Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Book Review: Reminiscences of a Seeker - Kapil Kumar Bhaskar

I haven't written about my literary pursuits in forever. I do read, off and on, but life has been a roller-coaster ride over the last one year. Between a 10-to-6 job, a new home in a new city, and my new venture, 'A Delhi Girl in Bombay', I've had no time to write. But then a book came along that spoke to this overlooked side of my existence, something not many know of, and I knew I had to write about it. 

Reminiscences of a Seeker is, in the author's own words, the story of an ordinary man plunged into extraordinary circumstances of the Dark World. It is a 'true' story about the supernatural world of mystics and higher beings, unbelievable miracles and the parallel worlds of darkness and light, in the pursuit of seeking the 'One'. I picked this book up around the time I heard about it from a book club e-mail list I subscribe to.

Being a public person, most of my pursuits are chronicled online in photos and blogs. But my spiritual beliefs and experiences have remained private and off of my blog. It would indeed come as a surprise to many that I belong to a family of highly trained spiritualists and am also trained in Reiki healing, meditation techniques and other spiritual practices. I began reading this book precisely to see how the author had written about his practices and whether he managed to make it sound believable to a lay reader or ended up writing other-worldly 'mumbo jumbo', which so many people think it is.

The literary market has in recent years been flooded with books on themes of spiritual awareness, mastering the mind, using the energies of the universe to your benefit, and whatnot, but a book of this kind by an Indian author, written in an easy, accessible form, was missing. I think this book bridges that gap, and quite decently too.

What is the book all about?
There are individuals in this world who live a normal life, dream, achieve their goals (or fail), learn from their mistakes (or not), and die, leaving behind family, a legacy (or not), and material possessions. And then there are individuals who are searching for meaning in this life - they are not satisfied with material gains, fulfilled dreams, love, and health. They seek deeper meaning, a calling, a source of faith and energy. Reminiscences of a Seeker is about the journey of one such individual who is in search of a master to guide him in his spiritual growth.

In the first few pages of Reminiscences of a Seeker, the reader is taken into the protagonist's home and shown an encounter that spurs off the spiritual adventures that make up the rest of the book. The protagonist's journey spans several years, during which he has run-ins with different spiritual masters, both in the physical and spiritual planes, some leading to good experiences and some not. He gets sucked into the trappings of a powerful Tantric lifestyle, but manages to extract himself from it, only to be lost on his path, looking for guidance yet again. It's a page-turner of a book that leaves you yearning to know what happens next. It reveals many an unknown fact about Tantricism, Aghori practices, spiritual messages and mystical signs, and a lot of other things that most of us have heard of or even experienced (such as telepathic communication, and being visited by dead loved ones in dreams - why it happens, and what it signifies or how it helps you).

Whom is this book for?
It certainly isn't for the hardcore cynic or atheist, because you need a certain amount of belief in the supernatural or at least a healthy curiosity for it to enjoy reading this book. It's a breezy read, very personal yet not over-descriptive or sappy. It's a true story, which makes it believable, with all its flaws and pitfalls.

The Good and the Bad
The book is a simple read, written like a constant stream of thoughts and occurrences as if the author was telling you the story in person. It'll keep you hooked, and even if some things might seem unpalatable or unbelievable, knowing that it's a true story helps keep you going.

It took me a while to get through the first half - it was slow and began in a rather Marquez-esque way, with no context and no background knowledge. It would have been much, much more reader-friendly had it been developed in a chronologically consistent manner and with some context at the beginning. Speaking from an editor's perspective, the book is also in dire need of professional editing and proofreading.

The book does have some moments of rare clarity and depth. Ignoring the relatively juvenile expression, I was often taken aback at the author's honesty about things that I believe very few people know or understand. The author has explored themes like teacher-student trust, boundaries, and the loss and rebuilding of trust and faith which takes people years to learn. Its vivid and faithful portrayal of Aghori and Tantric practices and revelations about the ugly face of the 'baba culture' in contemporary India are admirably courageous. 

What did the book leave me with?
Reminiscences of a Seeker left me thinking how every great journey, whether spiritual or material or otherwise, tells you only one thing: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." (Karl Marx knew what he was talking about) We get attracted towards things that are flashy, that shine, that lure us into feeling good and powerful and beautiful. But the feeling doesn't last long, and only when we turn ugly and lose our natural goodness and positive energy that we realise we were running after the wrong things all along. Real meaning and happiness comes from inside. Alas, it takes people entire lifetimes to come to that realisation.

The Bookworm's Verdict: 3 stars out of 5.
Publisher: Angel Books Publications
Price: INR 365
Buy it here: Amazon   Flipkart

This post is the latest in the series 'The Bookworm's Word', the book review segment of this blog. Check out my other reviews.
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