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Dashavatar: Stories of Lord Vishnu is a very relatable re-telling of the stories of the 10 most popular avatars of Vishnu, by Piyusha Vir.
You are anxiously waiting for the announcement of the next book from an author. The day finally arrives. You are delighted, only to realise that the book is written in a genre you rarely read.
I might be going against the tide here, but mythology has never piqued my interest.
I watched the Ramayan and Mahabharat as a child on television because it was a family ritual. Whatever I know about this subject is based on the tidbits I heard from my grandparents and parents during my growing years. For me, it was about bonding through story-telling rather than my curiosity to delve further into this space.
However, something within prompted me to pick up Dashavatar: Stories of Lord Vishnu with an open mind and I am more than glad I did. This book is author Piyusha Vir’s second outing as a solo author and I am amazed at the leap she has taken – as a writer, as an observer and as a thinker.
As is already evident from the title, Dashavatar is a collection of 10 short stories – each dedicated to an avatar of Lord Vishnu. Among the 24 avatars, the author has chosen to write about the 10 avatars which have captured the interest of the human race the most.
To begin with, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the ‘Prologue’ is one of the best I have read in a long time in a book by an Indian Author. It is written with a lot of heart and is an important aspect of what is to follow. I was hooked as I read about how this book came through, and I was on the journey with the author from there itself. Moving further, the book alternates between being insightful and enlightening, and thought-provoking and mesmerizing. It slithers its way into you gradually, giving you enough time to absorb as you lap up the beautiful prose.
Piyusha Vir’s writing is remarkably refined. She is in great form as she creates a strong imagery throughout with her vivid and delightful descriptions which is crucial for a book of this nature. From the very first chapter itself, the words on the book jump up to create visuals of the proceedings, and you know exactly how the narrative is unfolding in the mind of the author. She ensures she keeps the reader on the same page as her, yet leaves room to ponder and connect the dots. Each story is layered and nuanced, backed by thorough research and deep and incisive perceptions.
To me, the biggest victory of this book is that it blurs the lines between folklore and contemporary. I wouldn’t call Dashavatar a contemporary view of mythology. Rather, it makes you realize that there is contemporary in folklore and folklore in contemporary. There are no compartments as it’s an evolution. In fact, I must admit that reading this book made me shed my inhibitions about reading mythology. It is relatable and interesting because it is in all of us in some form and shape. What I want to particularly applaud Piyusha for is the balanced story-telling, keeping aside any tendency to let her own judgements/thought processes creep in. There is no glorification and no vilification.
All the stories are complete in themselves and can be read as a stand-alone story. If I have to pick my favourite, I would say that Piyusha Vir has left the best for the last. The epilogue (Kalki – 10th Avatar) is brilliant, and as captivating are the stories on Kurma Avatar, Buddha Avatar, Krishna Avatar and Rama Avatar. You might feel a sense of repetition at some points, the reason behind which has actually been explained in the book. Reading the book in multiple sittings made it a wholesome and reflective experience for me. I cannot end this review without applauding the editor who seems to be completely in sync with the author and has taken the book a notch higher.
Dashavatar is a fine creation from the house of Readomania and is undoubtedly a valuable contribution to Indian Literature. Go, grab your copy now! You will not regret it one bit.
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A version of this was first published here.
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