wish the editors had spotted these before they were printed. Bhoomar is spelt with a 'u' the first time, and with 'oo' therafter. Also, Akshat is described as a Jalaj in one sentence and as a Pallav in the next. In one place, Akshat is spelt incorrectly. A character, Marjina, is referred to as Sinduri in one place. Lata is referred to as Maya in one place.

In another instance, Mickey, a nearly 16-year-old Japa, who has worked as a household help for a widow ever since he was eight years old, claims to have set by Rs3,41,00,000. (That kind of money in eight years? I wonder if the widow is still hiring.)

These and other such errors are annoying but since the story itself is spellbinding the reader learns to shoo them aside as if they were pesky houseflies. Lalit’s triumph lies in the fact that her story manages to hold our attention in spite of these errors.

Even as the characters wrestle with life and death issues, Lalit’s penchant for humour makes itself felt in the T-shirts with sexually provocative legends preferred by Nita. In fact, Nikhil, Nita’s assistant at the detective agency, stares at her breasts and even talks to them. Even though it makes one mad when that kind of thing happens in real life, it sounded funny on paper.

The book ends with a wedding and a sense of peace that is fraught with insecurity, a sober Roma and the likelihood of sisters pitted against each other.

Stage set for a sequel.

Ritu Lalit, here's to your next book!

(This post has been written for the Ultimate Blog Challenge, October 2013.)

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  1. Loved your review ... the errors that you've pointed out are noted and will be corrected.

  2. I'm so glad you liked it, Ritu. I wish you success.



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