Three men, with very different personalities, backgrounds and ideologies, come together—and what results is not a clash, but a convergence, the creation of an almost utopian corporate. “The corporeal form of an enlightened one: a human in his wholeness,” as Hari Parameshwar explains in the author’s note at the end of his novel, The Pillar, Invisible.
On the face of it, this is the story of Satyaki Satyanath ‘Satya’, Thomas Chandy ‘Tom’, and Rajaseshu Narasimhaiah ‘Raja’, the three protagonists who join hands to set up the ideal, socially responsible, sustainable corporate. Below the surface, though, is more: a mystic’s view of what makes human beings what they are, and how human beings can channel their energies to work towards their goals.
The book begins with a brief chapter set in a media house, where a meeting is held to assign a project to a journalist: to discover the truth behind the success of Tasāra, the corporate owned and run by Tom, Satya, and Raja. The founders of Tasāra are universally acknowledged as the three pillars on which Tasāra stands. But there is a fourth pillar, the scribe is told—and she is given the task of finding out what that invisible pillar is.
From here, the scene shifts to the three men themselves. Spread across four books—each a few chapters in length—are the stories of Satya, Tom, and Raja, and how they come together. Each book is a biography of the individual in question, and these three biographies form the best part of the book. They are engrossing, interesting character studies of three men who are as different as chalk and cheese.
There is Satya, for instance, who is the epitome of corporate success, all the way from the enviable job to the plush home in a gated community, to the regular regimen of early morning jog, exercise, green tea, and yoga. Until his pre-dawn jog is interrupted by a sinister black dog on his trail, and his time in the otherwise empty gym is rattled by the presence of a plump, blank-eyed woman who disappears as mysteriously as the dog when there is anyone other than Satya around.
There is Tom, fond of the good life, of food and alcohol. Tom, tormented by childhood trauma, who wanders far and wide in his love life to find the woman who is really his soulmate.
And there is Raja, born in a family so poor that his mother’s last desperate attempt to change matters resulted in disaster. Raja, who grew up to be a trade unionist, became wealthy, powerful, a philanderer who loved only one woman, but could not resist chasing after others.
Not men one would expect to create something as seemingly idealistic as Tasāra, but that is what they do—and how they do it is what the last book is about.
The non-linear narrative of the three protagonists’ lives works very well: it moves back and forth through time, now in the man’s childhood, now with him as an adult, then going back to his teen years. In effect, peeling away layer after layer in a way that makes each man come alive, with all his vices and virtues.
Where the book suffers is in its less than adequate editing: there are too many italicised words, too many unnecessary quotation marks. For the reader who can ignore those, and who is interested in understanding the application of traditional Indian philosophy and spirituality, this can be a satisfying book.